The Philadelphia Phillies are once again the odds-on favorite to represent the National League in the 2012 World Series. They return the best (yes, Davey Johnson, they are the best) starting rotation in MLB with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, and Vance Worley, Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick have been terrific this spring.
That's not to say that the Phillies don't have their concerns heading into this World Series-or-bust year. The "Big Piece" Ryan Howard suffered a "setback" in his rehab from Achilles surgery, and Chase Utley is "doubtful" for Opening Day with two problematic knees.
The Phillies will look to deal Joe Blanton and rid themselves of a large portion (large and Joe Blanton go hand-in-hand) of his contract before the trade deadline. They've traded away a lot of top-tier talent to acquire some of the biggest names in the game in Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Pence.
All of those players have played substantial roles in the Phillies' recent success and are major reasons (besides Oswalt) why this team still has as good a shot as anyone to win it all.
Let's take a look back, though, and see which players the Phillies will regret losing.
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. didn't want to trade top prospect Jonathan Singleton, but to get an All-Star like Hunter Pence, you need to give up something. Even if the other GM is Ed Wade.
Singleton become a rising star in 2011 and was rewarded with a top-50 ranking in Keith Law's annual listing of top prospects. Singleton was well deserving of the No. 46 overall spot after he hit .298 with 13 HR and 63 RBI in 128 games.
He has an excellent eye and terrific strike-zone discipline for a power hitter, evidenced by his .392 OBP and 70 walks. He still has time to develop his game into a complete hitter as he's only 20 years old.
He was the Phillies' top prospect before being traded to the Houston Astros. My season tickets in RF are still mighty thankful that Hunter Pence will be out there on a daily basis.
Sorry, Ben Francisco.
This should not be a surprise to anyone that follows the Philadelphia Phillies MiLB farm system. Keith Law does a tremendous job with his Top 100 prospect list, and former Phillies prospect Travis d'Arnaud comes in at No. 6 this year.
I don't think there's a baseball mind in the world that would give back Roy Halladay (Mr. perfect game and Cy Young), but it turns out that d'Arnaud, not Kyle Drabek, is the prize of the trade package.
In 2011, d'Arnaud played in 114 games and hit .311 with 21 HR and 78 RBI. He is vulnerable to the strike out (as most power hitters are), but he can run pretty well, and he has always been a plus-defender.
"His defense, always solid, improved this year with help from his manager in New Hampshire, Sal Fasano, who worked with d'Arnaud on game-calling and footwork. There's still more growth in d'Arnaud's bat, and he has the arm strength and release to improve his modest caught-stealing rates when he reaches the majors. He is expected to be healthy for spring training and will start the year in Triple-A, but since Las Vegas is such a hitters' park to begin with, he might knock the walls down before Toronto calls him up later in the year."
d'Arnaud has all of the tools to be a superstar in MLB this season. Then again, he was the 99th-ranked prospect in 2010. Remember when those bums, Gavin Floyd and Carlos Carrasco, were top prospects also?
Anthony Gose is rated as the No. 59 prospect on Keith Law's annual rankings. The Phillies traded J.A. Happ, outfielder Anthony Gose and shortstop Jonathan Villar for Roy Oswalt two seasons ago.
Gose is a speedster and would look mighty nice in the Phillies lineup at the moment. He stole an incredible 70 bags in 2011 while hitting 16 HR and 59 RBI. Basically, he is a Shane Victorino but faster.
The smooth fielding CF is only 21 years old and can cover a ton of ground in the outfield. He has a great arm that is impressively accurate for a raw player. It wasn't long ago that Gose was considered to be a bust, but he has proven with the Blue Jays' farm system that he is a solid prospect.
Another Michael Bourn that the Phillies let get away? Oh wait, we got a 48-48 Brad Lidge for Bourn and the best pitcher in baseball in Roy Halladay for Gose.
Yes sir, can I have another?
OK, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to put former Phillie farmhand Gio Gonzalez looking like a complete tool. After all, the Washington Nationals and their "FU Philly" campaign has made national headlines.
Gonzalez joins a pair in Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman, which manager Davey Johnson claims is the best in baseball. Sorry, Davey boy, I don't buy it one bit.
Gonzalez is a good pitcher that the Phillies obviously would love to have on their side, but he isn't on the same level as Lee, Hamels or Halladay. It's worth noting that with the Phillies, Baseball America rated Gonzalez the No. 2 prospect in their farm system behind King Cole in 2006.
Gio was traded to the White Sox along with Gavin Floyd for the bum, Freddy Garcia. The Phillies expressed interest in reacquiring Gonzalez this offseason, but they seem to have smartly set their sights (and checkbook) on re-signing Cole Hamels.
Phillies Nation is plenty happy with their team's pitching, but I'm sure no one would complain if Gio Gonzalez was a fourth or fifth starter on this team.