So yesterday the Phillies acquired Darnell Sweeney, we don’t need to go into how. Today Sweeney will join the Phillies in Miami, bypassing Lehigh Valley and going right to the majors.
Sweeney was a raw, athletic shortstop when the Dodgers took him in the 13th round of the 2012 draft and gave him $100,000. He had a great first season in 2012, showing power and speed while playing shortstop. He continued that growth into the last two seasons, though his strikeout rate as ballooned and his walk rate has been up and down. In 2015 he now played a mix of centerfield and second base, with some starts in left field and third base mixed in. At the plate in 2015 he hit .271/.332/.409 with 30 2Bs 4 3Bs 9 HRs 42 BB 116 K in the offense friendly PCL. He has shown some speed on the bases, stealing 32 bases, but has lost a lot of that value by being caught 13 times.
There is fringe average power in Sweeney’s bat and he might hit 10+ HRs a year with a full year of PAs along with a decent amount of doubles. The hit tool is also more fringy than average, there is some feel for contact from both sides, but he does swing and miss a decent amount. On the bases, Sweeney has plus speed and is not afraid to run, but he will need to get better reads to really provide value and will likely see his SB numbers drop, but with a better percentage of successes in the majors if he can clean that up. Overall it is not a special offensive package, but the up the middle profile coupled with a lack of platoon splits makes the bat playable.
Here is where the warts start to show. Sweeney lacks to the footwork or arm to play shortstop, the arm is not ideal for third base, and the footwork is questionable at second base. In the outfield his reads aren’t great in center field and while left field may work, the bat doesn’t play there. His most valuable position as a regular is at second base and there is some thought that he can clean it up enough to be an average defender there. Most likely outcome for Sweeney is as a utility player, so the flexibility to play 3 positions (2B/LF/CF) and fake 2 more (SS/3B) is a valuable skill.
The first comparison on the Phillies’ roster for Sweeney is Cesar Hernandez. Both are switch hitting second baseman with some speed and limitations. Cesar is a better pure hitter and is probably a better defender at second base right now. Sweeney has more power and can actually play other positions on the diamond. The big separator for me and their futures with the org is that Sweeney has all three of his minor league options and Cesar has none of his. That means Cesar has to be a contributor (and a starter because the lack of bench flexibility) to stay on the roster, whereas Sweeney gives them options on the bench and with the 25 man roster. Both will probably battle it out for the second base job going forward, Cesar being a bit safer and Sweeney with a bit more upside, but both probably have a decent chance of emerging for the short term. Either way Sweeney looks like a major league piece starting tonight, even if it might only be a small one long term.