The Phillies made the move to promote outfielder Roman Quinn from the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs in late July. It was the culmination of a long road back for the former organizational top five prospect.
Quinn has a long history of injuries which have slowed his progression to the big leagues. In 2013 it was a fractured wrist after being hit by a pitch. Following that season, Quinn tore his Achilles tendon while working out and missed the start of the 2014 campaign.
A strained muscle in his side early in the summer of 2016 slowed his conversion from his original shortstop position to center field. After he returned, it was a strained oblique suffered on a check swing that set him back once again.
Quinn was able to get back and was finally given a shot in the majors with a mid-September promotion later in that 2016 season. He hit .263 with a .373 on-base percentage, stole five bases, and scored 10 runs in 69 plate appearances. His outfield defense was exceptional. It seemed as if he was ready for a regular role with the big club.
Last year, Quinn began back in the minors, but appeared healthy and on track for a return to the Phillies whenever they first needed someone. But in May came perhaps his most cruel setback when he suffered a UCL injury to his left elbow.
Back on track earlier this year, it happened again. In May, Quinn dove into a base and injured his finger. What was originally diagnosed as a sprain ended up requiring surgery. He would miss the next eight weeks recovering from that procedure.
Eventually he would again recover and begin playing. By late July, Quinn had built his overall average across three minor league levels this year up to the .302 mark. Perhaps just as importantly he had swiped 14 bags and scored 18 times in just 117 plate appearances.
Healthy again, the Phillies really had no one at the big-league level who possessed the kind of dynamic, game-altering speed that he could bring to their lineup options. So, Quinn finally got that call in late July.
He arrived to a team battling for the NL East Division lead with a virtually set outfield of Rhys Hoskins in left, Odubel Herrera in center, and Nick Williams in right. But Herrera was struggling mightily on offense and defense, which cracked open a door for some playing time.
Since that promotion, Quinn has appeared in 23 games, but has been given just nine starting opportunities. Over 54 plate appearances he is slashing .346/.370/.500 with five extra-base hits and five stolen bases.
More recently, over his last eight games and 24 plate appearances, Quinn is slashing .478/.500/.696 with four runs scored and three steals. It is pretty clear that the 25-year old with over 1,900 minor league plate appearances is ready for a chance to play every day in Major League Baseball.
Herrera continues to struggle. Over his last 13 games and 45 plate appearances the 26-year-old is slashing an anemic .159/.178/.227 mark. His home run two nights ago resulted in his lone extra-base hit and run scored during that stretch. His defense has alternated between atrocious and laughable.
Placing Quinn at the top of the everyday Phillies lineup in center field in place of Herrera will not solve all of the Phillies run production problems. But what it would do is prove that Phillies manager Gabe Kapler recognizes the obvious – that Quinn is a more talented and dynamic player than Herrera and deserves to start.
Early last week, Kapler was openly considering such a move. He was quoted by Corey Seidman with NBC Sports Philadelphia:
“…have to be responsive to…how people are feeling about how much energy a guy like Roman Quinn brings to the field…I feel like we get a big boost when he’s in the lineup. Or even when we send him out to pinch-run, everybody kind of moves a little bit closer to the rail to watch what unfolds. I want to be responsive to that and that’s why I say he’s earned the right to go out there and start in center field tonight for us.”
Carlos Santana since July 8 is slashing .212/.320/.336 with 20 RBI over 41 games and 169 plate appearances. If you want to give Odubel more chances, let them come in left field. Put the 25-year-old Hoskins, who is clearly a huge part of your long-term future, back where he belongs and is most comfortable, at first base.
Admit you made a mistake by giving Santana $60 million for his ages 32-34 seasons. And that five-year, $30 million deal you cut with Odubel is chump change in today’s market. It certainly doesn’t guarantee the man a starting job for the next half-decade. Cut bait and switch. Be as bold as your marketing campaign.
Starting Quinn every day in place of Herrera and moving Hoskins back to first base every day in place of Santana won’t solve all the problems. But the moves would represent something important. They would represent management’s ability to recognize and fix mistakes. And it would show that they recognize the best players and their best usage for both the present and future of this team.
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