Monday, March 21, 2011

With Luis Castillo, Phils Add Another Mediocre Middle-Infielder

With each passing day of Chase Utley’s nagging knee injury, it becomes clearer that the all-star 2nd basemen will not be in the lineup against Brett Myers and the Houston Astros on Opening Day.

The Phillies, already weakened in right-field (with Ben Francisco replacing Jayson Werth), have several options at 2nd base. The first is to give the at-bats to Wilson Valdez, whose performance last year was surely competent (1.7 WAR). The second is to allow Valdez and others, namely youngsters Josh Barfield and Delwyn Young, to share time. Valdez has had an excellent spring for the Phils, leading the team in hits and batting .439. Barfield and Young are hitting .344 and .292, respectively.

The Phils have now added an additional option in the form of Luis Castillo, the veteran second-basemen recently waived by the Mets. Castillo, still owed millions by the Mets in 2011, has signed a minor-league deal and will be cheap for the Phils.

While there are now plenty of able bodies to play the position, it’s important to recognize that none of these players, including Castillo, will come even to close to Chase Utley’s production in 2011. Castillo, in particular, still enjoys the benefits of a once-solid, but always overvalued, reputation. Over the past three seasons, Castillo has an OPS of .681, or an Adjusted OPS+ of 85 (it was only 68 in 2010 ... compared to 79 for Valdez). Defensively, he has not recorded a positive WAR since 2005! Further, his once impressive speed – he led the league in steals twice (2000, 2002) – is no longer a significant factor. He has stolen an average of less than 13 bases over the past three seasons.

I have no major complaints about Castillo’s signing, or the plan to have him split time with Valdez, Barfield, and Young. It’s probably the best the Phils can do given the circumstances. But those hoping for serious relief will be left disappointed, as none of these fellows can provide it.

The only solution for the Phillies at 2nd base is a healthy Chase Utley, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. It will truly be a loss to go on without Chase playing 2nd base – and players like him can never be replaced that easily.