There are few things to say positively about the 2014 Philadelphia Phillies season. We’re nearing the final stretch to the season and September promotions should bring about an ounce of excitement for the faithful fans that still decide to watch this team. One area of the ball club that has been abysmal this season along with the previous years has been the bench.
The collective group of John Mayberry, Tony Gwynn, Cesar Hernandez, Wil Nieves and Reid Brignac is a group of mostly below replacement level players that don’t provide value offensively or even defensively. Nieves is the lone exception and works well with the pitching staff.
Offensively, the Phillies rank 24th in major league baseball, with a .245 on base percentage this season when pinch-hitting. They have a collective .542 OPS, 19th in the league. Their bench options lack positional flexibility and they struggle to get on base. Regardless of how the manager plays the matchups beyond John Mayberry against left handed pitchers, there are no strong options that will yield a positive outcome.
Recently the Phillies bench has gotten progressively worse as the years have passed. Let’s take a look back at the last three seasons, including this one.
John Mayberry has been the only reliable bench option for Ryne Sandberg and the Phillies, mainly because of his dominance against left handed pitching and average outfield defense. He can play multiple positions which is more than the rest of the squad can say. Nieves’ bat has cooled off severely since his hot start to begin the year with his new team, but the defense is reliable and he works well with the starting pitchers. Cesar Hernandez, Reid Brignac and Tony Gwynn have combined for -1.6 wins above replacement which is all you need to know about the 2014 bench.
The 2013 bench visible below was also horrendous with only former Philadelphia infielder Kevin Frandsen posting a positive WAR. Although Darin Ruf posted strong power numbers after his call-up, his incompetent play in the field eliminates any value. He should never play in the outfield, especially with his lack of range and his inaccurate arm.
The 2012 bench posted below was the most effective group following the 102 win season and a first round exit in the 2011 campaign. People got to see Laynce Nix have an average season before an awful 2013 season and Erik Kratz had arguably his best season in the major leagues. Freddy Galvis played elite defense with Chase Utley injured and provided some pop as well.
Developing the 2015 Bench
There are many holes on the Phillies roster heading into next season. The team isn’t going to be very good and there’s a good chance Ruben Amaro rolls out similar bench options as this past season. Below are some internal and external candidates I suggest for next season.
Freddy Galvis: Although he was atrocious at the plate in his brief time with the big club this season, Galvis brings solid defense to the table and should be used to give the aging infield days off this season. A platoon with Cody Asche at third base should be an option as well if Gavis can be close to average at the dish.
Cesar Hernandez: Another young infielder like Galvis, Hernandez doesn’t flash the glove like his counterpart, but has a far better hit tool. The Phillies would like to mold him into a player who can play multiple positions, but he’s most suitable at second base. Being a switch hitter like Galvis provides marginal value to the club.
Geovany Soto: The former Chicago Cubs backstop has battled injuries all season and is set to become a free agent after this season. While Wil Nieves has been very serviceable as a backup for Carlos Ruiz, signing Soto to a one year pact could be an option for Amaro. He provides some pop as a backup catcher and could start around 60 games if he stays healthy. He posted a 1.6 WAR in 184 plate appearances for the Rangers in 2013. Soto has thrown out 26% of base runners, just a tick below league average. If the Philies can’t sign Soto, Nieves should be-resigned or they should give Cameron Rupp another shot at the major league level with a chance to learn behind Ruiz.
Chris Young: Although released by the New York Mets in an unfulfilling winter contract, Young is a defensively responsible option for the Phillies. He could potentially sign a one year deal with bonuses for plate appearances. Signing with Philadelphia gives him a chance to earn increased at bats and reestablish value in the next offseason. Ruben Amaro could also flip him at the deadline for a minor leaguer to continue to add to the farm system. With Marlon Byrd a possible winter trade candidate, having a backup option to fill in before the outfield prospects join the major league club is a good safety net to have.
Franklin Gutierrez: Having posted a career high OPS+ (116) last season along with a .505 slugging percentage, this Seattle Mariners outfield sat out the 2014 season due to illness. He’s capable of playing all three outfield positions and is another low risk option for the Phillies in what will be a very long season.