I had high hopes for the Phillies this season. Seriously, once Jake Arrieta signed here I thought they would be able to push for the NL Wild Card. Considering they sit at 17-13 heading into a weekend series with the Washington Nationals, they would benefit greatly from a series win over their .500 rivals.
Every game is valuable, especially one against a struggling – by their recent standards – rival team. If I were Gabe Kapler, I would make a lineup change going into this weekend.
The way I see it, there are only three players on this team that should be starting every game: Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera, and Rhys Hoskins. Aaron Altherr is the next closest thing to a lock as he’s slashing .310/.348/.500/.848 over the past 15 days. This leaves four lineup spots to play with when accounting for a pitcher. JP Crawford, Maikel Franco, Scott Kingery, and Pedro Florimon, who’s getting more reps because Kingery and Crawford are injured, will continue to rotate in the infield. Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp will go back-and-forth for play time as neither one of them are standing out. This leaves two players that are on opposite ends of the spectrum: Carlos Santana and Nick Williams. One player has had a tough start to the season, but ample opportunity to correct his ways while the other has been riding pine.
If I were Kapler, I would give Santana a rest for this series. If he were to sit for a few games Hoskins would take over at first base, Altherr would play left field, and Williams could play right field. It’s been noted on more than one occasion that Santana has a slow start to the season:
Carlos Santana through the end of April
2016: .240/.326/.440, .242 BABIP
2017: .224/.327/.367, .241
2018: .153/.295/.276, .167(!)
— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) May 4, 2018
For his career, Santana is slashing .247/.363/.441/.804. While I appreciate what Santana brings to the plate when the dog days of summer come, I think letting him rest for a series might be best for a team that’s been struggling offensively.
I know Williams isn’t a perfect outfielder, but he’s young and has some serious upside. Think back to last season, in 83 games he slashed .288/.338/.473/.811 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs. This is a guy with talent that needs to get consistent at bats. I know his downside is that he strikes out a lot (18 in 55 at bats this season), but he proved last season he can be a key piece of this offensive lineup.
Williams is going to need to see some at bats in the near future and as it stands the only chance I see is if Santana is given a break at first base. Herrera (love him or hate him) will remain in the lineup because he’s one of the best hitters we have and puts up highlights like this in the field:
Odubel Herrera with a catch of the year nominee 😳 pic.twitter.com/KBnD8rH41W
— Starting 9 (@Starting9) April 28, 2018
Hoskins is another player that will play everyday. This should go without saying. The only other person, besides Santana, that holds the key for Williams to get some playing time is Altherr. Altherr, as I mentioned, has been red-hot recently. You’re not going to bench a hot hitter on a team that needs offensive production. That would be silly.
The only logical explanation to jumpstart this offense is to give Santana a small break. Give him this series off and let Hoskins get time at first and let Williams get 15 or so at bats this weekend. There’s nothing to lose by doing so.
If I were setting the lineup for the weekend series against Washington, assuming Kingery is healthy, it would look like this:
Hernandez (4), Herrera (8), Williams (9), Hoskins (3), Altherr (7), Kingery (6), Franco (5). Rotate Alfaro and Knapp and the three pitchers will be Nick Pivetta, Velasquez, and Arrieta.