There was a lot of discussion over the winter regarding the merits of re-signing Jimmy Rollins for any extended period of time when the Phillies had prospect Freddy Galvis waiting in the wings to take over at shortstop. The Phillies wound up inking Rollins long-term, leaving many to scratch their heads and wonder what the future of Galvis as a member of the Phillies organization would be. It was worth noting though that Galvis was still just 22 years old, even though it seems like he's been around the organization almost as long as Rollins. Even so, the fact that he is so close to being major league ready and at such a young age, made for interesting conversation, since it now seemed that he would be blocked from a full-time assignment with the Phillies for three more seasons, the length of Rollins' new deal with the Phillies.
Not so; maybe.
There is another scenario, generally unconsidered by fans and baseball pundits. Move Galvis to second base where Chase Utley is becoming more and more questionable with every day that goes by. The Phillies started playing Galvis at second last week for the stated reason of just making him more versatile in case the Phillies needed a utility player to cover an injury. Now though, with Utley still not showing up in any box scores and Galvis taking to second base like a squirrel takes to a peanut, having Freddy Galvis get a chunk of playing time at second base isn't nearly as far fetched as originally thought. Instead of having to wait another three seasons to take over at short, Galvis may now be in line to take over at second base as soon as this season if Utley is physically unable to handle the job. At minimum, Galvis could find solid playing time at second over the next couple of seasons as Utley's down-time builds and would certainly be in line to take over on a regular basis when Utley's contract expires after the 2013 season. Then, after one more year, the Phillies would presumably be able to move Galvis back to shortstop if they so desired, when Rollins' deal expires.
Nobody that's not on the Phillies payroll - and even then, not everyone in that category - knows what's going on with Utley. We all know he has bad knees and has had a myriad of injuries over the past couple of seasons. We all know that the Phillies want to be careful with him and rightfully so. But, we don't know what to expect out of him over the final two years of his contract when he will make - not necessarily earn - $30 million. That's not to rip Utley, who plays harder than most players in baseball when he's healthy. He certainly isn't feigning any injury, his medical issues are legit, and he wants to be on the field everyday. The problem is that he can't due to the knee issues that are going to cut his career well short of what it appeared it would be at one time.
The smart money says that Utley will at least need copious amounts of time off during the season and that a trip or two to the disabled list will become the norm over the next couple of seasons in Philadelphia. It also goes without saying that Utley's defense will become a situation where the spirit is willing, but his knees are weak and he won't be able to make a lot of the defensive plays that he's been able to make in the past.
In walks Freddy Galvis, who can give Utley increased time off by taking over defensively late in games. In walks Freddy Galvis, who can get his feet wet in the majors with spurts of playing time that would further increase Utley's time off and would cover him when he takes those DL trips. In walks Freddy Galvis to a situation where the Phillies can pick their spots with him to put him in positions to succeed. He could garner more at-bats and playing time covering for Rollins when he needs a day off. After all, Rollins is aging and hasn't been a stranger in the trainer's room over the past couple of seasons.
The bad news about Galvis has always been his offense, but at some point, it looks like any critics are going to have to drop that argument. Galvis hit a combined .278 between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season and is continuing to make his case this spring. Not only is Galvis hitting .364 this spring, but he's doing the little things that the Phillies are emphasizing they want their hitters to do; take advantage of hitter's counts, move runners and overall just put together good, productive at-bats.
Galvis may well need more minor league seasoning and it's likely that he won't open the season on the Phillies roster, unless Utley winds up on the DL and Galvis is going to be the everyday second baseman. The Phillies don't need to rush Galvis and some more opportunities at the Triple-A level could help him quiet those critics that believe he won't be able to hit in the majors. The fact though is that for some reason, Galvis has simply put it all together and is a different hitter than he was prior to last season. He admitted to going on a different training regimen prior to last season and he has always worked hard at improving his offense. Perhaps it's just the fact that this kid is still just that; a kid. He has had growing pains and likely will still have growing pains, but he is ever so close to being ready to play in the majors that it's not a stretch to put together an argument that he may well deserve to make the club this season. That will only happen though if the Phillies feel that they can find him enough at-bats filling in at the middle infield positions to make his inclusion on the Phillies roster worthwhile. If he's not going to get steady, consistent playing time, another season at Triple-A isn't such a bad thing.
Bottom line is this. Galvis is showing that he can play defensively at either middle infield position and the Phillies have two aging, and often hurting, middle infielders. The offense will be there and Freddy Galvis is right on the cusp of being a major leaguer thanks to his defensive skills that first got him noticed and are now providing him with versatility to make him even more important to the Phillies franchise.
Freddy Galvis' career stats