With each weak at-bat from Peter Bourjos, Tyler Goeddel or any other Phillies corner outfielder, fan sentiment to call up an outfield prospect grows louder. The name you usually hear is Nick Williams, the Phils' top young minor-league outfielder acquired in last summer's Cole Hamels trade.
Williams, 22, is hitting .280/.300/.409 with two doubles, two triples, two homers and 15 RBIs through his first 100 plate appearances at Triple A Lehigh Valley. It's his first stint at the minors' highest level, and while he's been pretty good, he hasn't dominated. He hasn't been on fire the way he was when he got to Double A Reading last summer, hitting .320 with an .876 OPS in exactly 100 plate appearances.
The Phils have gotten league-worst offensive production out of both corner outfield spots this season. There's a chance that Williams, even though he's still developing as a hitter and has 40 strikeouts and just seven walks in 46 games in the Phillies' system, could be a better offensive player today than Bourjos, Goeddel or David Lough.
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But is that chance worth it right now? Should the Phillies speed up their plan for Williams just because their 2016 corner outfield is putrid?
Arguments can obviously be made both ways, but for the same reason it would be unwise for the Phillies to trade for a big-name outfielder, it would also be shortsighted for them to alter a prospect's developmental track for the sake of 2016.
"I think it's imperative, though the Phillies are playing well now, I think they've got to keep their eyes on the bigger prize," former Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd said last week on Comcast SportsNet's Philly Sports Talk. "I mean, where are they trying to take the franchise to?
"And an individual player's development program is unique to that individual. I do think it's too early to bring Nick up. I think Nick needs to, he needs to dominate at Triple A to know he never needs to go back there again - that whatever struggles he may go through at the big-league level, he knows he needs to figure that out at the big-league level."
O'Dowd compared Williams' situation to one he went through with Carlos Gonzalez back in 2009. Gonzalez, like Williams, was a prospect traded for a star veteran, going from Oakland to Colorado for Matt Holliday. Gonzalez did have some previous major-league experience, playing 85 games for Oakland in 2008, but he started 2009 with the Rockies' Triple A team.
O'Dowd and the Colorado front office wanted to see CarGo hit his way up and prove he was clearly better than the Pacific Coast League competition. He did by hitting .339 with a 1.048 OPS in 48 games at Colorado Springs.
"I went through this a little bit with Carlos Gonzalez in my stay in Colorado - there's a similar skill set," O'Dowd said. "And we knew that when Carlos was dominating down at Triple A in Colorado Springs, we knew there came a point in time of diminishing returns and he needed to figure the rest of it out at the big-league level.
"I think it's a little too soon yet (to call up Williams), but obviously that's a major need for the Phillies if they intend to keep on winning because they're not getting any production out of right or left field at this point in time."
Other notes from O'Dowd
On Odubel Herrera:
"Going into the year, I wasn't sure if this young man was a starting centerfielder on a second-division team or a starting centerfielder on a first-division team. What he's showing now, with his ability to work counts, his ability to take his skill set and apply it day-in and day-out, he has slowed the game down so much from a year ago.
"I think the Phillies have done a great job here - this is really good scouting, taking a guy that was at the Double A level playing [second base] for the Texas Rangers' organization and projecting him as a centerfielder and taking him now to where he's gotten to. That's great scouting and that's great internal development."
On Pete Mackanin:
"I think Pete has done a magnificent job. The hardest thing for a young club that's rebuilding is to create a culture of belief and to do that in a relaxed environment and yet set standards of performance you know they have to get to (in order) to be good at some point in time in their development process. And Pete's just done a really marvelous, magnificent job of creating a culture that has no fear in it, that the players are playing with an ability to just go out and attempt to fail, knowing they have a manager that wants them to be aggressive. He's a great communicator with his players and establishes authentic relationships."