Jimmy Rollins is a free agent at the end of the 2011 season. While it’s likely he’ll be back in a Phillies uniform for a few more years, the possibility that he’ll move on to another team is non-zero. The list of potential free agent replacements is not awe inspiring. It consists of glove-only journeymen (Jack Wilson, Nick Punto, Alex Gonzalez) and washed-up ex-stars (Rafael Furcal, Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria). Unless the Phillies were to break the bank to sign the injury-riddled Jose Reyes (a precarious investment to say the least) they’d have to look beyond free agency to replace Rollins should he leave.
The solution may already be in the organization. 21 year old Freddy Galvis has improved in areas of previous concern this year and has surpassed even the loftiest expectations. Signed as a 16 year old for $90,000, the Phillies were already interested in Galvis when h was just 14. Galvis’ skills are scarce in today's baseball. It’s hard to find a good shortstop. Replacement level at shortstop is appallingly low. Yuniesky Betancourt sports a .270 OBP, is poor defensively and is still hovering at replacement level.
Heading into 2011, Galvis had been offensively atrocious in every season of his professional career. He never posted an OBP over .300. He never slugged over .311. Suddenly, he started hitting. This year, Galvis’s OBP climbed to .324 at AA Reading (that’s right around Major League Average) and .315 at AAA Lehigh Valley. He’s slugged .392 across those two levels and hit 8 HRs (he had 10 total HRs over his 4 previous pro seasons) and a career high 28 doubles. Add 5 triples to that and Galvis has 41 extra base hits between AA and AAA as a 21 year old.
I do not know if/what Glavis has done to alter his swing mechanics since I had not seen his swing enough before this year to compare his current swing to. What I can comment on is what he’s working with now. Galvis keeps his feet very simple. There’s not big stride or kick of any kind, he’s very low maintenance. I don’t like when hitters take long strides because I think it can lead to problems against breaking balls. He shows good balance in the swing. As we move up to the hips we start to see why Galvis only has 18 HRs in 5 seasons. The hip rotation is slow, he generates no torque with which to produce power. His hands and arms are weak, so weak that he essentially uses his entire upper body to whip the bat through the zone. He’s gotten good enough at it that he squares up balls and lines them into either gap, hence all the doubles and triples this season. The swing path is flat. He’ll hit a bunch of line drives and ground balls but the swing is entirely loftless. The bat speed is slightly above average.
Galvis is one of the best defensive shortstops in all of minor league baseball. He has good range to his left, and average range to his right. A plus arm both on velocity and accuracy. He is especially good at charging softly hit grounders, reacting so quickly that he gets to balls before they leave the infield grass, then gobbling up the ball on a perfectly timed hop before making a lightning fast transfer to his throwing hand and firing to first on the run. His glove is where fluky infield hits go to die. He’s not especially acrobatic. Humpback line drives will get over his head when you consider that he’s 5’9” without a spectacular vertical leap, but how often do those actually happen?
I’ve timed Galvis from home to first at 4.15 and 4.09 seconds from the left side and 4.23 from the right side which makes him a 55 runner. He’ll be an asset on the bases and can probably swipe an inefficient 30 bases a year, though I’d rather have him steal 15 without getting caught.
The year Galvis had at the plate is probably his eventual ceiling in the big leagues. A .270/.320/.370 line combined with plus-defense at the most premium of positions with some value added on the bases? Sign me up. That’s a 2.5-4 WAR player. He could use another year at AAA to further develop the bat. Galvis could either be the Phillies starting SS next year or be traded if the Phils lock up Rollins for 3 years this winter.