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Phillies Mailbag: Bryce Harper’s Walkoff, Ken Giles, Infielders

Scott Kingery takes ground balls with Cesar Hernandez in Spring Training (Brandon Apter/Sports Talk Philly)
Scott Kingery takes ground balls with Cesar Hernandez in Spring Training (Brandon Apter/Sports Talk Philly)

It is time once again for the 97.3 ESPN Phillies Mailbag!  Submit your questions to me on Twitter at @FrankKlose or via email to sportstalkphilly@gmail.com, and I will answer them here for you and discuss them on the air during The Sports Bash with Mike Gill on Tuesdays at 2:30.

Sunday’s game: are we playing to win, or it doesn’t matter the result? Why would you challenge Bryce Harper?  Walk him, create a force at every bag…
~Van

This is a good question: it has both a question of long-term consequence and one of the immediate win/loss total.  I will try to answer it separately.

The Phillies went to Joaquin Benoit as the team’s closer in a way because it addresses the long-term future of the Phillies bullpen and not the right now.  I saw many comments on social media calling for an immediate move to Hector Neris as the team’s closer.  But the result might have been the same.

If it was indeed Neris in that situation and he blew a save, Phillies fans might be worried about the club’s long-term future.But since it is Benoit, it neither affects the club’s playoff chances this year (the Phillies probably will not make the playoffs whoever closes) and it will not affect a long-term evaluation to determine the long-term closer.

So looking at Sunday’s game in a long-term way, it really does not matter that the Phillies lost that game or that a 39 year-old Benoit blew a save.  The Phillies could have walked Harper, but batting behind him is someone much more likely to get a hit in Daniel Murphy.  Maybe Murphy would have lined a double and the result is the same.

Phillies fans surely are disappointed that the Phillies lost a chance to beat the Nationals two series in a row.  But in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

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Should the Phillies have kept Ken Giles?
~Joseph

In a word, no.

While the Phillies have seen some struggles at the closer position in 2017, Ken Giles has had his own struggles.   In fact, the Astros on Sunday – while still calling Giles their closer – used him in the eighth inning and not the ninth inning. Luke Gregerson got the save instead.  Giles is currently sporting a 9.00 earned run average.

Last season, Giles opened the season as the Astros closer and quickly lost the job with a 9.00 earned run average in April.  Giles got it together by June and then after having a really good July and August, struggled mightily in September.  With that inconsistency, Giles would be making Phillies fans wonder if he really was the best long-term closer option.

The Phillies sold on Giles when his value could not possibly have been higher.   The Phillies packaged Giles and Jonathan Arauz (currently suspended for a drug violation) and got five players in return.   Brett Oberholtzer was intended to be a short-term bullpen player.  But the other four had promise: Vince Velasquez, Tom Eschelman, Harold Arauz and Mark Appel.

Watching Appel thus far, I am not sure he will ever have his day in the Major Leagues.  Eshelman remains a prospect and Harold Arauz remains a decent reliever in the Phillies system.      Despite Oberholtzer’s quick departure and Appel maybe never working out, the Phillies still got  a really good deal.

At the time of the trade, many scouts felt that Velasquez could be just as good a closer as Giles.  But with the electric arm, the Phillies are giving Velasquez a shot in the starting rotation first.

The following three questions all came in, so I will look at these at once:

  • Can Kingery play shortstop and maybe the Phillies can move JP?
    ~Mike
  • With the talent at second both parent team and minor league, would you seek a trade for Cesar Hernandez?
    ~Ron
  • Middle infielder trade? There’s a good glut of talent there. My question-will they gradually bring up AAA/AA talent or will it be all in?
    ~Chris

The Phillies reportedly were willing to listen to trade offers this past offseason for second baseman Cesar Hernandez.  Hernandez has become an on base machine for the Phillies in just under the last calendar year, elevating Hernandez to the leadoff spot in the lineup on a permanent basis.  The fact that the Phillies were willing to listen shows that they are at least aware they have a number of second base options.

Scott Kingery is the best-regarded prospect at the position.   Currently at Double-A Reading, Kingery is batting .286 and has hit four home runs in just 10 games.  Jesmuel Valentin is batting .355 for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  Both are promising starts.

We saw with the aforementioned Giles trade that the Phillies might be willing to sell high on their players.   If Hernandez keeps up his play, there are plenty of contending teams that could use a lead off hitter like Hernandez.  The Phillies could demand a high price, if they choose to move him.   However, they are not looking to move him.

Hernandez could show that he is still going to be a part of the Phillies future.  Hernandez already had an extended look in center field in 2013 and probably is not a candidate to change positions.

Kingery would likely have to keep up the pace at Double-A and force a Triple-A promotion before he gets a look at another position.   I do not think that Kingery profiles as a shortstop, but they might consider the outfield if necessary.

Indeed, J.P. Crawford’s slow start is worrisome, but it may be too soon to write him off.  Crawford’s stock has fallen, but he has time to pick it up.  Crawford is not even a member of the Phillies 40-man roster yet, so there is time to figure out what to do with him.  The Phillies especially probably do not wish to sell low on Crawford right now.

The Phillies will let the infield prospects fight it out and fight their way to the Majors.   As we saw with Domonic Brown, a prospect tag means absolutely nothing if a player fails to produce.   If half of the Phillies top prospects work out, that is an impressive result.  If they do work out, the Phillies will find a way and find a position for them.

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