Galvis to focus on offensive production

27-year-old to remain in training camp, will sit out of Classic

Galvis to focus on offensive production

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Freddy Galvis bristled at the question Wednesday morning at Spectrum Field.

He had his best season with the Phillies in 2016, posting a career-high 26 doubles, 20 home runs and 67 RBIs and finishing as a finalist for the National League Gold Glove Award at shortstop. He is the longest tenured Phillies player, making his debut in 2012, and he is slated to be the shortstop on Opening Day on April 3 in Cincinnati.

Despite that, he is asked if he needs to be better in 2017, considering J.P. Crawford is opening the season in Triple-A.

"I'm just trying to get better every day and put up a better offensive year and go from there," Galvis said, shaking his head before turning away.

Galvis, 27, finds himself in an interesting spot as the Phillies hold their first full-squad workout on Friday. He combined power and defense last season, but posted a .274 on-base percentage. It ranked last out of 146 qualified hitters in baseball and 485th out of 490 qualified Phillies hitters since 1913.

No Phillies hitter has posted a lower on-base percentage since Cookie Rojas' .248 in 1968.

"If we can cut the power a little bit and get on base more, I think it's going to be much better for the team and for me," Galvis said.

Galvis must reach base more to keep his job in the long run. Crawford is the Phillies' top prospect and the No. 6 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. He has a .372 on-base percentage in his Minor League career, although he posted a .328 mark last season in Triple-A.

A strong start from Crawford with the IronPigs could put pressure on Galvis early. But if a promotion for Crawford is inevitable, what happens then?

Galvis could move to second base, but it is hard to picture that happening if Cesar Hernandez replicates the season he had last year (.371 on-base percentage and .764 OPS). Galvis could become the team's utility infielder. Or he could be traded.

But Galvis can make the Phillies think a little harder about their decision. Certainly his stellar defense will be difficult to give up. He ranked fifth out of 24 shortstops in UZR/150 and 10th out of 24 shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved (+5). Both metrics rank Andrelton Simmons, Brandon Crawford and Francisco Lindor ahead of Galvis, putting Galvis among the better defensive shortstops in the game. Galvis' arm strength ranked 22nd out of 36 shortstops with 10 or more "competitive throws," according to Statcast™.

Galvis' great stop

Competitive throws average a player's 90th percentile throws. But that number could be less of an indictment on Galvis' arm strength than simply an indicator about how strong shortstops arms are.

"He's about as good as there is [defensively] in the National League," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "And he popped 20 homers. He's a leader on the field, his teammates really like him, he plays hard. There's a lot to like there. Obviously, you highlighted the one area where we feel Freddy can take a step forward. Number one is identifying it, and trying and making a concerted effort to try to improve that. And through our conversations with Freddy it seems like he's acknowledged it and wants to make it better."

Nobody wants to put a number on the ideal on-base percentage for Galvis, but some would like to see him at least in the .300 to .310 range. That might not seem like much -- the average big leaguer had a .322 on-base percentage last year -- but a .310 mark would be more than an 11 percent improvement, which is difficult to do.

He might have helped himself when he said he will not play for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic because his groin is bothering him. The injury means Galvis will remain in camp, rather than being out of sight and out of mind and giving Crawford a longer audition in front of the Phillies' front office and coaching staff.

But in the end it will come down to production. Twenty homers is nice, but he needs to make fewer outs. He needs to reach base more.

"We're hopeful that just a new approach might help Freddy," Klentak said. "But Freddy knows what he's trying to do. It's not that easy to do. Some players are good at it and some players are not, we're hoping he can take some steps forward but a lot of it is going to be how hard he works at it."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.