Phils have concerns about corner outfield spots
NEW YORK -- Phillies rookie Darnell Sweeney started in left field Wednesday night at Citi Field, the third time he has started at a different position since he joined the organization last month.
He previously started at second base and center field, but seeing Sweeney in left for the first time and Domonic Brown leave the game with concussion concerns made one wonder about the Phillies' corner outfielders next season and beyond.
Sweeney seems to be viewed as more of a super utility player, but he has shown he can hit. He hit his third homer of the season in a 9-4 loss to the Mets. He also threw out Yoenis Cespedes at third from right field -- he moved from left to right when Brown left the game -- to end the sixth.
"I like the way he looks at the plate, and he made that great throw to nail the runner at third base," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "We'll be seeing more of him."
But certainly somebody has to play the corners in the future.
Cody Asche and Brown have received the bulk of plate appearances there this season. Asche is hitting .249 (86-for-345) with 20 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 24 RBIs and a .673 OPS in 103 games. Brown is hitting .228 (43-for-289) with six doubles, one triple, five home runs, 25 RBIs and a .634 OPS in 63 games. If Asche and Brown had enough plate appearances to qualify, Asche would rank 60th and Brown would rank 63rd among 67 outfielders in OPS.
"You look at some of the teams that have waited and have reaped the benefits of being patient with some players," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We talk about Kansas City a lot, we talk about teams like Pittsburgh a lot. Guys like [Starling] Marte, [Gregory] Polanco, [Mike] Moustakas and [Eric] Hosmer. It doesn't often happen right away. It does take some time for people to adjust and readjust to being Major Leaguers. There are ebbs and flows.
"Did I have more aspirations and hope Asche would have performed a little bit better based on how he played in 2014? Yes, but at the same time he was moving to new position. He had to make that adjustment. None of that stuff is easy."
But if Asche and Brown are both back next season -- Brown is salary arbitration-eligible for the second time and it is far from certain he will be tendered a contract -- they will be pushed. Rookie Aaron Altherr has started eight of the previous 15 games in left field. He has started twice in right field.
Double-A Reading outfielder Nick Williams could open next season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He could be knocking on the door before the end of next season. The Phillies also might try to bring back veteran Jeff Francoeur. If he returns (or if they sign another veteran) he will need to play, too.
"When you start creating depth at the upper levels there's only good things that can happen," Amaro said. "It can push the incumbents to perform better. It will give us a good read whether or not some of the guys are up to the task and who wants a challenge.
"This was a bit of a fact-finding year for us. We're getting to learn some things about some players. Hopefully the guys like Brown and Asche and those guys who were kind of incumbents, hopefully they feel like they're getting pushed. There's nothing wrong with that."