Not much has changed at 1B since we last made a prediction, but we’ll review it anyway as we make our way around the diamond.
For the first few years of the IronPigs existence, you wouldn’t have to do much here other than write down the name Andy Tracy. Indeed, you could just write it in the lineup, too, batting cleanup. Alas, the players to man the not-so-hot corner in recent years haven’t lived up to the offensive production of Mr. Tracy.
Jeff “the statue” Larish was brought in for the 2011 season, and helped keep the team in position for their first winning season and their first playoff appearance. Sadly, in July of that year, he broke his leg sliding into home.
Matt Rizzotti came up from Reading with a power profile, but despite his left-handed bat, never materialized at Coca Cola Park. Darin Ruf came up similarly, and had more success, but Coca Cola Park is where big right-handed bats come to die. Ruf was worked into the outfield rotation and has had more success in Philadelphia than he ever had with us. Jim Murphy was the next in line. He had a reasonable season for us, but nothing Tracy-esque. Russ Canzler has been around the last couple years, and Maikel Franco spent some days there as well–but I’m not sure we’ve really had a dedicated 1B in a while. I know it makes sense, the way 1B are developed, and the way AAA rosters are constructed.
This year should be no different. I believe we’ll have three bats on the roster, all sharing time at first base when the season starts. It could be that one will seize the position, or that others will enter the mix as the season rolls along. Here’s what I’ve got to get the 2016 IronPigs started at 1B:
Brock won the Eastern League MVP last season as he led the Reading Fightins to the playoffs. He brings a solid left-handed bat–important at Coca Cola Park as we’ve learned–and a workman-like approach. He’s done everything he can do at AA, and it’s time to see if he can make the jump where many others have not. His slash of .300/.394/.470 may be difficult to repeat at AAA–as will his 15 HR–but that doesn’t mean he can’t be successful or shouldn’t get his shot; he earned it.
Always one of our favorites around here, “ToJo” moves out from behind the plate due to his concussion history. His bat will need to carry him, now, and he’s right-handed. He’s only 24 as the season starts, though, and we’ve seen flashes of that bat before.
As we discussed in the catchers section, he saw a significant amount of time at 1B last season in Durham–68 games versus only 10 behind the plate (he actually appeared in more games behind the plate for the MLB team). I think he’s going to be around mostly as veteran catching depth to support Chooch and Ruppy in Philadelphia, until the young guns like Knapp are ready to contribute on that level. He may or may not have an “opt-out” clause given his 467 games of MLB experience.
So just like recent years, 1B won’t be locked down by just one player–at least not at first. If the Phillies want to provide more veteran presence at this spot, they could consider re-signing Russ Canzler, or move Tyler Henson from 2B or OF.
In Reading, big Art Charles will get another crack at 1B where he hit .215 with 8 HR over 91 games there last season. The top prospect in the Phillies system at this position will be pushing for time in Reading before we know it: Rhys Hoskins split last season equally between Lakewood and Clearwater and may even start the season in Reading. His numbers ( .317/.394/.510) and power (17 HR last season in pitcher-friendly leagues) are impressive.