Several years ago, a key concern of many Phillies fans was the left handed heavy lineup. To be honest, I think the problem was a bit overblown; Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez (after replacing Pat Burrell) were the only everyday left handed batters, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino were both better batting right handed, and a lack of right handed power extends all across baseball. It can create matchup problems when nasty lefty specialists come into games, and Howard’s struggles against lefties have generally grown over the year.
When Domonic Brown was getting ready to come up and before the Phillies completely torpedoed his development, fans were once again figuring out how to arrange a lineup with yet another left handed hitter. These things tend to work themselves out in baseball though, and they have for the Phillies. Utley improved against lefties and isn’t a liability (when actually on the field,) and Howard is the only other regular lefty now that Ibanez is gone. Provided they don’t all need platoon partners, having more lefties can be an advantage because a large majority of pitchers are right handed anyway.
Balance in a lineup isn’t bad though, so let’s check out the balance of the players down on the farm. I’ll be using players from my preseason top 30.
C Sebastian Valle (21, AA)
Valle has shown no consistent pattern in his splits. In a small sample this season, he’s been about the same against lefties and righties. Last year he crushed lefties, but in 2010 he was better against righties. This suggests that there probably won’t be any significant platoon split as he continues to develop. If he doesn’t adjust his pull-heavy approach, he could be vulnerable to changeups from more advanced lefties.
3B Maikel Franco (19, low-A)
In his very young career, Franco has hit better against righties than lefties. He’s been able to hit for more power against righties, but his plate approach has actually been better against lefties with more walks and fewer strikeouts. He has the tendency to jam himself, so pitchers that challenge him inside can give him trouble.
SS Tyler Greene (19, XST)
There isn’t much data on Greene at all because his career just started last season, and he was recently sent from low-A to extended spring training to try and get some confidence back. So far, he’s been better against righties, showing more power. His plate approach is all out of sorts, striking out at an unbelievably high clip even though he’s walking enough.
CF Carlos Tocci (16, XST)
He has not made his pro debut yet.
COF Aaron Altherr (21, low-A)
Altherr is another player who hits righties better than lefties. His plate approach is equally poor, but for the most part he makes better contact and has more power dealing with right handed pitchers. In the past, the split has been significant, but it’s gotten more even over the past couple seasons.
COF Leandro Castro (22, AA)
For most of his career, Castro hasn’t been as good against lefties as he is righties. His hit tool is good enough that his splits should eventually even out, but for now the gap is pretty wide. His power is roughly equivalent, and it’s possible that his hyper-aggressive plate approach is why he’s worse against lefties. He can be fooled by quality offspeed stuff.
3B Harold Martinez (21, low-A)
Martinez will wrap up the right handed list, and like everyone else on the list, doesn’t have much better results against lefties. For Martinez, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. His plate approach is better against righties, but his power (which at this point is virtually zero), is pretty even against both sides.
COF Brian Pointer (20, low-A)
Early in his career, Pointer is showing signs that he’s going to have trouble hitting lefties. He does a good job of working the count and trying to reach base, but he strikes out a lot and is essentially a singles hitter. It’s a positive that he can still wait for his pitch, so maybe he’ll show improvement in the future.
1B Larry Greene (19, XST)
Greene hasn’t made his pro debut yet, but there’s nothing in his scouting report that suggests he might not be able to hit lefties.
Switch hitters, better batting right-handed
SS Roman Quinn (18, XST)
Quinn also hasn’t made his debut yet, but all reports indicate he’s a work in progress from the left side. When he first started switch hitting, he struggled so much that he decided to nix it for a bit, but he’s trying again. He’ll get some nice experience from the left side thanks to the high percentage of righty pitchers.
Switch hitters, better batting left-handed
SS Freddy Galvis (22, MLB)
Some may argue that based on his ML career so far that he can’t hit from either side, but if he goes back to AAA and resumes development, he’ll see better results. Lately, he’s shown more patience batting right handed, but in 2009 he somehow went the entire season without drawing a walk against a left handed pitcher. He’s probably never going to have the same power from the right side as he does the left, but maybe he could at least become a singles hitter.
CF Jiwan James (22, AA)
This year, James has been nearly equally poor from both sides of the plate. In prior seasons, his plate approach wouldn’t be quite as bad from the left side, but this year neither side is good. Before 2012, he was able to make acceptable contact from the left side, but that’s not happening this year. He’s added power from both sides of the plate this season but it seems unlikely that it’ll last.
2B Harold Garcia (25, DL)
It’s hard to tell exactly what Garcia does at this point because he’s essentially missing two entire seasons in a row with knee injuries. Unfortunately for Garcia, they were both in his right knee, his plant leg when he’s batting from his stronger side. At this point, his prospect stock is pretty much gone with two lost years, and anything he can contribute from this point forward is gravy.
2B Cesar Hernandez (21, AA)
Hernandez could be in the midst of a breakout season after his double jump from short-season ball to high-A didn’t go well last year. He’s a bit of an interesting switch hitter with what seems to be a different approach from each side of the plate. Batting right handed, he seems to be able to make really consistent contact and get on base. Batting left handed, his batting average isn’t as high, but he’s able to hit for more power. This isn’t too unusual for switch hitters, but he should be able to hit for a better average left handed with more at bats.
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