Phillies Mailbag: Crawford, Catching, Deadline
We are back once again with a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and talk about them every Tuesday on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill. Send your questions to me at any time on Twitter @FrankKlose or send a text to the 97.3 ESPN text board.
JP Crawford has been in the Phillies system for a while. Now that he's finally arrived in the bigs, it feels very underwhelming. What's his realistic potential?
Unfortunately for the Phillies, they have yet to really see J.P. Crawford. Crawford hustled in 2017 to earn himself a call-up and the right to open the season as the starting shortstop in 2018. It appears that Crawford may have been pressing on a bit too much, even with an injury.
It is very fair to say that Crawford's batting numbers are not that impressive just yet. Crawford has also made a whopping five errors at shortstop. Neither a .188 average or that pace of fielding mishaps are very encouraging. He may still be getting acclimated to the major leagues and he only has a month sample size of playing every day.
Crawford will get a chance to rest his arm that has the strain and when he returns ample time to show that he belongs in the major leagues. Despite his struggles, he has still made some very nice plays and had some big hits that show that something is there. The Phillies will have to work to get that out of him.
If the Phillies catchers continue to struggle, how would you expect the Phillies address that issue next season? Do you think they'd make any moves to improve the position this season?
I would tend to agree that the Phillies young catching corps have gotten off to a tough start. Andrew Knapp has allowed three passed balls, which is only behind Gary Sanchez and Martin Maldonado, who each have four. Between Knapp and Jorge Alfaro, the Phillies lead the league with seven errors at the catching position.
One of the things that the Phillies really needed to assess in 2018 still is what they have at the catching position. The Phillies opted to go with the young catchers this year, because if they did not have this experience, then the club would not know just what they needed going forward. I think, however, the jury is still out.
We have seen really good things from both. Alfaro has tremendous power and a strong arm. Knapp is a switch-hitter, who traditionally has been a solid hitter. Neither have made the most of those skills thus far. But they will have all season to show just what they can do.
The Phillies might consider a veteran catcher next season if they are going to go all-in for a championship. But the names out there as free agents are the same names we have been regularly seeing for years. Wil Ramos seemed poised for a big payday but has battled injury and bounced around some. Devon Mesoraco has barely played since his 2014 All-Star season and Matt Wieters is perpetually available, it seems.
But the Phillies will look at the total body of work at season's end. The Phillies have Bob Stumpo as catching coach and Craig Driver as receiving coach this year, two new positions that supplement their work in the bullpen. They will work with them to improve but the Phillies will do whatever they can to win when necessary.
Looking ahead, if the Phillies are to be buyers at the deadline, which position would they target and whom? And if sellers, who would they look to unload?
Like the previous questions about early struggles, much will depend on just how far the Phillies are away from contention and just how badly players struggle to see who they might add. Should the Phillies be in or around first place or in or around the wild card on July 31, just how far should they go?
The Phillies have many prospects that they are excited about in the system. The Phillies probably would not want to go over the top and trade any of them if the chance to win is not too real. The Phillies are on a 92.5-win pace with their .571 winning percentage right now. But expect many ups and downs.
For some teams, their trade deadline position will be clear. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for example, just lost shortstop Corey Seager to Tommy John surgery. A clear need has developed for them there. The Phillies might lose a core player along the way to injury and an opening is very clear. But probably for the Phillies to compete they need those key players performing.
I do not think the Phillies will look to "unload" anyone, but they do have some surplus if there is the right deal to be had. My gut tells me the Phillies will not go over the top to win now unless they are really convinced that they are set to contend.
My gut also tells me that the inconsistency and injuries we have already seen show that the Phillies win total will be lower than the 92.5 that mathematically comes out with the current pace. A lot of this is a game of "wait and see".