Posted by Len Hunsicker:
We’re in the home stretch of baseball’s regular season. Labor Day has come and gone, which means that the rosters of each big-league team can expand to up to 40 players. For a team in the playoff hunt, it means that reinforcements are coming, and it allows managers a few more pieces to strategize with from a defensive or even a base-running standpoint. For a team that’s dead in the water (our Phillies, for example), it gives the fans an opportunity to get a first glimpse of players that are hopefully part of a better tomorrow.
The Phillies called up seven players on Monday night, five of which we have seen before in a Phillies uniform, and two that fans have been waiting on for some time. The call-ups include relievers Mike Adams, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, and Luis Garcia, catcher Cameron Rupp, outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., and infielders Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. Obviously, the two players that will intrigue Phillies fans the most are the two rookies, Franco and Gonzalez. Here, we’re going to take a quick look at each of the call-ups and see where they’ve been, what they can provide, and where they’re going in the future.
Mike Adams – He’s shown flashes here and there, but ultimately Adams will go down as a signing that did not work out. He hasn’t been horrible when he’s pitched, but I don’t think he’s ever been fully healthy in Philadelphia, even when he has pitched. He is strictly bullpen depth for the next month, nothing more. The Phillies hold a 2015 team option valued at $6 million that becomes guaranteed if Adams pitches 60 innings in 2014 or 120 combined innings in 2013 & 2014. He’s pitched 17 innings so far in 2014 and only 42 combined innings in 2013 & 2014. So…yeah, he’s not gonna be here next year.
Luis Garcia – Garcia has pretty much spent the entire season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and the numbers there have been impressive. In 46.2 innings pitched this season, he’s got a 0.96 ERA, a WHIP (walks & hits per innings pitched) of 1.09, and a team-leading 22 saves. The problems this season have come when he’s pitched in the majors, where his ERA is 12.71. Keep in mind; he’s only pitched in four games for the Phils this year, so that’s a very small sample to go off of. He’ll only be 28 when spring training starts next season, so this is an opportunity for him to showcase himself to the Phillies and the rest of Major League Baseball.
Cameron Rupp – This has been a pretty rough season for Rupp. He’s only hitting .165 in Triple-A and .190 in a 17-game stint with the big-league club. Rupp’s saving grace is the complete lack of catching prospects at the upper levels of the Phillies’ minor-league system. He may get a start here and there to give Carlos Ruiz and Wil Nieves a break, but I can’t imagine we’ll see too much of Rupp this month. Hopefully he can pick up a few things from those two and apply it next season in Triple-A.
Cesar Hernandez – Hernandez has pretty pedestrian numbers on the season, hitting .256 in Triple-A and .225 in the majors. He will primarily be used to provide Chase Utley with a rest here and there this month. Hernandez and Freddy Galvis provide a lot of the same things to a team, so it’s hard to see him finding the field too much. Hernandez can play second, third, and centerfield, but with the glut of outfielders on the team currently and the Asche/Franco tandem at third, I can’t imagine seeing him anywhere but at second and maybe a few pinch-hitting and pinch-running situations. At age 24, I’d expect to see him back with the IronPigs next season.
Tony Gwynn, Jr – The son of the great Tony Gwynn appears to be what is known as a Quadruple-A player, meaning he’ll always produce and look good in Triple-A, but just can’t get over that hump to stick as a steady fourth or fifth outfielder for any team with hopes of contending. Think Michael Martinez, just way, way, way less hateable. He’ll provide depth for Ben Revere in center now that John Mayberry, Jr has been shipped out. Gwynn turns 32 at the end of the season, so it’s hard to imagine him back next year.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez – It looks like Philadelphia will finally get a look at the mystery man that the Phils signed last season. I have to say, I’m legitimately excited to see him. It’s now apparent that Gonzalez wasn’t right physically in spring training and at the beginning of the season. His first appearances in the minors this year were very shaky, but it looks like he’s gotten stronger and healthier as he has worked his way up the organizational ladder. In 12 appearances at Lehigh Valley, he’s got a 1.62 ERA and his stuff has been very impressive, with his fastball sitting in the mid-90s. This should give the Phillies a chance to see what he could be over the next two years. Initially the hope was that he’d be a starter, but if he becomes a solid, dependable reliever, that’s not awful for $4 million a year these days. If Gonzalez pans out, you have the makings of an upper-tier bullpen with him, Ken Giles, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, and Ethan Martin (who I still have high hopes for if they commit to him as a reliever).
Maikel Franco – OK, here’s the guy we all want to see. He was clearly jittery in his major league debut last night, going 0-3 with his first big league RBI coming on a sacrifice fly in the 8th inning. He was obviously over-eager, especially in those first two at-bats, swinging at anything close. This is where I go off on a tangent, so I’ll just start a new paragraph for it. The following applies for both the Phillies and their fans.
Franco may struggle in this month-long cameo. If he does, do not panic. He just turned 22 on August 26th, so he spent most of his age 21 season in Triple-A, which is a young age for that league. In retrospect, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised when he struggled at the beginning of the season. Eventually, he figured out his issues and was vastly improved after the calendar turned to July. He has been white-hot lately, and as Ruben Amaro, Jr said in an interview, Franco basically forced the Phillies’ hand with his performance. However, this is the major leagues, and there may be another period of adjustment to come.
I’m glad he’s up, but I wouldn’t have gone ballistic if the Phillies told him to rest up and get ready for winter ball. That being said, if you’re going to call him up, he needs to be in the lineup playing either third or first base every day. Dear Phillies, DO NOT platoon him and jerk him around to the point where he doesn’t know when he’s playing like you did with Domonic Brown when you first called him up. I’m not saying that this is why Brown is in the predicament he’s in these days, but it’s counterproductive to a young player’s development to do that to him. If you’re rewarding Franco with this call-up, play him every day.
If you’re like me and you haven’t yet tuned out the Phillies for the year just because that the Eagles are starting, hopefully Franco and Gonzalez can show us enough to offer a slice of intrigue for next season.