Phillies Mailbag at the Break: Grullon, Pitching, Center Field
We are back once again with a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and talk about them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill every Tuesday. Send your questions anytime on Twitter to @FrankKlose or send a text to the text board at 609-403-0973.
Why aren't the Phillies calling up Deivy Grullon? He's hitting over .300 at Triple-A and Andrew Knapp has struggled.
It is true: Deivy Grullon is an International League All-Star, representing the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Grullon, who could have been picked by any team in the offseason as a Rule 5 player, has made great steps in 2019. Once not seen as much of a prospect, Grullon is definitely getting attention in 2019.
However, making Grullon the backup catcher to J.T. Realmuto may not be the best plan.
First, consider the development of Grullon. At 23 years old, he is certainly "old enough" to come to the major leagues, in terms of age. But, how much would Grullon play if he came to the major leagues? With 78 starts behind the plate, Realmuto has started more games behind the plate than any other catcher in baseball.
That means Grullon would be the backup catcher that plays the least in all of baseball. With someone such as Realmuto present, is it really a good idea to bring Grullon to the major leagues to not play? With just 55 games started behind the plate at Triple-A, would he be polished enough to sit as much as someone backing up Realmuto would?
Then, the question is: do the Phillies extend Realmuto? If the Phillies plan to make Realmuto their long-term catcher, what would they do with Grullon? The likely scenario in that case is that Grullon would be a trade candidate. Placing Grullon behind Realmuto where he will not play is not helpful in building trade value.
But, you must not have noted: Grullon is currently on the injured list with a broken toe. He cannot help in those circumstances.
I think the problem is that the Phillies have decided to proceed with a four-man bench. That means Andrew Knapp is often the last bench bat, facing the best high-leverage relievers in all of baseball in high leverage situations. Knapp does not play enough to worry too much, in my opinion.
In your opinion is the bullpen okay to compete? Instead of another reliever, do the Phillies acquire two starters at the trade deadline?
The Phillies bullpen has certainly had its share of injuries this season. David Robertson, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Adam Morgan,Seranthony Dominguez, Edubray Ramos, Juan Nicasio, and Victor Arano all have spent time on the disabled list this season. That alone would be a competitive bullpen. But right now the Phillies remain thin.
The Phillies have some good pieces in closer Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter, Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez. It's the rest that remains a concern. J.D. Hammer and Edgar Garcia will probably be successful major league relievers. But they are well ahead of schedule. Yacksel Rios has yet to show that he is a major league reliever and Ranger Suarez is really just an arm that's out there for blowups.
I will say this: the Phillies unequivocally must add starting pitching depth. If there are four reliable arms in the bullpen, the four that are not yet as reliable are going to be overexposed if the starters fail to reach at least six innings.
Vince Velasquez in his career has failed to average an acceptable number of innings in his starts. Jake Arrieta has a bone spur and has not been good. We will see what is up with them. The rotation could get by with Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin if the other three are good. But they're not right now.
The Phillies should be making calls left and right trying to land at least one starter today. Then, they should keep being engaged at the deadline. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are both in on starting pitchers, so the Phillies should look far and wide to make sure they get someone.
If the Phillies had two starters and Velasquez and Pivetta were in the bullpen, I would feel much better.
All that said: if there exists the possibility they could land a reliever at an affordable rate, I would certainly take one. But the starters are making the bullpen so much worse.
Do the Phillies still need a center fielder or is Scott Kingery okay?
I think the Phillies would be very wise to still try to see who is out on the market in both center field and third base, the two positions Scott Kingery has mostly played this season. But Kingery's long-term position is likely second base, particularly with Cesar Hernandez set to hit free agency this offseason. That could play into what happens now.
I think we have learned in recent days that having Maikel Franco's glove at third base is very valuable, even if he only gets hits against the New York Mets. The Phillies can spell Franco with Brad Miller on occasion from the left side. I would prefer of the two positions to keep Kingery in center.
But if the Phillies can get a reliable player at either people who can play solid defense, I would have no problem with Kingery being the "extra" man once again. In such a scenario, Kingery would probably begin to squeeze Hernandez a bit more at second base, while getting some action in the outfield in the form of right-handed left field at bats and maybe some third base.
I think it will come down to the right opportunity. Either Mickey Moniak or Adam Haseley will have center field long-term, most likely, so if there is a trade piece out there the Phillies can land to hit and play a solid center, they are not displacing Kingery from where he will play long-term. That will be second base.
But for now: the Phillies would be wise to get any solid glove with a solid bat they can.