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Yes, he's recovering from an Achilles injury.
Yes, he has a terrible contract.
And no, he's not the same player he was during his 2006 MVP season.
Still, Ryan Howard hits a ton of home runs.
His home run totals since his rookie season are 58, 47, 48, 45, 31 and 33. And while he might never hit 45 home runs again, his last two season totals aren't all that bad. There are plenty of players who would give a kidney to hit 33 home runs.
Of course, the big question with Howard in 2012 is how he recovers from that Achilles injury suffered during his last at-bat against the Cardinals. The Phillies are optimistic he'll be back sometime in mid-May, which would give him plenty of time to hit 25-plus dingers.
Regardless of his exact return, though, who else on the Phillies is a sure thing to hit 25 home runs? Hunter Pence is a great hitter who played out of his mind when he got traded to the City of Brotherly Glove last season, but 25 home runs remains his career max. Chase Utley has the knees of Greg Oden, and at this point he isn't concerned with hitting a ton of homers so much as just staying on the field.
I actually was tempted to put John Mayberry here, but I just don't think we've seen enough of him to make a judgement on his abilities one way or the other. He had a great power season in 2011, but logged only 267 at-bats and was platooning in the outfield most of the time. It'll be interesting to see if his success last season translates into a big year this year, if pitchers figure out how to pitch him better and if he even gets a full season as a starter.
All things considered, I think Ryan Howard will come back from injury by Memorial Day and end up leading the Phillies in home runs. As the main source of big-time power in the Phils' lineup, they absolutely need him to produce. He's still strong, he's still big and he'll be motivated to make up for the way last season ended and silence everyone who is criticizing his contract.
That's really saying something about how I expect Howard to do in 2012, because his contract is awful.
Home Run Prediction: 27