Freddy Galvis Is a Suitable Replacement for Chase Utley

He's not the greatest hitter—yet!—but the Phillies back-up second baseman knows how to handle the field.

Yesterday was supposed to be one of those days that has Philly itching for baseball season. It was the last day of winter, but the weather had everyone thinking it was May. Rittenhouse Square was packed and everyone was looking forward to free Rita’s today. That all went to shit when Chase Utley left Clearwater to be evaluated by a specialist. He’s probably going to miss opening day.

It’s been nearly nine years since a 24-year-old Chase Utley went 2-4 with a double and a grand slam in his Major League debut for the Phils. Since then, we watched as he dove for grounders, ran over catchers, pump-faked at runners, legged out round-trippers and—of course—dubbed the Phillies World Fucking Champions. Now, short of some miraculous, Steve Austin-style surgery, Utley’s ability to contribute to the Phillies will be sporadic.

It’ll be difficult to find someone as ready and willing to hang his elbow in front of an inside fastball or throw a Scott Hartnell-style hip into a shortstop turning a double play. But, Philly’s understudy second baseman—22-year-old Freddy Galvis—might be able to make up for some of the more routine voids caused by Utley’s absence. Just be prepared for a bit of a learning curve, especially considering that Galvis hasn’t even made a minor league start at second base.

Freddy Galvis is a Venezuelan shortstop who grew up playing bare-handed baseball in the streets, using rocks as bases. He’s has been in the Phils system since he was 17. When most kids were playing hooky or fighting for a spot on their high school teams, he was batting .203 in Williamsport. His hitting has always been an issue—he hit .197 after he was promoted to Reading in 2009. And his patience might be a problem. In 2,179 minor league plate appearances he’s only walked 123 times. To put that in perspective, the ever-so-patient Jimmy Rollins averages four fewer plate appearances per walk. Throwing Galvis in a lineup with J-Roll and Victorino could perpetuate the Phils lack of discipline at the plate.

The good news, though, is that he seems to be improving. In Triple A last year Galvis hit .298 and set career highs in almost every offensive category. And Cholly is more than impressed with his ability to lay down a bunt. “I’d say right now you could put him down as the best bunter on our team. Really. I’ve seen him the other day, drag bunting, sacrificing.”

And his fielding is solid. Last year, he won the 2011 Paul Owens Award—annually given to the best position player in the organization. He has a career .971 fielding percentage, and has handled the move to second base without too many problems. A weekend piece on Galvis on quoted Phils infield coordinator Sam Perlazzo as saying that Galvis could play anywhere.

Yesterday, as Philly fans everywhere scoured the Internet for a glimmer of hope regarding Utley’s knees, Galvis delivered a “Don’t worry, I’ve got this” triple to drive in two runs in the fifth inning of a 3-1 game against the Tigers. Simply put, the man isn’t Chase Utley. He’s not going to bat .332 and drive in 100 runs. He’s probably not going to wear 30 pitches or drop an F-bomb in front of the entire city. Hell, he may not even be above the Mendoza line. But, he’ll play a solid second base and get some quality experience in the Bigs while he’s keeping second base warm for Utley.