Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pride and joy to announce that Phillies baseball is back. With their annual game against the Florida State Seminoles taking place on Wednesday and their first official spring training game tomorrow against the Yankees, the wait is over.
It's such a great feeling. Sure, spring training games mean absolutely nothing in the long run, but at least we can say that baseball has emerged out of its winter hibernation and has returned. I don't know about you, but in case you couldn't already tell, I'm excited.
I shouldn't diss spring training completely, though—it does count for some players. In the case of the Phillies, a fifth outfield spot—whether as a backup or even the starting left field job—and possibly either a left-handed or overall bullpen spot are still up for grabs on the Phils' 25-man roster. In addition, another bench bat could make its way onto the team, and heck, even the fifth starter in the rotation isn't a lock. It's not like spring training has no significance—just very little. Ah, who am I kidding—it matters. A lot.
Who will win the remaining roster spots is anyone's guess at this point. In left field, it's John Mayberry, Jr.'s to lose, and while Laynce Nix will likely get some starts against right-handed pitching in left, Domonic Brown is lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike and claim the spot he believes is rightfully his. The fifth outfield position is a battle between Brown, Scot Podsednik, and Juan Pierre, who seems like the top dog at the moment. As for the bullpen, Dontrelle Willis seems like the front-runner to be the Phillies' LOOGY this year, but with a good spring, Joe Savery could surprise and earn a spot on the big league roster.
Many mysteries remain as to who will ultimately make the Opening Day roster. In the meantime, questions about player production start to come about at this time of the year. With the absence of Ryan Howard at first base likely at least until May, not only is the team's first base solution still up in the air, the production that the rest of the squad will produce is unpredictable. Today, my job is to try to make things a little less vague. I'll give my predictions of the Phillies' starting lineup by providing both my projected position in the lineup and numbers for each player. I won't be giving any predictions for the ninth spot in the lineup, since that's the pitcher's spot, and considering that the hitting stats for pitchers will be relatively low, I don't consider it worth mentioning. I will, however, go out on a limb and predict that Vance Worley is a dark horse to be the team's best hitting pitcher this year, but for now, Cliff Lee earns top honors in my book.
Please feel free to give your opinions in the comments section below on numbers predictions, position predictions, lineup predictions, or even roster predictions. I'd love to get some debates going.