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The Phillies are creating internal options at third base

J.P. Crawford/ Photo by: Lauren McLaughlin

One player who has played down to the record of the 2017 Phillies is third baseman Maikel Franco. He’s slashing .224/.276/.389 in his second full season as a Phillie. His average and on-base percentage are fourth-worst in the league, and his slugging percentage is seventh-worst among players with at least 450 plate appearances.

Franco, who took a step back last year after an inspiring rookie season in 2015, has taken multiple steps back this season. For example, when the right-hander is ahead in the count, he’s hitting an absurd .176. Matt Klentak can look at launch angles and exit velocities all day long, but his once-prized third baseman is not producing.

With the pleasant surprise of Cesar Hernandez at the leadoff spot in the last 13 months, the Phillies have a decision on their hands regarding second base. Scott Kingery is lighting up triple-A with a .309 average and 21-game hitting streak. Earlier in July, the Phillies experimented with Kingery taking grounders at third. Moreover, J.P. Crawford made his professional debut at third base over the weekend. Crawford has emerged back into the fold hitting .294/.377/.517 since July 16, after a troublesome start.

Hernandez was seen as an offseason trade-chip, because of Kingery, to lure a starting pitcher back. But with Franco’s talent not yet coming to fruition, is it possible Hernandez stays? If he does, what does it mean for Crawford? Galvis?

There is probably one definitive for 2018: Scott Kingery will be in Philadelphia. The second baseman by trade must be added to the 40-man this offseason, turns 24 next April and has dominated the minor leagues. Just where he plays is yet to be determined.

It might make the most sense for the Phillies to keep Hernandez and play him at second or third, wherever Kingery is not. Offensively, the top of the Phillies’ order with Hernandez and Kingery one-two would wreak havoc on the opposition. Both have solid on-base skills and can run. Kingery has 28 stolen bases (in 33 attempts) in two levels this year, while Hernandez has 13 (in 16 attempts). That’s a bit low for the switch hitter’s standards, but keep in mind he was out for several weeks with an oblique injury.

Having those two at the top, getting on base and using their speed, will set up others such as Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams & Co. The Phils have enough depth offensively that they can afford to cut ties with Franco.

Defensively, sure, neither Hernandez nor Kingery would be Gold Glove winners at third, but they wouldn’t make the team worse, based on their offensive production. As long as they’re adequate and make the routine plays, it could work.

Then it comes down to Galvis and Crawford. It’s still highly likely that it’s Crawford’s job to lose. And even if he takes it from Galvis, that doesn’t mean the veteran has to go anywhere, either. He’d be a solid utility infielder off the bench, who could be used as a defensive replacement late in games. If the Phillies elect not to keep Galvis, he’d be an attractive asset for a winning team with an established offense.

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