It's almost here.
Normally, when you spend an entire winter waiting for something, you're a bit bummed to see it go, and although I'm sure some fans will lament the passing of yet another spring training, it's time to look at the bigger picture: It's almost here.
It's just around the corner. If you need any proof, just take a look around. Huge spring rosters are slimming down, starting pitchers are throwing later into ball games and hitters are starting to make the best contact of the spring.
The player are just about ready for Opening Day, but are you?
Who knows how ready the Philadelphia Phillies would be. I'm not sure there is another camp in baseball under the same microscope as the Phillies. While the pitching is top-notch, a thin offensive unit is shrinking by the day.
Ryan Howard? Still recovering from offseason surgery to repair his Achilles tendon.
Chase Utley? His chronic knee condition has forced him to see a specialist. His return is up in the air.
Few rosters have seen as drastic a change as the Phillies, so with Opening Day just a few weeks away, is there a better time than now to predict not only what the Opening Day roster will look like, but how it will perform?
I think not.
For news, rumors, analysis and game recaps during spring training, check out Greg's blog: The Phillies Phactor!
Predicted Stats: .265 / .330 / .405, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 25 SB
The Phillies have been plagued by injuries to key offensive contributors yet again this spring, but luckily enough for the club, Jimmy Rollins hasn't been bitten by the bug.
With injuries to three of their four regular infielders (though Placido Polanco should be ready to go on Opening Day), the Phillies will need Rollins to be healthy and productive, and so far, there has been no reason to believe otherwise.
Rollins has had a quiet spring, and that may be a good thing. He has been healthy, using his legs more and making the most out of a healthy camp.
He should be leading off on Opening Day.
Predicted Stats: .290 / .335 / .365, 5 HR, 50 RBI
With so many injuries to the Phillies infield this spring, the club is going to need Placido Polanco to be healthy throughout the 2012 season. In reality, that may be a daunting task, but the third baseman seems to have something to prove this year.
Outside of a freak injury to one of his fingers this spring, Polanco has been one of the best hitters in camp, logging 10 hits in his first 19 at-bats.
It's a small sample size, but it's promising. Polanco is making contact and spreading the ball to all fields, something that the Phillies will need him to do this season.
Predicted Stats: .275 / .345 / .450, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 25 SB
With Chase Utley likely to begin the season on the disabled list, Shane Victorino is one of the leading candidates to take his at-bats from the three-hole in the Phillies lineup.
Heading into a contract year, that should serve as a little extra motivation for the free agent to be, though I'm sure the "Flyin' Hawaiian" doesn't need much "extra" motivation.
Victorino has seen an increase in his power over the last couple of seasons, and if he is hitting out of the three hole, you can expect a fair amount of home runs out of the Phils centerfielder.
Predicted Stats: .290 / .340 / .500, 30 HR, 100 RBI, 10 SB
With Ryan Howard on the disabled list for an uncertain amount of time, the Phillies will count on Hunter Pence to pick up some of the slack, and there are few players more up to the challenge.
After having surgery to repair a sports hernia in the offseason, Pence showed up to camp beefed up to the extreme. He hit a two-run home run in his first at-bat of the Grapefruit League, and that may just be an indicator of the type of year he is about to have.
After joining the Phillies, Pence's power numbers soared. Though there are some signs of regression this season, I think that we will be seeing an entirely new monster in 2012.
Joining the Phillies in 2011 awakened the beast. What will he do in his first full season with the club?
Predicted Stats: .260 / .320 / .450, 25 HR, 65 RBI, 10 SB
If 2011 was any indication, John Mayberry, Jr. is on the cusp of a true breakout season.
Though he isn't guaranteed a starting job, with the Phillies bringing in Laynce Nix to log some at-bats against right-handed pitching, Nix certainly hasn't done anything this spring to steal playing time away from Mayberry, who should see plenty of time in both left field and at first base.
With the Pittsburgh Pirates expected to start left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard on Opening Day, expect to see Mayberry out in left field with Nix on the bench.
In regards to what we should see after a full season of Mayberry? Well, that's yet to be determined, but I think it is safe to guess that the Phillies have a strong right-handed power threat that plays above average defense, and that is certainly a valuable asset.
Predicted Stats: .250 / .315 / .415, 10+ HR, 45-50 RBI
With a lefty on the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, the Phillies will likely start Ty Wigginton at first base.
The utility man should see plenty of playing time this season, probably more than the Phillies would have liked to use him for. That's not to slight Wigginton, who will serve an extremely important role for the Phils, but overexposing him thanks to injuries to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard and the uncertain health of Placido Polanco could have big repercussions.
As far as performance goes, Wigginton hasn't done much this spring to show that Coors Field out in Colorado had any more than a minimal impact on his offense. With his power numbers down across the board, I've knocked his totals down a bit here, but I would be surprised to see Wigginton hit at least 15 homers with more playing time.
Predicted Stats: .245 / .305 / .330, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 10 SB
With two regulars on the disabled list to start the season, Charlie Manuel's lineup was shaken up quite a bit at the bottom of the order, so whether Freddy Galvis bats seventh or eighth is entirely up for debate, but if it were up to me, I'd hit him seventh. More on that on the next slide.
As far as Galvis is concerned, what he can do at the MLB level is a complete mystery. We know he is going to play above-average defense, even at second base—a position he had never played before in his career.
Offensively, he is an unknown (which should make him an obvious candidate to hit eighth, but again, I'll make the case to hit him seventh).
Galvis has gotten plenty of playing time this spring and impressed the right people to the point where the Phillies feel comfortable giving him the nod on Opening Day while Chase Utley is on the disabled list. He's not going to hit a lot, but his defense should make him a valuable player.
Predicted Stats: .270 / .360 / .380, 5 HR, 55 RBI
Here's the case for hitting Freddy Galvis seventh: It gives you the opportunity to hit Carlos Ruiz eighth.
It's not that you can't easily flip these two guys and get similar production, but Ruiz's greatest strength is getting on base in front of the pitcher. That high OBP is a result of a patient approach. Pitchers are going to pitch around Ruiz to get to the pitcher's spot in the Phillies lineup.
Ruiz has excelled in that role in recent seasons, and Galvis certainly doesn't have the same approach at the plate that Ruiz does.
If the Phillies are going to have any type of offensive success while Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are on the disabled list, it is going to come from the top of the order. In that case, turning the lineup over becomes imperative, and I think Ruiz is much better suited to do that.
Predicted Stats: .250 / .355 / .460, 15 HR, 45 RBI
So far so good for the "Jim Thome Goes back to First" experiment.
While just how often Thome plays first base is still very much in question, the Phillies believe that the big man can play first at least once a week while Ryan Howard is on the disabled list, but are cautiously optimistic that he can play at least twice.
He thinks he can do it.
Regardless of what everyone thinks, we know that Thome can still hit, and that is reflected in my prediction for him. Be it as a first baseman or pinch hitter later in games, Thome is going to step to the plate swinging for the fences, and regardless of role, will have plenty of chances to leave the yard.
Predicted Stats: .250 / .305 / .450, 10 HR, 35 RBI
Laynce Nix probably isn't going to get the start against a left-handed pitcher on Opening Day, but if I had to guess, it would be my belief that John Mayberry, Jr. finds a way to steal plenty of playing time away from Nix this season, and I've reflected that thought above.
Nix's ineptitude against left-handed pitching really hurts his chances of finding more playing time, especially if Mayberry is up to the task against right-handed pitching.
Nix will find plenty of playing time early in the season when Ryan Howard is still on the disabled list, but I would expect him to move into more of a pinch hitting role once the "Big Piece" returns to action unless of course, Mayberry struggles.
Predicted Stats: .225 / .300 / .320, 3 HR, 15 RBI
There isn't much to say about Brian Schneider.
With few better options available both internally and outside of the organization over the winter, the Phillies re-signed their back-up catcher from a year ago to a new one-year deal.
Schneider's game is simple. He isn't going to hit, but calls a good game and, by all accounts, is easy to work with.
One has to wonder, however, if the Phillies will stick with him if he struggles like did last season. The Phillies have been linked to starting catching depth this winter, while guys like Tuffy Gosewisch and Erik Kratz have received praise from different people in the organization.
Predicted Stats: .265 / .330 / .325, 0 HR, 15-20 SB
Juan Pierre wins a job with the Phillies because he wears stirrups and his cap under his batting helmet.
On a serious note, there is no guarantee that Pierre makes the Phillies roster for Opening Day. He is involved in a bit of a battle with Scott Podsednik, who offers a similar skill-set and has played good baseball this spring.
My gut feeling says that the Phillies will take Pierre. Why? Well, the answer is simple: Charlie Manuel loves his veterans. Pierre is a veteran outfielder that handles the bat well, especially in bunting situations, and the Phillies intend to utilize more "small ball" this season.
Pierre gives them that option, be it as a pinch hitter or runner, and I think he has a leg up to make the team, though I'm not sure he has much to offer at this point.
*Note: This would be Ryan Howard's roster spot, but he will open the season on the disabled list.
*Also in the Mix: Scott Podsednik, Lou Montanez
Predicted Stats: .230 / .280 / .340, 0 HR, 5 RBI
This spot on the roster is completely up for grabs. There is certainly no guarantee that it goes to Pete Orr, but there are few legitimate options to take this spot otherwise.
First and foremost, the Phillies will carry five outfielders (Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix and likely one of Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik), so you have to believe that this spot will go to an infielder.
The Phillies optioned Kevin Frandsen to minor league camp last weak, so he likely won't be getting this spot. That would make Pete Orr the best possible fit on the Phillies' current roster, but it would give the Phillies a bench of five left-handed hitters on days when a left-handed starter is on the mound for the opposition.
That's a problem.
So it should certainly come as no surprise that the club is scouring the trade market for a right-handed hitting utility infielder, but who knows how that search will turn up?
Barring a surprise acquisition, whoever gets this spot likely won't do much at the plate. With that being said, however, it would bode well for the Phillies to make sure this person is right-handed.
Orr is not.
*Note: This would be Chase Utley's roster spot, but he is likely to open the season on the disabled list.
Predicted Stats: 20-8, 2.70 ERA, 235 IP
Another year, another Opening Day start for Roy Halladay.
After a slow start to the spring, Halladay was forced to brush off concerns about a possible injury and did so by taking the mound in usual fashion. He'll have a couple more starts to finish preparing for the regular season before taking the mound to oppose the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day.
As of now, it looks as though all systems are a go for the Phillies ace.
Predicted Stats: 20-8, 2.80 ERA, 230 IP
It's been a quiet spring for Cliff Lee, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Known as a guy who would rather avoid the spotlight anyhow, there hasn't been much talk about Lee now that the novelty of the strength of the Phillies starting rotation has worn off, and the lefty has gone about his regular season preparation under much less scrutiny.
The surprise is that Lee's great spring has gone largely unnoticed.
He's spent the spring doing things that you'd like to see Lee do: Pound the strike zone, build up arm strength and stay healthy.
As long as he gets some run support, which is by no means a guarantee for this club, I don't think seeing Lee win 20 games is unlikely.
Predicted Stats: 12-8, 3.50 ERA, 180+ IP
Without the "Four Aces" to soak up all of the media attention, the Phillies had to do something this spring to get their rotation into the spotlight, so they "split the lefties" and decided to start Vance Worley third in the rotation.
Obviously, "splitting the lefties" is an arbitrary tactic, but we'll get into that in more depth on the next slide.
Phillies' pitching coach Rich Dubee has confirmed that Worley will pitch the series finale in Pittsburgh, moving him into the third spot in the rotation. What does that mean over the long haul?
Next to nothing.
That has been the biggest change for Worley this spring, so I don't think there is much reason to adjust his prediction. It certainly wouldn't surprise me to see him win more than 12 games, but that is a comfortable number for now.
Predicted Stats: 18-8, 2.80 ERA, 230 IP
What does "splitting the lefties" actually accomplish?
Well, nothing really. So why are the Phillies starting Cole Hamels fourth in the rotation?
If you asked pitching coach Rich Dubee, he would tell you that, aside from splitting the lefties, the club felt as though Hamels is better suited to handle the "pressure" of starting the home opener, which I personally feel is a bunch of bologna.
Realistically, this is probably a negotiating tactic for the Phillies. Give Hamels the start for the home opener, let the fans cheer him until they're blue in the face and hope to use that as leverage in contract negotiations.
For the conspiracy theorist in you, maybe they have already agreed to a contract extension, are waiting until Opening Day to announce the deal (to avoid luxury tax ramifications) and are giving Hamels the first home start after announcing it.
Whatever the case may be, it won't have much effect, if any, on Hamels' season.
Predicted Stats: 10-8, 4.20 ERA, 170+ IP
Opening Day is just around the corner, and Joe Blanton is still a member of the Phillies.
Granted, that doesn't guarantee a safe spot on the roster throughout the season, but a lot of people seem to believe that if the Phillies were/are going to trade Blanton, it is going to happen in spring training. Time is running out in that regard.
For now, Blanton is penciled in as the club's fifth starter and hasn't had a bad spring. By all accounts, the big, right-handed pitcher is healthy, which was the most important element of his spring training.
Blanton has looked very solid this spring. His control is good, and he is getting hitters to swing and miss at his pitches. In 10 innings, he has allowed three runs, according to MLB.com.
I wouldn't go singing his praises just yet, but at the very least, Blanton has shown that he could be a valuable asset to the Phillies in ways other than a trade.
Predicted Stats: 7-7, 4.35 ERA, 110 IP
Kyle Kendrick has very quietly had a very impressive spring. The right-handed starting pitcher/long reliever hasn't allowed an earned run in 8.1 innings this spring, striking out nine while his only walk came following a hit-batter.
I honestly thought that the strength of Kendrick's spring would give the Phillies, who didn't need much incentive, even more of a will to trade Joe Blanton, but that hasn't been the case just yet.
The difference for Kendrick has been the effectiveness of his cutter, which has given him a legitimate out-pitch against left-handed hitters, who clobbered him to the tune of a .301 batting average to date in his career.
With that being said, I'm not jumping on the Kendrick bandwagon just yet. The cutter is still a work in progress, and anyone that has seen Kendrick pitch knows that he has a tendency to leave pitches right over the plate. Until he addresses those issues, I think this is a fair prediction for him.
Predicted Stats: 3-3, 4.25 ERA, 55 IP
Here's a fun fact for you: David Herndon's real first name is Kenneth.
Moving on to the important stuff. Herndon entered camp this season with no guaranteed spot on the roster, and that hasn't changed, even with Opening Day right around the corner. However, if the Phillies break camp with 12 pitchers, which is likely, Herndon is expected to win a spot.
Frankly, he is expected to make the club because there haven't been many pitchers to out-pitch him thus far in camp. With Michael Schwimer and Phillippe Aumont optioned to Minor League camp, Justin De Fratus on the shelf with an injury, a slew of veteran, right-handed relievers that have been unimpressive and a couple of lefties that haven't exactly blown anyone away, the case for Herndon is obvious.
That being said, he probably won't be pitching in many high-leverage ball games. The sinker-balling pitcher will likely see tedious roles like mop-up and extra innings with the most frequency.
Predicted Stats: 3-3, 4.20 ERA, 60-70 IP
All spring long, the rhetoric has been that Mike Stutes has a job to lose in the Phillies bullpen. About a month ago, there was a good chance that someone in camp could outperform him and earn a spot, but now, with just a little more than a week until Opening Day, there aren't many able competitors left.
It's not that Stutes has been overly impressive this spring, but that the rest of the competition hasn't been overly impressive either.
Stutes got a taste of the MLB last season, and that simple fact will sit well with some of the members of the Phillies staff.
With that being said, expect Stutes to have a smaller role than he did last season, unless of course, an injury were to arise.
Predicted Stats: 3-3, 3.80 ERA, 65-70 IP
After a rough debut this spring, Chad Qualls has settled down into the pitcher the Phillies expected to sign this spring.
Plucked off of the free-agent market late in the offseason, Qualls gives the Phillies another veteran option that has pitcher in numerous roles in the bullpen. Given the history of the club's injuries out there, that's a good thing.
In his career, Qualls has pitched as a middle reliever, a set-up man and a closer, and don't think for a second that this fact is lost on Charlie Manuel, who will turn to him frequently.
Can he pitch outside of the spacious confines of PETCO Park? There's only one way to find out.
Predicted Stats: 2-2, 3.75 ERA, 40-50 IP
There is no doubt that the presence of Jose Contreras completely changes the dynamic of the Phillies bullpen, and all indications point to the big, right-handed reliever being ready to pitch on Opening Day.
His long-term forecast? Well, that's much more difficult to predict.
The "Big Truck" has looked shaky this spring, but that's to be expected when you miss close to an entire season. Reports have indicated that his velocity and location are good, and with repetition, should be back to his old self in no time.
I find that hard to believe.
Contreras will be 40 years old this season and is recovering from major surgery on his throwing arm. I think he'll be a good reliever, but he probably wouldn't be the first option in the event that the team needed a fill-in closer this go around.
Predicted Stats: 4-2, 3.10 ERA, 60 IP
After having a horrible month of September to end last season, Antonio Bastardo has come into Phillies camp and quietly had a very good spring. As of Sunday, March 25, the set-up man has tossed five scoreless innings this spring, walking just one.
The Phillies absolutely need Bastardo to be pitching with success this season. With Jose Contreras' status still up in the air over the long-term, the club will rely on Bastardo to be the bridge to Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning.
Bastardo has had some forearm tightness linked to dehydration this spring, but it doesn't appear to have any threat on his season.
Unless he has some kind of setback, I don't see any need to adjust his predicted stats.
Predicted Stats: 4-3, 2.45 ERA, 65 IP, 40+ SV
Some players may find it difficult signing with a new team, especially when you've had success with the team you're leaving. A lot of guys will tell you there is an adjustment period.
Not for Jonathan Papelbon.
After signing with the Phillies over the offseason, there have been lofty expectations for the club's new closer. He's pitching for a contending team. He's moving into the National League. Opposing lineups haven't seen much of him.
Papelbon signed right into a pressure-packed situation here in Philadelphia, but that is the reason he signed with the Phillies, after all. In his own words, it's what makes him "tick."
If there are any spring jitters in his first season in Clearwater, Papelbon certainly hasn't shown the signs. He has allowed just one run over eight innings, only reinforcing those lofty expectations for the regular season.