The Philadelphia Phillies are in the middle of a renaissance, an era of winning that is fueled, in part, by home-grown players on both sides of the ball.
However, of late the Phillies farm system has taken on an interesting look. The front office has adopted a philosophy of drafting position players with “tools” such as speed, size, and “athleticism.” One look at Philadelphia’s top prospect list for 2012 shows that “tools” is simply a code word for black athletes at every opportunity and position.
Out of the 21 prospects listed, there are only two white position players, curiously both shortstops (Mitchell Walding and Larry Greene). The author even notes that Walding most likely will not even stick at shortstop. The drafting of blacks to fill as many spots as possible has been Philadelphia’s m.o. for many years now, as the team has always featured numerous black American players, with some becoming high-profile celebrities.
However, it stands to reason that the Phillies have neglected the fact that their best player over the last decade or so was not one of these “tools” players. While Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins have both won MVP awards, they did so without even being the best player on their own team.
Second baseman Chase Utley out of UCLA is frequently described as “gritty,” a “hard-worker” or a “throwback,” terms used to deride white athletes across all sports, implying a lack of athleticism and a surplus of “hustle.” And yet Chase has consistently “out-hustled” the two MVPs he’s been playing with for so long.
Chase Utley has been worth 42.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) since his ML debut in 2003. In the same time frame, Rollins was worth 31 WAR, and Howard 23.1 since his ML debut a year later in 2004. Howard was worth 5.8 WAR in his MVP year of 2006, the highest total of his career. Utley has surpassed 5.8 WAR four times, yet never finished higher than seventh in MVP voting any of those years.
Jimmy Rollins won the MVP in 2007, accumulating an impressive 6.1 WAR. That same year, Utley amassed 6.6 WAR, and finished eighth in the MVP balloting.
Perhaps the Phillies should consider drafting more “gritty” ballplayers out of college in the future. Not to mention that the top two position prospects in baseball are athletic White outfielders in Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. However with constant overtures to the black community, the likelihood of such a trend picking up is likely slim in the City of Brotherly Love.