Utility player outlook: Phillies look to replace Valdez
Since the Wilson Valdez trade, the Phillies have had a question mark about who will fill his space as the utility man on the roster. Coming into spring training, it seemed as though the often-groaned-about Michael Martinez had the inside track. Acquired last year in the Rule Five Draft, Martinez spent the entire 2011 season with the big club, hitting just .196 and splitting time between second, shortstop, third and the outfield. But is he the right person for the utility role in 2012? At age 29, Martinez shouldn’t improve the numbers he had last year, and considering the Phillies’ lack of offensive firepower off the bench last year, it doesn’t seem to be worth it to keep Mini-Mart on the roster. Thankfully, spring training is essentially one big audition, so we all get a look at the potential candidates for the job.
One of the candidates is Kevin Frandsen. Also 29, Frandsen spent all of 2011 with triple-A Lehigh. As the most likely choice over Martinez, he brings a better bat and more MLB experience to the plate. Drafted by San Francisco in 2004, he’s played a total of 227 games over four seasons (this is excluding a one-game appearance in 2008). During his MLB service, he played the bulk of his games at second base (95), but also logged time at third base (52), shortstop (32), first base (4) and the outfield (14). Playing for the IronPigs last year, Frandsen spent an equal amount of time at second, short and third, while also logging 10 games at first. In 77 games, he hit .303 with 40 RBIs, his season shortened due to a 50-game suspension. The only question mark in his game is his ability at shortstop, but looking at his numbers from last year, his fielding percentage was similar to Martinez’. If he can have a strong spring, I wouldn’t doubt seeing him wearing a Phillies uniform in April.
Another candidate, albeit a long shot, is Canadian utility-man Pete Orr. He hasn’t played shortstop regularly in a few years, but looking at his career stats he has more MiLB games at short than any other position. In 2010, he played 39 games at short for triple-A Syracuse (Washington affiliate), and his fielding percentage was an impressive .971%. I think Orr can make the roster because of his familiarity with the club, playing 46 games with the team last year. His hitting (.219/.279/.250 in 2011) was slightly better than Martinez, and his comfort at second base would be more useful considering an oft-injured Chase Utley.
And don’t sleep on Freddy Galvis. Yes, I know his name sank a little bit into obscurity after Jimmy Rollins decided to sign a new contract, but he’s still here, and his stock hasn’t dropped. Though he’s always been a pure shortstop, the Phillies have been working him at second base, and his play early on in spring training has been decent. His hitting still needs to improve a little bit, as his contact numbers show his lack of experience at the higher levels, but at age 22, he’s got all the time in the world. He’ll be starting the year in Lehigh Valley as the shortstop, for sure, but if an injury arises, Galvis may be the guy to call up.
There are many decisions to be made in spring training and many players auditioning for a job. It may not be the most significant role, but the job of utility infielder is still in the metaphorical “classifieds” section, and there are definitely a few guys throwing their hats into the ring.