“View from the Philly Pressbox”
With all the hoopla going on about the Eagles and their upcoming trip to Dallas to win the NFC East title and make a trip to the playoffs we wanted to take a step back and take a winter look at the Fightin Phils. Spring Training is right around the corner!
Many feel that it’s time to rebuild the Phillies from the ground up, however, that doesn’t seem to be the approach being taken by General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. The resigning of fan favorites Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz to three year contracts indicated one of two things, the organizations feels that it can win now with the players they have or the minor leagues are so depleted that there won’t be anyone ready at those positions for several years. We’re favoring that they think they can win now.
Lets take a look at the roster as it stands today:
The projected outfield: LF – Dom Brown, CF- Ben Revere, RF- Marlon Byrd, Reserves – Darin Ruf and John Mayberry Jr.
Dom Brown is coming off the best season of his career. The 26-year-old hit .272 with 27 HR’s and 83 RBI’s. The question about Brown is this, can you trust him to duplicate or improve on those numbers? Brown has been given the job several times over the last few years and hasn’t been able to hold it. Is he for real?
Ben Revere got off to a terrible start while adjusting to NL pitching. He got hot and stayed hot, raising his average from under .200 to .305 with 22 stolen bases before his season ending injury. The 25-year-old has a lot of upside as a hitter and base stealer from the lead off spot.
Marlon Byrd comes over from the Pittsburgh Pirates as an off-season free agent signing. The 36-year-old is coming off the best season of his career, hitting .291 with 24 HRs and 88 RBI’s, while splitting time between the Mets and Pirates. As with Brown the question is this, can Byrd duplicate or improve on last season?
Darin Ruf is an interesting story. He seems to show serious Home Run power but seems to find his way out of the line up by striking out way to much. The 27 -year- old has hit 17 HR’s in 284 At Bats witch would equate to a 35 HR season if he played every day. He has also struck out 103 times in those 284 AB’s which would equate to 206 K’s. There are a lot of questions about keeping a player like Ruf around if he’s not going to play every day so he can continue to improve.
John Mayberry Jr just celebrated his 30th birthday. Mayberry is a career .245 hitter that has averaged 13 HR’s and 45 RBI’s as a part-time player for the Phillies over the last 3 seasons. Is he good enough to be a reserve or can the Phillies upgrade that position without spending a lot of money?
The projected infield looks like this: 1B – Ryan Howard, 2B – Chase Utley, SS – Jimmy Rollins, 3B – Cody Asche. Reserves – Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis.
Will the Phillies get a healthy Ryan Howard back in 2014? That’s the question that another season hinges on. Prior to the injuries that ended the 2011 season, Howard had only hit less than 31 HR’s one time in his career and that was his rookie year in 2005 when he hit 22. Since his injury he has hit 25 in 2012 and 2013 combined. Howard is now 34 years old. Many fans are down on Howard but here’s a misconception, in spite of striking out way too much he has driven in 100+ runs every year that he’s been a full time player and was on pace to do it again in 2012 before being injured. His 2013 numbers project out to near 90. The hope is, that after nearly a year of rehab, the Phils get another chance to see the old Ryan Howard that can hit 30 HRs and drive in 100+ runs.
Chase Utley – Chase “You are the Man” looks like he will finish his career as a Phillie. Utley who’s now 35 years old, played in 131 games in 2012, his most since 2009. He hit a solid .284 with 18 HR’s and 69 RBIs without a legit clean up man hitting behind him. With Utley, what you see is what you get from here on out. His superstar days are behind him yet he’s a solid player who’s now healthy. Unless Howard comes back with a huge season that gives Utley some more fastballs to hit, .285. 20 and 70 is where he’ll be and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Jimmy Rollins – JRoll is also now 35 years old and entering the final year of his contract with the Phils. Rollins offensive skills have tapered off ever since his MVP season of 2007. He hit just .252 in 2013 and hit only 6 HR’s with 39 RBI’s while still playing in 160 games. This will likely be the swan song for the 3 time all star and 4 time gold glove winner UNLESS he buys what Ryne Sandberg is selling and changes his hitting approach at the plate.
Cody Asche – There is nothing but up side for the 23-year-old 3rd baseman. Asche showed he has a big league glove and arm in his 50 game audition in 2013. He hit just .235 but showed some pop with 5 HRs and 22 RBIs in just 160 AB’s. A full season in the big leagues should bring nothing but improvement to Asche. He’s got 20+ HR and 90+ RBI potential.
Kevin Frandsen – Due to all of the injuries in 2013 Frandsen was pushed in to a lot more duty than expected at 1B, 2B and 3rd base. He ended up playing in 119 games and batting 252 times, finishing with a .234 average well below his career .259 average. Frandsen isn’t going to hit for power but will provide depth at the infield positions.
Freddie Galvis – The 24-year-old Galvis has shown some great promise with the glove during several stints in the big leagues, his problem is that he struggles at the plate. Freddie currently has a career .230 batting average. The problem is that he’s never been a hitter in the minor leagues either. He’s presently on the depth chart as the back up at SS , 2B and 3B along with Frandsen. If Galvis gets enough work and can show he belongs he could be the front runner to replace Rollins in 2015.
Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz – Chooch is a fan favorite who tested the free agent market and ended up right back with the Phillies for three more seasons. He will turn 35 prior to the start of Spring Training but has been a work horse behind the plate. He carries a .274 career batting average but his strength is working the pitching staff. With as many youngsters as the Phillies bullpen are likely to have in 2014 this phase of his game will again be critical.
Will Nieves – The 36-year-old Nieves has played parts of 7 seasons on a major league roster but has never had more than 224 At Bats in any of those years. He carries a career .242 average, although he hit .297 in 2013 for Arizona in 195 ABs, and has hit only 8 career HRs. Nieves will be expected to play in 40-50 games to provide rest for Ruiz. We will need to see if Nieves has the ability to work with the pitching staff.
Cameron Rupp – The 25-year-old Rupp is currently on the Phillies 40 man roster. He got his first sniff of big league life in 2013 appearing in 4 games and hitting .308 in just 13 ABs. Rupp appears to have climbed to the top of the Phils minor league system ahead of a couple catchers that were more highly touted entering 2013. It remains to be seen if Rupp will spend 2014 with the Phillies or spend another season in Lehigh Valley. Since he’s only had a half season at AAA the smart money says he spends a good part of the season there.
Starting Pitchers: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roberto Hernandez, Kyle Kendrick and ???????
Cole Hamels is now a 30-year-old pitcher for the Phils. He pitched poorly at times in 2013 but mostly pitched through lack of run support. He is clearly the “ace” of the staff although he finished 8-14 last season. Hamels has now won 99 big league games as a Phillie while sporting a career 3.38 ERA. From 2007 – 2013 Hamels has pitched between 183 and 227 innings every season. Barring injury there’s no reason that another 220 innings won’t come his away again in 2014.
Cliff Lee – The 35-year-old Lee is coming off an outstanding 2013 where he won 14 lost 8 and had a 2.87 ERA while logging 222.2 innings and striking out 222 batters. Lee is a solid starter that would the #1 on many clubs and could be on the Phils as well. Lee is a workhorse that has thrown over 200 innings 8 times in his career. Expect him to be a solid winner again in 2014.
Roberto Hernandez – The 33-year-old Hernandez was signed as a free agent from Tampa Bay where he was 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 2013. In 2009 Hernandez won 19 games for the Cleveland Indians, however, has only won more than 10 one other time. His career numbers are 59-82 with an ERA of 4.67. The hope is that Hernandez can win 12-15 games as the #3 starter.
Kyle Kendrick – Kendrick started out strong but finished the season with 10-13, 4.70 ERA in 30 starts. Over the last four seasons, almost all as a starter, Kendrick has won 40 games and lost 41. The 29-year-old Kendrick is what he is a .500 pitcher. To expect any more than 10 -12 wins from him is expecting too much.
The 5th starter – This could be Jonathan Petibone, Ethan Martin, Miguel Gonzalez or someone who isn’t with the team yet. If Spring Training started today it would be the 23-year-old Petibone. Petibone was 5-4 in his first visit to the majors in 2013 before being shutdown with an arm injury.
The Bullpen: What we think we know right now.
The closer will be Jonathan Papelbon. There is a lot of speculation that Papelbon will be moved this off season but at this time it hasn’t happened. The Phils need to decide whether to eat his contract or keep him in the closer role. In his 2 seasons with the Phils he has a 10-7 record with a below 3.00 ERA while saving 67 of 78 opportunities.
Possible closer: Jake Deikman, Deikman has a live left arm that reaches close to 100 mph. The 6’4″ Deikman will turn 26 prior to the start of Spring Training. If Papelbon is moved, Deikman will have the first shot at the closer spot.
Set Up Men – Antonio Bastardo and Mike Adams are those guys. Bastardo has been a bit inconsistent at times, however the 28-year-old lefty has gotten the job done. He finished 2013 with 3-2. 2.32 ERA with 5 saves in 48 games.
Adams, the 35-year-old righthander, will be expected to fill the right side of the set up role. Adams was pitching fairly well before an injury shut him down in June. Adams can be a workhorse having appeared in over 60 games in a season 3 times.
Possible Set Up Man – Brad Lincoln. The 28-year old righthander was brought to the Phillies in an offseason trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. His role is undefined at this time. He’s been a reliever in the big leagues but a starter in the minor leagues. His career record is 9-11 with a 4.66 ERA in 97 games.
The remaining few spots, depending on the catching decision, is anybodys guess. We can be fairly sure that the spots will be filled by young players that we got a glimpse of in 2013. That list includes BJ Rosenberg, Ethan Martin, Justin DeFratus, Jeremy Horst, Michael Stutts, Joe Savery and Phillippe Aumont. All are young and all have potential to be big league pitchers.
All of the players above are on the present 40 man roster.
The most glaring questions are these:
Is this the roster that will come out of Spring Training?
Can Ryan Howard come back from his injuries and be the 30 HR and 100 RBI player he’s been in the past?
Will this be the end for Jimmy Rollins as a Phillie?
Nearly everyone on the roster is in their 30’s, can they stay injury free so the Phils aren’t running a AAA lineup out all summer?
Is this the year that Hamels and Lee can both avoid hard luck seasons and post 18+ wins each?
Most importantly, can this roster compete for a pennant under first year manager Ryan Sandberg and a partially new staff?
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