|Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.|
Perhaps the case of Cesar Hernandez should shed some light on this. I don't necessarily 100% disagree with him learning shortstop and third in Reading, except that putting him there to learn those positions sheds some light onto how the Phillies pick bench spots.
From Philly.com's piece on him:
Now I'm not necessarily disagreeing with Cesar himself learning in AA, but I guess I am. What does a bench player do more at the major league level- pick up a bat and go pinch hit, or play games in the field? If you answered pinch-hit, you are correct. The best guys on your bench are going to pinch-hit four and five times a week. Matt Stairs couldn't play a single position adequately. Geoff Jenkins actually couldn't play the field during the 2008 stretch run. Your bench players primary job though isn't to start games. If your back-up shortstop, for instance, is playing in the field a lot of innings, your team probably stinks. That means your starter isn't playing. The same goes for any other position. You want your bench guys hitting, not picking up the glove and playing so much.READING -- With the way that Cesar Hernandez is hitting and the struggle that Freddy Galvis faces to produce offensively, it’s natural to think that the two should trade places.Hernandez is at Reading, learning how to play shortstop and third base as a way to make himself more valuable.At second base, there won’t be that many opportunities with the Phillies as long as Chase Utley remains healthy.Galvis, can play short, third and second base adeptly, but his struggles at the plate have been well documented. He is currently batting .056 (2 for 36).Meanwhile Hernandez is now hitting .341 at Reading after going 3 for 4 in Monday’s 8-1 loss to the visiting Portland Sea Dogs.Hernandez, who turns 24 on May 23, has hit at every level. Even last year in 121 at-bats for the Phillies he batted .289. Hernandez hit .231 when he began this season with the Phillies, but he only had 13 at-bats.He was sent to Reading to learn to play third base and shortstop and it has been a work in progress.During his first 20 games, Hernandez played 13 at third, two at second and five at short. He made seven errors at third base and one at short.
This isn't a Cesar-specific complaint, but a general one. The Phillies bench lacks any offensive talent, really. John Mayberry Jr., Jayson Nix, and Freddy Galvis don't combine to equal a good pinch-hitter, Tony Gwynn Jr. is at best fair offensively, and Wil Nieves is your prototype back-up catcher. Sure, Darin Ruf will come back and be our best bench bat, but he will be one guy.
Back in Spring Training, we sent guys like Bobby Abreu and Reid Brignac packing, because of their defense, and kept Mayberry and Nix (None of these are great players, but bare with me). We did so for defensive purposes. You can keep a defensive guy, for instance Freddy Galvis, on your roster to fulfill a need there, but you can't pick your whole bench for their ability to "back-up" starters. That's a dumb way to pick a team, and it kind of tells you a lot about why we've had poor benches since Ruben Amaro Jr. took over as GM.