If you want to get Braves fans all sorts of riled up, one only need to talk about the existence of Ryan Flaherty on the 2018 roster and how he was used as a primary bench bat option. Flaherty’s tenure with the Braves was an interesting one and it is worth reflecting upon.
Ryan Flaherty began his major league career with the Baltimore Orioles and never really found a home as a full-time player. The most games he played in a season was 102 and he saw his playing time diminish more and more until his final season in Baltimore where he appeared in just 23 games. His career high wRC+ was 84 back in 2013.
However, guys who play decent defense at multiple positions in the infield have a tendency to be able to prolong their careers and find homes as bench players. After he was released by the Phillies this spring, the Braves signed him just before the season due to Johan Camargo having to start the season on the disabled list leaving the Braves thin in the infield.
Once the 2018 season started, we were taken on one of the great unlikely heaters we will see. After a career of being a defensively versatile but offensively challenged player, Flaherty was one of the Braves’ better hitters through the season’s first 24 games as he posted a 114 wRC+, led the National League in batting average for a spell, and slashed .300/.398/.400 for March and April.
As for the rest of the season….well, the results were not as good. Flaherty posted a 58 wRC+ and then posted months of -45 wRC+, -67 wRC+, and -100 wRC+. That is….not good at all. As a result, Flaherty saw his playing time diminish and he was even sent down to Gwinnett for a bit. He did end up making the Braves’ postseason roster (cringe) mainly due to a lack of other viable options on the 40 man. On the whole, Flaherty slashed .217/.298/.292 during the 2018 season for the Braves.
Bottom line, what did Flaherty do in 2018? He slashed .217/.298/.292 in 182 plate appearances with the Braves. He also accumulated -2 defensive runs saved on the season. Altogether, Flaherty was worth -0.4 fWAR during the 2018 season (-0.8 rWAR if you prefer that sort of thing).
Will Flaherty be on the 2019 roster? Very, very unlikely. The one thing that Flaherty had going for him is that for whatever reason, Nick Markakis stopped hitting altogether when Flaherty was taken off the active roster. While that is obviously tongue in cheek, with his brother-in-law Markakis headed for free agency himself, there are few connections or reasons to retain Flaherty. He was not valuable defensively and he was abysmal for most of the season at the plate. The Braves signed him because he was the best in their eyes of a small pool of options that late in the spring. They will have more options to choose from this offseason and with the resources to get them.
What will he do next season? He will likely get to try out for a team in spring training in 2019, but he may not have a ton of suitors. It is extremely unlikely that he will get a full-time starting job anywhere and his best shot appears to be as a 25th man on the roster, utility bench player.