It's that time of year again, folks.
Spring Training is here, the Grapefruit League is underway, and meaningful baseball is right around the corner.
So as the Philadelphia Phillies get in their repetitions, work on various nuances of the game, and most importantly, prepare themselves for Opening Day and another run at the World Series, the rest of us can feel the anticipation building for another baseball season. You know what that means, right?
It's predictions time!
Though the Phillies are sure to be a contender once again in 2012, they'll look quite different. Many faces changed uniforms this spring, and many faces are now wearing the Phillies' uniform. What will they contribute this season?
We'll take a look at those guys and the rest of the club throughout the spring, updating with new information as it comes along. So, what can you expect out of the Phillies' roster in 2012, as it stands on the opening day of the Grapefruit League?
Let's dive right in.
For news, rumors, analysis and game recaps during spring training, check out Greg's blog: The Phillies Phactor!
The Line: (560 AB) .265 / .330 / .405, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 25 SB
All throughout the winter and Jimmy Rollins' contract negotiations, I'm sure you heard a lot of, "Well if he plays the defense that he's capable of, the Phillies will be happy."
While I'm sure that's true, they'd certainly like him to hit a little too.
The biggest goal for Rollins (and most of this team) will be to stay healthy, and after reporting to camp a little lighter than last season and more flexible than ever under his continued yoga regiment, all indications are that Rollins is in a great position to stay healthy this season.
So what can you expect from him at the plate?
Though his BABIP has been low over the course of each of the last four seasons, don't expect to see a sudden spike in that regard and a return to MVP-caliber numbers.
The line posted at the top is a fair estimation, and if Rollins is able to grasp Mike Schmidt's "better approach at the plate" philosophy, could be a touch better.
The Phillies will be happy so long as he is healthy and finding ways on base in front of the middle of the order.
The Line: (485 AB) .280 / .330 / .365, 5 HR, 50 RBI
Placido Polanco has spent most of his time with the media this spring preaching about his health. After a couple of off-season surgeries, he claims to be 100% healthy.
I'm not buying.
It's not that I don't believe that the man is feeling healthy, but that you have to take what some of these guys are saying with a grain of salt. First and foremost, Polanco will be 36-years-old this season. He's on the wrong side of "regression."
The Phillies did a nice job over the winter upgrading their bench, but that also means a reduced role for Polanco, who Charlie Manuel will desperately try and keep healthy throughout the regular season.
Either way, don't expect a full season's worth of at-bats for Polanco.
The Line: (550 AB) .275 / .365 / .460, 20 HR, 75 RBI, 10 SB
Chase Utley changes the whole dynamic of the Phillies' offense.
He knows it. The Phillies' second baseman spent the off-season trying to perfect a workout routine to best suit his arthritic knees and has come into Spring Training healthy.
The Phillies know it. They're not taking any chances with Utley, and Charlie Manuel has gone on the record saying that his second baseman will not see many extra repetitions this spring. They need him to be healthy on Opening Day and long after that.
In regards to how much of Utley we will see during the regular season—who knows?
After returning to the lineup last season, we heard several times over that he would be given a lot of rest. That wasn't necessarily the case. By now, I think we all know that if Utley thinks he can play, he plays.
I went with a conservative approach with the line, but don't be surprised if it looks a lot different in reality. When he's feeling healthy, the man can hit.
The Line: (420 AB) .255 / .345 / .490, 25-30 HR, 80-85 RBI
Ryan Howard's statistics are easily the most challenging to predict on the entire Phillies' roster.
After having surgery to repair his left, torn Achilles tendon over the winter, there is no timetable for Howard's recovery. The Phillies will play it by ear and not take any chances, which obviously makes it difficult to determine how many at-bats he will get in 2012.
On one day, it looks like Howard could return before May.
On the next, he is flying out of Clearwater, Florida to have an infection treated and sutures removed, and his return seems like it is much further away.
Simply put, no one knows when Howard will return to the lineup, and to make the predictions even more challenging, no one knows how he is going to be effected by that repaired Achilles.
Howard gets the "wait and see" approach.
The Line: (600 AB) .290 / .340 / .500, 30 HR, 100 RBI, 10 SB
I truly believe that last season's trade to the Phillies created an entirely new monster in Hunter Pence. After the deal, Pence saw an increase in offensive statistics across the board, and that is in spite of playing the last couple weeks of the season with a sports hernia.
After coming to spring training completely ripped and blasting a home run in the Grapefruit League opener, I have a feeling that Pence is going to surprise people with his power numbers this season, and that is reflected in my prediction.
The Phillies will need him to step up in a big way with Ryan Howard on the disabled list, and if anyone is up to the challenge, it's Pence.
The Line: (570 AB) .275 / .345 / .450, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 25 SB
Shane Victorino has a lot to play for this season.
Most obviously, the man is heading into a contract year. The perspective market for center fielders isn't all that deep following the season, and Victorino will be one of the best. Anyone who is familiar with the concept of "supply and demand" knows that he could be in a position to make a ton of money.
That's not something that Victorino really cares about.
While he wants to be paid, the "Flyin' Hawaiian" is much more concerned about getting a deal signed to remain with the Phillies. The center fielder has been quite adamant about his desire to stay in Philadelphia, but with payroll already reaching its limits (and Cole Hamels' free agency looming,) there may have to be some budget cuts.
Victorino will be trying to prove his value in 2012.
Note: Victorino's RBI total will depend on where Charlie Manuel intends to hit him in 2012. If Placido Polanco is healthy and productive, he'll be hitting out of the two-hole, likely dropping Victorino to fifth, which would probably demand an increase in that RBI prediction.
The Line: (465 AB) .260 / .320 / .440, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 10 SB
Unless something goes horribly wrong for John Mayberry Jr. this spring, Charlie Manuel is going to find him plenty of at-bats. With Ryan Howard on the disabled list for an uncertain amount of time and the starting left fielder's role practically up in the air, he'll find playing time.
Now, what can be expected of him?
During the 2011 season, it seemed as though Mayberry figured something out, and though he was not immune to the slump, it certainly looked as though we were getting a glimpse of what he could be as an every day player.
He's not going to hit .300 or lead the league in home runs. He isn't going to lead the league in stolen bases or RBI, but he's going to do a little bit of everything, and he has the potential to do it well. That's a valuable player, and something the Phillies' lineup is in desperate need of.
The Line: (430 AB) .270 / .360 / .380, 5 HR, 55 RBI
We all know what Carlos Ruiz is capable of behind the plate, but what is he going to contribute at the dish in 2012?
Over the last couple of seasons, Ruiz has developed into a very patient hitter, a crucial trait when batting eighth in the lineup, as he is known to do. It will be important for him to get on base in front of the pitcher, mainly because he offers very little extra at the plate.
So expect to see good walk and on-base numbers, an okay batting average, and very little power from Ruiz in '12.
The Line: (260 AB) .250 / .355 / .460, 15 HR, 45 RBI
There's no questioning the fact that Jim Thome's best days are behind him, but that doesn't mean the future Hall of Famer doesn't have any gas left in the tank. Just how much he does have is kind of up in the air, however.
With Ryan Howard likely to be on the disabled list a while, there was some thought that Thome would be playing some first base. That isn't likely. Charlie Manuel seems committed to using Thome off of the bench while John Mayberry Jr. and Ty Wigginton get the repetitions at first base.
Thome will be the primary pinch-hitter for the club while getting the occasional start at first base to stay sharp, and that is reflected in "the line."
The Line: (280 AB) .250 / .305 / .450, 10-15 HR, 40 RBI
Random thought at the beginning of Spring Training: Holy hell, Laynce Nix is ripped.
Moving on to the important stuff, Nix is going to play an important role for the Phillies in 2012. Serving primarily off of the bench, Nix brings plenty of pop against right-handed pitching to the table, something that the Phillies were severely lacking late in games during last season.
He is also expected to serve as something like a platoon partner for John Mayberry Jr. in left field, but I'm not entirely convinced that he and Mayberry will see an equal amount of playing time, with Mayberry getting more of the at-bats.
With that caveat in mind, it is tough to estimate just how many at-bats Nix will see, but the resulting statistics shouldn't change too much. Much like Matt Stairs used to do for the Phillies, Nix goes to the plate looking to hit home runs.
The Line: (400 AB) .250 / .315 / .415, 15 HR, 45-50 RBI
Just a couple of weeks after players officially reported to camp for Spring Training, it has become clear that Charlie Manuel intends to find plenty of playing time for new utility player Ty Wigginton.
Acquired in a trade with the Colorado Rockies over the winter, the Phillies intend to play Wigginton at several infield positions, including first, second, and third base. That will lead to plenty of at-bats for Wigginton, who should supply some power versus left-handed pitching.
One potential concern is the "Coors Field effect." Just how much did the hitter-friendly confined of the Rockies' home field play into his numbers last season?
We shall soon find out.
The Line: (150 AB) .225 / .300 / .320, 3 HR, 15 RBI
The Phillies re-signed Brian Schneider to be their back-up catcher because he is familiar with the pitching staff, not because they expect him to do a ton of hitting. In fact, he's not going to do much hitting at all.
An incredibly unsustainable BABIP of .225 led to a lot of Schneider's woes at the plate in 2011, but even with better luck, his numbers aren't going to be much better moving forward.
If Carlos Ruiz were to miss an extended amount of time, the Phillies could be in some trouble.
The Line: (200+ AB) .240 / .285 / .335, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 5 SB
Michael Martinez is in no way, shape, or form a lock to be on the Opening Day roster, but he should have a leg up on the competition.
Most importantly, he is legitimately one of the only options the Phillies have at shortstop for their bench after dealing Wilson Valdez over the winter, but his ability to play solid defense at several positions should be something the club finds useful.
Regardless, he's not going to do much hitting.
His numbers shouldn't be as bad as they were in 2011, but don't expect much more.
Other Players Who Could Make the Roster, Without Predictions: Juan Pierre, Domonic Brown, Scott Podsednik, Pete Orr, Kevin Frandsen
The Line: 20-8, 2.70 ERA, 235 IP
I really don't want to compare Roy Halladay to cheese or fine wine, but to say that the man is not getting better with age would just be flat out inaccurate.
Halladay will turn 35 this season, but between his on the field performance, statistics, and work ethic, you would never be able to tell that.
With numbers that have been consistently improving across the board over the last couple of seasons and a huge repertoire of pitches, there is little reason to expect anything different from the Phillies' ace in 2012.
The Line: 17-8, 2.80 ERA, 230 IP
Speaking of players getting better with age, how about Cliff Lee?
In various sections of the baseball community over the winter, one of the biggest arguments against continued success for Lee has been his age. What I've yet to understand is just why that should be a problem?
Lee is not the type of pitcher that will ever rely on velocity, has a smooth delivery, and most importantly, has some of the best command in the MLB.
The point is much more simple: There's no reason to expect anything less than the best from Lee in 2012.
The Line: 18-8, 2.80 ERA, 230 IP
I'd go out on a limb to say that Cole Hamels is about to have the best season of his career, and I don't think I'd be alone.
Just entering the prime of his career, the obvious reason for that leap of faith would be the simple fact that Hamels is heading into a contract year, and although he has expressed his desire to remain with the Phillies, the math is simple: A good year could equal more money.
When Hamels reported to camp this spring, however, he also shared another interesting tidbit: He spent most of the 2011 season playing injured. He had the best year of his career last season!
So after having surgeries to repair a sports hernia and remove loose bodies from his left elbow, it seems as though the planets are aligning for an excellent season in 2012. The Phillies would be wise to get him locked up before he prices himself right out of their payroll.
The Line: 12-8, 3.50 ERA, 180+ IP
Many advanced metrics expect Vance Worley to show a fair bit of decline in 2012. While that may be the case, I fully expect him to be a solid member of the Phillies' rotation for one reason: He is just tough to hit off of.
Spending most of the spring thus far working with catcher Brian Schneider to formulate a plan of attack against hitters, you can certainly expect to see plenty of that two-seam fastball / sinker (Schneider called it a sinker) this season, and that's a good thing.
If Worley can improve his secondary and off-speed pitches, he may be able to prove all of those advanced statistics wrong.
The Line: 10-8, 4.20 ERA, 170+ IP
In regards to Joe Blanton, the biggest question of the spring is whether or not he will be on the Opening Day roster after the Phillies actively shop him during Spring Training.
However, after having been unable to find a taker for Blanton just yet, he will once again take over as the rotation's fifth starter, and the question becomes whether or not he's healthy, and if he is, what can he contribute?
So if you're following along, there are a ton of questions surrounding Blanton.
Personally, I'm not ready to give up on Blanton just yet. He arrived in camp in good shape, and with the way last season ended for him, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect a bit of a surge in Blanton's numbers in 2012.
He's not going to become a top of the rotation pitcher, but a solid starter nonetheless.
The Line: 7-7, 4.35 ERA, 110 IP
With a stocked starting rotation in front of him on the depth chart once again this season, Kyle Kendrick will head back to the bullpen to fulfill a role that the Phillies found valuable in 2011: The long reliever.
Though there are some (delusional) people within the Phillies' organization who believe that Kendrick can pitch in the late innings out of the bullpen, in all likelihood, he will once again serve as the club's multiple-innings guy, mop-up pitcher, and spot starter.
There's value in that role, but don't expect Kendrick to wow anyone in 2012.
The Line: 3-3, 4.20 ERA, 60-70 IP
As I've been saying for most of the off-season, Mike Stutes certainly isn't a lock to make the Phillies' bullpen out of Spring Training, but considering the fact that he was with the club for most of last season and showed signs of real promise, I would assume he has the inside track.
Now, what can be expected?
We really saw two different sides of Stutes in 2011. When he first arrived in the MLB, we saw the makings of a late-innings, back of the bullpen reliever. As the season wore on, we saw a Stutes that had shaky control and a fair share of struggles.
Most projections predict the latter for 2012.
Other Candidates for This Spot, Without Predictions: Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont, Brian Sanches, Joe Savery, Jake Diekman.
The Line: 3-3, 3.30 ERA, 40-50 IP
Dontrelle Willis gets the same caveat that Mike Stutes did: He's not a lock to make the bullpen.
Just listening and reading many of the reports out of camp suggest that Willis is going to get every opportunity to make the club, and if he's pitching well, that is a good thing for the Phillies.
Willis was dominant against lefties not only in 2011, but throughout his career. The Phillies intend to use him as a lefty specialist, but knowing Charlie Manuel and company, he will face a good number of right-handed batters as well, and that is reflected in his predicted totals.
The Line: 3-3, 3.80 ERA, 65-70 IP
Despite a less than impressive spring debut for the Phillies, Chad Qualls will be an important piece of the club's bullpen this season.
Throughout his career, Qualls has proven to be a durable reliever, and after a slew of bullpen injuries in 2011, that's something the Phillies will count on in 2012.
He has also been versatile in a number of roles, which will help in that same regard. Qualls has pitched in the middle innings, as a set-up man, and even as a closer in the past. With questions surrounding pitchers like Jose Contreras and Mike Stutes, the Phillies will need Qualls to put his horrific outings against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in the past.
The Line: 2-2, 3.75 ERA, 40-50 IP
A healthy, effective Jose Contreras completely changes the landscape of the Phillies' bullpen. After all, the "Big Truck" was dubbed the club's closer for a brief time during the 2011 season, and along with Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon, helps constitute a very strong bullpen.
But is he healthy?
Contreras has thrown a couple of live batting practices this spring, but has yet to find his way into Grapefruit League action, which is not entirely surprising given Charlie Manuel's desire to ease his veterans in.
Without much to go on, I'm predicting that Contreras has a solid season for the Phillies. He has the potential to be a great late innings reliever, but who knows if he can stay healthy?
The Line: 4-2, 3.10 ERA, 60 IP
After the wheels fell off late last season, Antonio Bastardo started his 2012 campaign the right way by throwing just five pitches and retiring the side in order against the New York Yankees. The Phillies will need him to be that dominating set-up man again in 2012.
He certainly has the potential to do it. A power pitcher with an explosive fastball and slider with the ability to make hitters look foolish, Bastardo can be effective against both right and left-handed hitters.
It will be interesting to see if the success and struggles of last season make Bastardo a better pitcher in 2012. I think they will.
The Line: 4-3, 2.45 ERA, 60-65 IP, 35-40 SV
The Phillies' prize of the off-season, Jonathan Papelbon has the potential to take the club's pitching staff to a completely different level. Armed with one of the best starting rotations in baseball, Papelbon gives the Phillies one of the game's best closers, who also happens to be making the transition out of the American League East into its National League counterpart.
After a scoreless debut in the Grapefruit League, Phillies fans are hoping to see many more scoreless outings from their new closer in 2012 and well beyond, and Papelbon is certainly capable of that.
There is very little reason to believe that Papelbon will struggle in 2012, and I would say there is a strong chance he passes that 40 saves mark.