Ah, Spring Training baseball is here. After a full week of fake games, the position and roster battles are in full swing. When you look at the Phillies, there really don’t seem to be a lot of battles to be had but there is still room for jockeying. The backup catcher must be decided, as well as the rest of the bench players. One of the guys battling for one of those limited bench spots is Brock Stassi. As a partial season ticket holder at Reading and Lehigh Valley over the past few years, I’ve seen plenty of Brock. He first jumped on everyone’s radar in 2015 after being named a mid-season all-star and winning the Eastern League’s MVP. That earned him a promotion to Allentown in 2016 where he saw significant time at 1B/DH, sharing time with Darin Ruf. Even during his MVP campaign, the numbers were good, not great. Especially when it comes to power. But Brock has shown a bit of a knack in the clutch and is a decent run producer. But where does that put him in the 2017 battle for a spot on the Phillies’ bench?
So far this spring, there isn’t much to dislike about Brock Stassi. I have him at 8 for 13 with 2 HRs, 1 2B, and a walk (with ZERO Ks) but I include the exhibition game against the Univ of Tampa because I have trouble separating fake baseball from exhibition fake baseball. But, even if you only look at his MLB exhibition numbers, he’s 7 for 11 with a walk. Thus, the number of Brock Stassi posts/articles I’ve seen lately. And being the good Phillies fan that I am, I’m going to be the wet blanket for all of you.
First, if there’s one thing I’ve learned watching minor league baseball is that you can’t be fooled by looking solely at numbers. There is a context to them that you will never get from a box score. Pitchers and hitters at all levels are ALWAYS working on something. New pitches, new mechanics, new stances, new footwork, but its always something. Unless, they are in a playoff environment, you’re very rarely getting the player at face value. Spring Training is seemingly no different, even for more established players. Regardless, let’s dive a little further into Brock’s 12 plate appearances.
The list of pitchers Brock has faced so far this spring doesn’t exactly read like a who’s who of pitching, but in the first week of Spring Training that can be said for almost anyone. In order, Brock has faced Jordan Montgomery, Giovanny Gallegos, Joe Mantiply, Joe Biagini, Mat Latos, Dominic Leone, Cory Sedlock, JA Happ, Brett Olberholtzer, Matt Dermody, Connor Greene, and TJ House. By my count, only four of them have any significant major league experience (Biagini, Latos, Happ, Oberholtzer) and two others with 100+ innings of MLB work (Leone and House). Now, admittedly Brock himself fits into the same category as the pitchers left, AA/AAA experience with a few having a cup of coffee in the show. So, he has put up some numbers off of guys at “his level”. While I initially used this argument of who he’s facing in my own head, its a little bit tougher to justify once I see it on paper. The only other argument I have against the numbers is one that cannot be disputed, and that’s small sample size. There is no way you can base a decision off of 12 plate appearances. Hot and cold streaks are just that, streaks.
Well, after all of this where’s the wet blanket? I think its found in his position limitations. Is he a potential reserve/platoon first baseman? Potentially? Could he serve as a fifth outfielder? I haven’t seen enough to say but potentially. But when I think of him in the corners, I see Darin Ruf or Cody Asche. Could they do it? Yes, but it was not pretty at times. Is the offensive production enough to offset that? Ultimately, it wasn’t for Ruf or Asche and I don’t see that great of a hitting profile to separate Brock from them. Players like Roman Quinn and Cam Perkins and Aaron Altherr offer much more defensively and have shown the same or greater offensive potential in the past.
Let me just say that I love Brock Stassi. We’ve interacted with him on several occasions and he’s a tremendous person. And I like him as a ball player. He does a lot of things well (including give you a few innings over the course of the year). But I think this hill may be too much for him climb at this point. I also want to note that I hope I’m wrong so let’s all enjoy the production while it lasts. With tempered expectations.