Opinion

At second base, the known quantity may be best bet

Prospects, prospects…. and more prospects. Major league teams can never have enough of them, because more times than not, prospects don’t live up to their billing. The Phillies seemingly have prospects in every position in their minor league system who are poised to take over in Philadelphia sooner rather than later (exception: third base). One spot you might want to leave as is? Second base.

This is Cesar Hernandez’s fifth season with the Phillies. He was brought up in 2013, but was the beneficiary of regular playing time in 2015, once Chase Utley was dealt to the Dodgers. His slash line then read .272/.339/.348 with 20 doubles in 127 games. Last season, Hernandez built on those numbers with a .294/.371/.393. He smacked 14 doubles and a league-leading 11 triples. According to Fangraphs, Hernandez’s WAR of 4.4 was better than Odubel Herrera’s (3.8). The second baseman’s wRC+ (weighted runs created) was just two points lower than Herrera’s at 108 (the league average is 100).

This season (beware: short sample size), Hernandez is on pace for a wRC+ of 131. Hernandez rekindles what was a lost art in major league baseball, and that’s the “prototypical” leadoff man. Once the 26-year-old improves his base stealing, you’d have a darn good second baseman for a long time.

With Hernandez, you have to consider Scott Kingery, and rightfully so. He’s been a success in the minors and had a good spring. But what we don’t know is how he’ll perform at the major league level. And to me, that’s worrisome.

Hernandez still has this year to prove himself a cornerstone player. But the mega-early indications are pointing to – at worse – a similar year to 2016. He could be even better. Heck, he already has three doubles and a triple in nine games.

So it’s the unknown prospect vs. the known big leaguer.

Do I have to remind you about Domonic Brown? The once highly touted minor leaguer posted three good months in a Phillies uniform. Brown’s career average in six seasons was a mere .246. At 29, he’s without a minor league appointment in 2017.

The package to acquire Roy Halladay in December 2009 included Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and Travis d’Arnaud. d’Arnaud is the only player left in the majors, playing for the Mets, and though he launched a home run against the Phils the other night, we shouldn’t lose sleep over d’Arnaud.

Let’s look at the packages involved in both Cliff Lee deals – one to acquire him (with Ben Francisco) and the other that shipped him to Seattle. The Phillies sent the Cleveland Indians Jason Knapp, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Carlos Carrasco. Knapp is out of baseball, Donald had a few runs as a utility infielder and Marson spent some time as a backup catcher. Meanwhile Carrasco is the only player that materialized with any impact (to be fair, it’s been a solid impact). When the Phillies traded Lee, they received a haul of Tyson Gillies, Phillippe Aumont and J.C. Ramirez. Yes the trade was trashed at the time, but Gillies and Aumont are out of baseball, while Ramirez is a 28-year-old relief pitcher for the Angels with a career ERA of 5.14.

The Phillies parted with J.A. Happ, Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar to land Roy Oswalt in 2010. Happ was a marginal pitcher before breaking out with Pittsburgh and Toronto. The left-hander’s mid-30s success no one could’ve guessed. Villar is turning into a solid infielder for the Brewers, but even the Astros gave up on him after three big league seasons. Gose has played five major league seasons with Detroit and Toronto with a career .240 average.

Point is, prospects are exactly what they sound like. They have the potential, but more times than not, often leave us disappointed. Running with the known quantity, such as Cesar Hernandez, might be in the best interest of the Phillies.

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