Phillies Mailbag: Gonzalez, Leadoff Spot, Position Competitions
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 wouldn't the Phillies take a shot a Gio Gonzalez? He did not even get a major league deal, and $3 million is not enough to be an issue.
The New York Yankees seemed to grab a bargain when left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez signed a minor league deal. Since the Phillies have been interested in a left-handed starter, the move did raise some eyebrows from Phillies fans. But I can think of two reasons why the Phillies might be in.
One reason might be that the Phillies simply feel that they can at least match the output that Gonzalez would give the team with what they have, even though it comes from the right side. There were two weak points to Gonzalez's game last season: walks and two inconsistent stretches.
Gonzalez walked 80 last season and some may feel that he is trending in the wrong direction. The number was 79 the year before after walking 59 prior. But in two months last season, Gonzalez was pretty well-hit.
After a particularly strong May, Gonzalez pitched to an 8.44 earned run average in June. After a mediocre July in which Gonzalez pitched to a 4.08 earned run average, Gonzalez pitched to a 7.47 earned run average in July.
After a trade to the Milwaukee Brewers, Gonzalez did well in his five starts for the Brewers in the regular season, then the postseason it was a different issue. Gonzalez made two starts. In those two starts combined, he pitched just three innings. He allowed two runs.
So with question marks, maybe the Phillies feel what they have is good enough. The starting rotation will appear to be Aaron Nola, Jake Arreita, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin.
One other reason is that I think that this could be an indication that the price is coming way down for the other left-handed option, Dallas Keuchel. The Phillies want some flexibility in their spending for moves down the stretch and they are approaching the competitive balance tax.
Maybe this means they could get a bargain.
Who will bat leadoff for this Phillies team? Cesar Hernandez seemed like he was the guy, but Andrew McCutchen has batted leadoff a lot this Spring.
While it is true that Andrew McCutchen has had many opportunities to bat leadoff this Spring, I do believe that Cesar Hernandez will resume that role when the season opens. I think two factors give Hernandez the nod over McCutchen.
First is that Hernandez can switch-hit. That means whether he faces a left-handed pitcher or right-handed pitcher he can align the right way. Hernandez has been pretty consistent across splits, so I think that he will give the Phillies a good consistent force.
The other advantage I think Hernandez has at this point is his speed. Hernandez is really, fast. Yet, he has never learned the art of stealing bases. Early last season he did for a stretch, but the broken foot he had may have inhibited him from doing so later.
McCutchen is no slouch, but I think that Hernandez has the edge.
I could easily see McCutchen leading off when Hernandez takes a day off, but I think that the job belongs to Hernandez.
Is there really a competition for third base? Can Scott Kingery beat out Maikel Franco?
I think that the Phillies recognize the inconsistencies that third baseman Maikel Franco and center fielder Odubel Herrera. showed at times last season. That was the main reason I believe that manager Gabe Kapler set up a "competition" at both center field and third base. Yet, I think the incumbents will have those positions.
The lack of consistency really bothered the Phillies last year, and president Andy MacPhail explicitly said so at his end-of-year comments last season. I think ideally both players will recognize that nothing will just be given to them and they will need to step up. Thus, the competition.
But in short, I do not think that Scott Kingery has the arm for third base. Watching him this Spring, I think that he is better suited up the middle, particularly at second base. Speaking of second base, I still believe the plan is for him to succeed Cesar Hernandez after this season.
As for center field, the injury to Roman Quinn somewhat ends the debate. Herrera is healed back in the lineup, and he doubled his first game back. Herrera will be there, though I think the Phillies will be watching closely to see if he can bring some consistency to the lineup.
The good news is that the Herrera-Franco combination that once batted third and fourth will likely be the seventh and eight hitters in the lineup.