Opinion

Despite great play, time to sell high on Hernandez

J.P. Crawford, for better or for worse, has long been seen as the successor to Jimmy Rollins at shortstop. Now, with Freddy Galvis’ impressive play, especially defensively, the Phillies have some decisions to make.

Posed with the same decision just a year ago, and one would’ve said to simply move Galvis over to second base until one of their lower-level prospects emerged or the Phillies were finally in a spot to be buyers. After all, Cesar Hernandez was just starting his second-half on-base spree that has now continued through this season.

Meanwhile, 23-year-old Scott Kingery continues his dominance in the minor leagues. Between Reading and Leigh Valley, Kingery is hitting .305/.360/.554 with 23 homers, 59 RBI and 35 walks this season.

It seems incomprehensible for a team who has just 41 wins that the strong play of their middle infielders, current and future, could pose a problem. But it does. The wrong decision could throw yet another wrench into the Phillies rebuild.

Does Matt Klentak stick with one of the few things that is working in Hernandez or take a gamble on an unproven, but clearly skilled prospect?

If I was a betting woman, I would venture a guess that Klentak is all-in on his prospects and is just biding his time with who is on the current roster. It’s why he was brought in and why he continues to acquire assets – both players and money.

But he’s been great

One thing that is stopping me from betting the house, however, is the mere fact that Hernandez is still even on the team. This past offseason, the Phils’ leadoff hitter was a popular name being thrown around the hot stove, especially when the team’s interest in veteran Howie Kendrick was made public.

In his last 162 games, Hernandez is hitting .310/.390/.425 with 26 stolen bases and a OPS of .815. Since last August, the switch hitter has the fourth-highest WAR in baseball among second basemen, behind Daniel Murphy, Jose Altuve and Jean Segura. That’s some good company.

He is also in the top-10 in average (seventh), BB/K (eighth) and speed number (fourth). Sounds like somebody you would want hitting at the top of your lineup. It also sounds like somebody you can get a decent return on this offseason to fill some of your roster holes.

What that return would like is difficult to gauge. Hernandez has proven that last year’s second-half wasn’t just a fluke, and he is under team control until 2020, which should give Klentak some leverage with both smaller markets who can’t afford an upgrade and bigger markets who have money tied up elsewhere. There’s no reason why Klentak wouldn’t be able to get a return that fits the Phils’needs, whether it’s a major league ready reliever or upper-level pitching prospect.

While it’s always a gamble to trade a proven commodity for the unknown, there isn’t really an alternative. When Crawford is eventually called up, having a Galvis/Hernandez platoon at second seems wasteful. Hernandez is too valuable in the lineup and has tightened up his defense enough to not warrant a late-inning replacement by Galvis.

Not to mention, Kingery is one of the few prospects who is showing he’s major-league ready. A platoon of Kingery and Galvis to start 2018 makes a whole lot more sense, especially as the rookie adjusts to life in the show.

The fans have been patient – for the most part – but the clock is ticking. It’s time for the Phillies to stop hedging their bets and start taking risks.

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