Phillies Are Considering Alternatives to Tommy Joseph at First Base
The Phillies gave first baseman Tommy Joseph first crack at first base this season, after an impressive rookie campaign where he platooned with Ryan Howard. With 21 home runs and an OPS of .813 in 315 at bats, Joseph earned the chance to open 2017 as the Phillies starting first baseman. However, batting just .179 with one home run in his first 19 games, the Phillies are starting to look for alternatives.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly noted that Howie Kendrick, on the mend from a strained oblique, started to work out at Joseph's position:
Howie Kendrick has worked at first base during batting practice the last two days. On Friday, he merely tracked balls off the bat and worked on first-step breaks. He did so with a regular fielder's glove.
But on Saturday, Kendrick brought his first baseman's mitt to the field. He took some groundballs and throws from across the diamond.
Kendrick has 89 career appearances at first base with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is quoted in the CSN Philly piece saying that he prefers players get 100 plate appearances before there are any real changes. But, at 72 plate appearances, that is a number Joseph could reach in a week's time. Joseph already is losing some playing time.
First baseman Brock Stassi, a left-handed hitter, got the start on Saturday against right-handed Brandon McCarthy. Stassi contributed a three-run home run to the Phillies cause, but Stassi himself is too hitting under the .200 mark. But, this situation is not just about how the first basemen on the Phillies are doing.
The Phillies continue to get strong play from outfielders Daniel Nava and Aaron Altherr. Altherr is batting .295 after 44 at bats, with two home runs, six runs batted in, and four doubles. Nava is hitting .344 with two home runs and eight runs batted in.
In Kendrick's absence, the Phillies have been using the switch-hitting Nava and right-handed Altherr according to the pitching matchup of the day. This has worked well for the Phillies offense, something the Phillies may not be ready to give up yet. Thus, the versatile Kendrick could move to first base.
Joseph's story was a good one in 2016. But in the major leagues, players must produce or they will become last year's story. Since Altherr and Nava are playing well, they will get the playing time.
By the way, Rhys Hoskins is batting .338 with six home runs and carrying an OPS of 1.063 at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Hoskins is still early into his first chance at Triple-A and probably will get a bit of a longer look. Kendrick's return is causing the current story, but we could be talking about Hoskins really soon.