Phillies Mailbag: Franco, Getting Healthy, Ramos
We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Send your questions to the 97.3 ESPN text board at 609-403-0973 or send them to @FrankKlose on Twitter. Each week on Tuesday afternoon we answer your questions on the air during the Sports Bash with Mike Gill.
Remember when I said that I assumed the Phillies would sell on Franco? I'm very sorry about that.
Well, Chris, I think I would have agreed with you should the right deal had worked out. The Phillies seemed frustrated about the inconsistency Maikel Franco brought to the Phillies. There were two clear signs that the Phillies were ready to move on. The first was that J.P. Crawford was playing third base. The second was that the club was actively looking for a third baseman.
Crawford's misfortune may end up being what saved Franco's Phillies career. At first, even Crawford's injury did not give Franco his playing time back; even Jesmuel Valentin got a start at third base within a couple days of Crawford breaking his hand. But Franco has been on a tear.
Franco batted .330 throughout the Month of July, with 7 home runs and 15 runs batted in. Franco's defense has been good; he looks particularly focused while manning the hot corner. He looks like a new Franco.
Franco has had hot streaks before, but had yet to show consistency. This most recent stretch hopefully was Franco recognizing that his Phillies career could be on life support and stepping up to reclaim it. Franco appears to have succeeded.
Give manager Gabe Kapler for failing to play Franco when things were not going well. Baseball is a results-driven sport. If someone produces, he plays. If he does not produce he does not. While Franco had to play in the past due to a lack of talent, that is no longer the case. Hopefully this is the real Maikel Franco.
When Wilson Ramos returns, I assume Knapp is sent down? Gabe being Gabe, is there any way you might have say Ramos catch one day and Alfaro play 1B or vice versa if Santana needs a day off?
The Phillies are perhaps two weeks away from starting to get something from their newly-acquired All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos. Both Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp have had their strong moments in 2018. But thanks to contracts being what they are, I think Knapp will spend just a couple of weeks at Triple-A.
Alfaro has no minor league options remaining. That means the Phillies cannot freely send him to the minor leagues to open a roster spot. Knapp has one option remaining and can be freely sent to the minor leagues. However, that would be a short-lived stay.
Rosters expand on September 1. The Phillies and pretty much every other team in baseball usually adds a third catcher for the stretch run, given the demands of the position on the body. Expect Knapp to be right back on September 1.
The switch-hitting Knapp has frequently been used as a left-handed pinch-hitter. The club probably would use him in that role a lot more freely with another catcher around. Ramos will likely start and Alfaro will be the back up.
Ramos is a good player to serve as a mentor to both young catchers. Often, teams have a veteran catcher mentor their new young catchers. However, since Knapp and Alfaro arrived at around the same time, it has been hard for that to happen, given only so much roster space.
But I do not see Alfaro playing much first base. It could happen, but I think it's more likely that Rhys Hoskins gets a day here or there if Carlos Santana needs a day off. But looking past Santana's batting average, one will see he's been a pretty valuable player to this 2018 Phillies team.
Once Eickhoff and Crawford are healthy, where do they fit in this team?
This question has come up two separate times this season surrounding starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff and once before for J.P. Crawford. While I think that both have much to contribute when healthy, let's not get too far ahead. As we have seen in the past, another injury can change everything. But here is how I think things play out.
For Eickhoff, I would bet that he does not return to the Phillies before September 1. The entire 40-man roster could be in the major leagues at once after that date, if the club desires it. I could see the Phillies go to a six-man starting rotation if they have a healthy Eickoff with the others there now.
Young starters Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez are on pace for high-inning workloads. Having a sixth starter for the month of September would help water those down and hopefully save some innings on those arms for the playoffs. That of course would benefit both Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta, too.
As for Crawford, if he joined the Phillies roster today, I think he would replace Dylan Cozens. Right now, Cozens is the player who can easily be optioned back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Crawford can be a left-handed infielder and pinch hitter and Scott Kingery could play some right field if necessary.
I do think that we will see Roman Quinn stick around. Kingery could play some at Triple-A, but maybe with everyone healthy and with the addition of Asdrubal Cabrera, the Phillies can use Kingery as the super-sub they envisioned and we will start to see him playing some other positions.
But Crawford will probably get some left-handed starts at shortstop or third base whenever they are facing a tough right-handed pitcher.
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