Feb 162012
 
Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins

The Phillies really need Jimmy Rollins to stay healthy in 2012

Shortstop

When the Phillies re-signed Jimmy Rollins most Phillies fans took a breath of relief.  The reason behind this was the fact that some of the names the Phillies were throwing around as potential replacements if Rollins went elsewhere were Alex Gonzalez, Yuniesky Betancourt, and the now retired Orlando Cabrera.  Saying yuck and reaching for a convenient bucket would be understandable at the mention of those names. 

After Jose Reyes took his dance moves, injured hammies, and questionable character to Florida the best shortstop was off of the market.  Rollins leadership and drive were also factors that would not be replaced by a guy like Alex Gonzalez.  While Gonzalez may be able to match Rollins power, his glove, overall speed, and base running ability are things he could not.  As bad as Rollins can look at the plate at times he gets on base a lot more than Gonzalez as well.  Of what was left, Rollins was without a doubt the best player by far. Even an injured Rollins playing at 80% would be better than plugging in some of the other names that were on the market.

Injuries have been one of Rollins problems over the last few years, like every other Phillie infielder and while he is not getting any younger (which may mean more injuries and less production) he was one of the must signs for the team.  The biggest reason why is, that Freddy Galvis simply is not ready to be an everyday Major League player yet and there is no one else on the team who could even come close to numbers Rollins will most likely put up.

Simply speaking, depth wise shortstop is the weakest position of the starting nine other than catcher.  There just are not a lot of bodies the Phillies can plug in, especially after dealing Wilson Valdez.   So despite all those annoying pop ups and the swings from the heels when simple contact is needed the Phillies made the right choice in bringing back their incumbent shortstop.  While the contract is a bit of an Amaro special that annoys some fans with the amount of years it at least is not the five year deal that was being demanded at the start of free agency.

If Rollins remains healthy the Phillies have one of the top three defensive shortstops in the game.  Even at his age he can still cover ground and his hands have always been one of the best in the game and frankly speaking he is by far the best defensive shortstop this team has had since Larry Bowa was traded with the current Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs manager to the Cubs.  In Phillies history only Bowa and Bobby Wine may actually have been better in the field that Rollins and Rollins offense more than compensates by what little difference there is in fielding ability.

Rollins has lost a step or two on offense as he is no longer a major threat to leg out many triples and his doubles have dropped noticeably but he still has respectable power.  His power is part of his problem on offense as mentioned earlier he likes to swing from his heels at times and tries to launch balls into Ashburn Alley and instead pops up.  Part of the reason for some of the drop in doubles and triples may have been some of the leg injuries he has had over the last few years.  Rollins took up Yoga before last season began and it seems to have helped him stay healthier so maybe his 33 year old body can regain more of it’s former spark.  Probably doubtful but the Phillies hope so.  If not well compared to the alternatives we are probably still better off.

After Rollins is where it gets scary.  Freddy Galvis has a glove that is beyond Major League ready but as mentioned previously, his offense may not be.  Galvis made great strides last season on the offensive side at AA Reading and continued to hit well at AAA Lehigh Valley. This has been his first major upside offensive season however and he most likely needs more time at AAA.  If Galvis hits at AAA and shows that last season’s hitting was not a fluke then the shortstop position is less of a hole.  If he regresses back to previous form then we have trouble right here in River City.  The Phillies are pinning a lot of hopes on Galvis being able to take over the utility infielder role by August or September.  If he can, he gives them an upgrade over the departed Valdez and the next guy on the list.

Michael Martinez not only is the main back up at second base currently, he is also the main back up at shortstop.  Like his play at second, he has a decent range but a somewhat erratic glove at short and his throws can sometimes be a bit wild.  I honestly hate to bag on this guy because he does play hard and he is a very good teammate and Charlie Manuel really loves him, but he really needs AAA time and some instruction to grow since he got such a late start on his baseball career being a basketball guy.

After Martinez you have a number of guys previously mentioned as well.  Polanco and Wigginton can both play short in a pinch, but neither player has any type of range at the position and you are weakening first (with Howard out) and third if you have to use them.  Pete Orr and Kevin Frandsen have both played short in the minors but like Polanco and Wigginton do not have much in the way of range.  Harold Garcia’s arm probably will keep him from being able to play the position on a full time basis but he might be able to fill in now and then. 

Troy Hanzawa is what Freddy Galvis was coming into last year.  An excellent defensive shortstop with defense that could possibly make it in the majors but his offensive upside looks to be Rey Ordonez or Mario Mendoza level.  He is probably the most gifted infielder in the Phillies system on the defensive side at his position after Galvis and Tyson Gillies.  That may actually get him to the Majors in another year or two even if he doesn’t hit very well.  After all guys like Terry Harmon, Mario Mendoza, Bobby Wine, and Ray Oyler made it as utility glove guys for awhile so it’s not impossible to see Hanzawa at least getting a look one day.  Unless someone gives him a transfusion of Barry Bonds DNA don’t expect much on the offensive side.

I do expect some kind of infielder to come in sometime during the spring after teams begin making cuts.  Ironic thing is Wilson Valdez has no options, if he can’t make the Reds, we might actually see him back here.

The good news is that the Phillies have two really nice shortstop prospects in Tyler Green and Roman Quinn that they picked in last year’s draft.  While neither player will factor in for 2012 or even 2013-14 there is a chance that if they develop well we may eventually see one of them as Rollins or Galvis’ replacement down the road.

Depth Chart

Jimmy Rollins
Pray Freddy Galvis is ready
Hope for a trade of some kind
Spring Training will have some people getting cut and out of option guys refusing assignment
Michael Martinez
OMG do we have to call Edgar Renteria?
Wow the Free Agent pool is really low on water… Ruben Gotay?
… – – – …
Kevin Frandsen
Pete Orr
Placido Polanco
Ty Wigginton
Harold Garcia
Can Larry Bowa still play?
Troy Hanzawa
Oh boy. Please hurry Green and Quinn…

Up next: Third Base

Barry Jeffrey Jr. writes “The Crow’s Nest” column for PSC.

WORLD BLEEPING CHAMPIONS: Phillies blog

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