The equipment truck is on the road to Philadelphia, the Opening Day roster is all but set and the Philadelphia Phillies are just about ready to wrap up their Grapefruit League schedule and head north.
Those are some of the universal baseball signs that spring training is just about ready to come to a close and the regular season is just around the bend. Though I'm sure leaving the warm Florida sunshine won't be easy for some, playing games that actually count toward the ultimate goal should ease that pain all the same.
So as the Phillies prepare themselves to leave Clearwater, Fla. behind until February of 2013, it's time to grade their spring performance yet again. Each grade will be the result of a full analysis of each player's spring training.
Who answered their biggest question marks? Who performed the best, and who performed the worst? Who excelled in all areas of the game, and who excelled in just a few areas?
To grade each player, we'll use a simple system of five grades:
- A: Said player had a stellar spring.
- B: Said player had a very good spring, but not an incredible camp.
- C: Said player had an average camp. Could have been worse, but certainly could have been better.
- D: Said player had a below average spring and needs to make adjustments.
- F: Said player had a terrible spring and has become a major cause for concern.
*Note: All spring training statistics are through Saturday, March 31, 2012.
For news, rumors, analysis and game recaps during spring training, check out Greg's blog: The Phillies Phactor!
The Phillies' Opening Day roster is current in a state of flux thanks to a slew of injuries. We know that Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Michael Martinez will be on the disabled list for an extended period of time, and their replacements have been noted accordingly.
However, the Phillies will also have a few players on the DL in the short term, and I didn't think their replacements needed full slides. That's why you will see slides later for Jose Contreras and Mike Stutes, but we'll rate the springs of a couple of other Opening Day possibilities here.
Hector Luna: A: At the start of camp, "Big Tuna" wasn't much of a possibility for the roster. With a number of injuries, an increasing versatility and three home runs on the spring, Luna is now a strong possibility to play off of the Phillies bench on Opening Day, but may not last long thereafter.
Scott Podsednik: A :With Juan Pierre making the club, Podsednik has all but been sent to AAA. Regardless, the outfielder had a fantastic spring.
Joe Savery: B: If Micahel Stutes starts the season on the DL, which is a strong possibility, the Phillies will need another reliever. Savery has had a great spring and is already a member of the 40-man roster, which could work in his favor.
Raul Valdes: A: Valdes actually had one of the best springs of any Phillies reliever, but he could be on the outside looking in on Opening Day. He'll battle for that final bullpen spot with Savery if Stutes starts the year on the DL.
The Phillies signed Laynce Nix over the offseason to platoon in left field and provide some left-handed pop off of the bench, but with spring training just about in the rearview mirror, Nix hasn't proven that he can do either.
After missing the first week or so of the spring with a ribcage injury, Nix returned to the diamond looking as though he was still hurting a bit, his bat speed noticeably lacking. He has just 10 hits in 46 at-bats, just two of which were extra base hits—both doubles.
Nix, who signed a guaranteed deal over the winter, may have lost his share of playing time to Juan Pierre, who signed a non-guaranteed deal. He'll have plenty of chances to reclaim some of that time during the season, but in the small sample size that is the Grapefruit League, he didn't look good.
The Phillies really needed John Mayberry, Jr. to come into camp and prove that he was ready for something closer to an everyday role in 2012.
He did no such thing.
Mayberry has struggled mightily this spring, posting an OPS of under .500 with one home run in more than 70 at-bats. Though spring numbers aren't something you should put much stock in, the point is simple: Mayberry has not provided much confidence.
In fact, Charlie Manuel went on a mini tirade recently about how he has to play the best players whenever he can, and then started Juan Pierre in left field in a night game against the New York Yankees.
Mike Stutes is a guy that had an up-and-down season in 2011 and still had something to prove coming into camp.
With that being said, he didn't do much to prove that he belonged in the MLB full-time. His control was actually solid this spring, as he walked just two batters and struck out 11 in 9.1 innings pitched.
The real problem was the simple fact that he was getting shelled on the mound. His fastball didn't have the same giddy-up that we have become used to, and his secondary pitches were not sharp.
Stutes was no guarantee to make the roster on Opening Day, but shoulder soreness may land him on the disabled list to begin the season regardless.
When the Phillies acquired Ty Wigginton from the Colorado Rockies over the winter, they expected him to be a powerful, right-handed bat off of the bench with the ability to step in and play multiple positions on the diamond.
Given the fact that the Phillies will be forced to use him much more frequently than they had intended to early in the season and the fact that he hasn't inspired much confidence this spring, there is some minimal cause for concern.
Wigginton hasn't shown much power, hitting just four doubles and zero home runs, and has struck out 11 times this spring. He has, however, played multiple infield positions this spring and will be a valuable asset for the Phillies.
Spring training hasn't been very kind to Vance Worley, but the level of concern for the right-handed starter shouldn't be on par with what his statistics dictate.
Though he has struggled, don't forget that Worley spent the early parts of the spring developing a new change-up, and when he couldn't get a feel for that pitch, scrapped it and started over.
With the loss of Roy Oswalt, there will be a fair amount of pressure on Worley this season to step into the rotation and attempt to replicate his 2011 success. If anything, this spring has certainly showed that he has the mental ability to handle that pressure—an attribute that should not be taken for granted.
On a positive note, he has struck out 21 batters and walked just two, according to MLB.com, in 20 innings pitched.
After spending most of the 2011 season on the disabled list, Joe Blanton's first priority this spring was to prove that he was healthy, and proven that he has. As spring training has progressed, Blanton has mixed in plenty of off-speed pitches, including his curveball (which he had gone on the record saying caused the most pain last season), simultaneously building arm strength in the process.
After coming out of the gate on fire, Blanton cooled off quite a bit as the spring wore on, but the Phillies will be happy with his progress so long as he is able to take the ball every fifth day and pitch effectively, a pair of things that he has done well this spring.
It's been an average spring for Blanton, but average is good for the Phillies' fifth starter.
The biggest goal for Jose Contreras this spring was to prove that he is fully healthy, and the big right-handed reliever has done just that. He'll start the season on the disabled list to build arm strength, but but from a health standpoint, the "Big Truck" is good to go.
His spring numbers indicate that he is still trying to shake off the rust, but that is something that Contreras will have the opportunity to do do through the first week of the season. He has shown good velocity on his fastball, good control over his secondary pitches and has not been gun-shy following an offseason surgery.
Roy Halladay hasn't had a near-flawless spring training this season like he did a year ago, but there should be no cause for concern about the Phillies ace.
Halladay quickly brushed aside questions about a possible injury and velocity this spring, and there has been no indication that the right-handed starter isn't healthy.
He struggled to get a feel for his split-fingered change-up early this spring and got knocked around a bit as a result in one of his starts. Hitters have been putting the bat on the ball against Halladay, but one of the overlooked facts of the spring is that he's struck out 24 batters (among the Grapefruit League leaders) while walking just three.
Given the way the 2011 campaign went for Brian Schneider, an average grade isn't all that shabby.
The back-up catcher has been solid this spring, catching regularly and proving to be more than a black hole at the plate. Schneider has eight hits in 29 at-bats this spring, including a home run and a double.
The Phillies don't need him to hit a ton this season to be productive, but if he is able to stay healthy and prove to be some kind of a threat at the plate, Schneider should be a very capable backstop in 2012.
A very good spring from Antonio Bastardo has been shadowed a bit by the fact that there was some concern over his health early in camp. A tired forearm, which is a telltale sign of dehydration, knocked a few miles per hour off of a normally explosive fastball.
Surprisingly enough, it didn't effect him much.
Bastardo continued to use his fastball/slider repertoire to baffle hitters from both sides of the plate. Though he's only thrown 7.2 innings, the opposition is hitting just .148 against him, helping him to a WHIP of just 0.78.
Every indication thus far has been that come Opening Day, it will be all systems go for the Phillies' set-up man, and they will need him to be lights out in front of Jonathan Papelbon throughout the season.
Freddy Galvis has been one of the best players in Phillies camp this spring.
Coming into spring training, Galvis was looked at as little more than a slick-fielding shortstop that wouldn't be able to hit at the MLB level, stuck behind Jimmy Rollins on the club's depth chart and ticketed for AAA.
About a month later, Galvis has made the transition to full-time second baseman with Chase Utley on the shelf, ticked for PNC Park in Pittsburgh as a member of the Phillies' Opening Day lineup.
Galvis' defense has been excellent this spring, as has come to be expected. He made the most noise with his bat, showing an improved patience and ability to hit for power, which undoubtedly made manager Charlie Manuel's decision to keep him around all the more simple.
With a great spring behind him, Galvis will have to prove that he has the bat to stick at the MLB level. The glove will always be there.
2012 is going to be the year of Cole Hamels.
Sure, we'll be hearing a lot about his contract situation and whether or not he eventually agrees to a contract extension with the Phillies, but I think that it is reasonable to suggest that '12 will be his year for a different reason: He's going to be good.
It all started this offseason when Hamels had a pair of surgeries, one to repair a sports hernia and another to remove loose bodies from his left elbow. Believe it or not, he actually pitched with those injuries in 2011, and considering the year he had, that was nothing short of incredible.
He came into camp healthy and strong, and it shows. Hamels has struck out 17 batters and walked just four, while the opposition has failed to figure him out.
Expect that last sentiment to remain throughout the season.
A lot of fans are willing to throw David Herndon under the bus when things aren't going well, but the right-handed reliever and former Rule 5 pick was very solid for the Phillies last season, posting an ERA of 3.32, stranding more than 80 percent of his base runners and posting a ground ball rate of more than 54 percent.
Even after having some success for the Phillies in 2011, he came into camp with no guarantee that he would be pitching out of the bullpen on Opening Day, but he certainly did nothing to hurt his chances.
He used his heavy sinker to strike out 12 batters this spring and showed much better control than he has over the last couple of seasons. With Jose Contreras and Mike Stutes likely to start the year on the disabled list, he is almost guaranteed a spot in the Phillies 'pen.
Cliff Lee came into camp in midseason form.
The name of the game has always been to pound the strike zone for Lee, and it seemed as though he was able to do that in each of his Grapefruit League starts.
As per the norm, he showed way above average control this spring of each of his four pitches, walking just three batters and striking out 19 in 21.2 innings (as of Sunday, April 1).
For a veteran pitcher like Lee, spring training is all about preparing himself for the regular season, and if this spring was any indication, big things are in store for the Phillies' No. 2 starter.
The odds against Pete Orr making the Opening Day roster were stacked so high that, even with a couple of things going his way, he'd still have to have a pretty good spring to make the club, and he did just that.
When Chase Utley hit the disabled list last season, it was Orr that got the call. Fast-forward a season, and even without guys like Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez in the picture, it looked as though Orr was ticketed for AAA.
But the Phillies needed depth on their bench, and Orr was ready to prove that he could be that guy. He grabbed the bull by the horns, collecting 16 hits in 54 at-bats and spending some time at shortstop to prove that he could be a viable stopgap.
Now, it looks as though he'll begin the season with the MLB club on the bench.
I was very close to giving Jonathan Papelbon an "A," but that harsh outing against the New York Yankees helped to tip the scale back into the "Bs" at the last moment. It was a reminder of what makes closing out ball games such a volatile position.
Papelbon has been very good for the Phillies this spring. Before surrendering four earned runs against the Yankees, he had allowed just one earned run all spring.
However, the Phillies would surely like to see him cut back on his walks (five in 10.2 innings) and keep the opposition a little more off-balance (.244 batting average.)
Granted, neither of those are terrible numbers, but the Phillies need Papelbon to be lights out this season in a very difficult division.
Hunter Pence's first spring training in Clearwater, Fla. has gone very well.
After hitting a pair of home runs in his first two Grapefruit League games of the spring, it seemed as though Pence was on record to set some sort of spring training record, but he cooled off quickly in that regard.
The Phillies right fielder has hit the ball hard all spring long, collecting 21 hits in 74 at-bats, including six doubles.
With Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on the shelf, the Phillies will need Pence to provide a majority of the lineup's power, and it seems as though he is in a good position to do just that.
The Phillies signed Chad Qualls very late in the offseason with the intent that he would be able to come into camp and provide a veteran presence in the late innings in the event that Jose Contreras was not completely healthy.
Given Contreras' health, I'm sure the Phillies are extremely happy with the situation at the back end of the bullpen. Already deep with the trio of Contreras, Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon, Qualls has been very good this spring, limiting the opposition to a .194 batting average and posting a WHIP of 1.14.
The Phillies have plenty of options at the back end of the bullpen, and for the first time in what seems like a very long time, it looks as though they're all healthy.
Jimmy Rollins has had a relatively quiet spring, which is probably a good thing.
After being able to stay on the field in 2011, Rollins hoped to put the numerous injuries and maladies of the past behind him heading into 2012, and a full spring training is certainly a good start.
Rollins has shown a much more patient approach at the plate in camp, matching his strikeouts (six) with walks (six). He has shown a fair amount of power and made good contact, with his fielding impeccable as per the norm.
It's been a quiet spring, but a good one.
2012 has been a spring of surprises for Jim Thome, the most notable of which may be the fact that he hasn't hit a single home run.
Of course, there is that interesting little tidbit that the 40-year-old first baseman turned designated hitter has made the rare move back to first base this spring, where Charlie Manuel intends to play him a couple of times a week during the regular season.
Another surprising aspect of Thome's spring is the simple fact that he's played very well at first base.
How about the fact that the slugger incorporated a Pilates regiment into his workout routine to stay limber? Doesn't strike me as that kind of guy.
Regardless of the surprises, Thome has had a very solid spring. Despite having yet to leave the yard, he has collected nine hits in 32 at-bats and figures to be a player the Phillies will rely on prominently during the season, be it as a starter or off of the bench.
With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the disabled list, the Phillies will need Shane Victorino to step up to the plate and pick up some of the slack in 2012, and if spring training is any indication (numbers-wise, it isn't), Victorino is in for a solid year.
Spring training numbers aren't predicative of the regular season. Regulars like Victorino see a ton of minor league pitching over the course of the month of March. However, Victorino has looked very good at the plate this spring, and there are signs that the fundamentals will translate into regular season success.
Victorino has made solid contact at the plate all throughout camp, logging 19 hits in 64 at-bats. The power is there. The patience is there. The defense is there.
Heading into a contract year, Victorino is motivated to prove that he belongs among the game's elite centerfielders, and the Phillies desperately need that kind of year out of him.
The last couple of seasons have been rough ones for Kyle Kendrick, so after signing a two-year deal with the Phillies over the winter (to buy out his arbitration years), there are a lot of people who believe that he still has something to prove. Apparently, Kendrick was among them.
After bouncing back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen, Kendrick played a valuable role for the Phillies last season, but there was certainly room to improve. The addition and development of a cutter has given him a legitimate weapon against left-handed hitters, and the results are apparent in the Grapefruit League.
Kendrick has allowed just two earned runs in 10.2 innings of work, punching out 11. The opposition is hitting just .250 against him, and Kendrick has posted a WHIP of 1.13.
Again, spring training statistics are not predicative of the regular season by any means, but you have to wonder if Kendrick's success makes Joe Blanton even more expendable in the eyes of the Phillies front office.
Any player that comes into camp on a non-guaranteed contract and walks away with a roster spot has had a pretty solid spring, and that is certainly true for Juan Pierre.
The Phillies added the speedy outfielder's contract to the 40-man roster recently, rewarding him with a spot on the bench. Early in the spring, that didn't seem all too likely. Charlie Manuel was forced to give him a wake-up call, and it looked as though Scott Podsednik had the edge in their position battle.
However, Pierre really turned it up a notch in the final weeks of the spring. He has collected 20 hits in 54 bats, along with five walks, helping himself to a .370 batting average.
His speed and bat-handling ability gives the Phillies a unique weapon off of the bench, but he'll certainly have to improve upon his stolen base percentage (three steals, four caught stealing).
Coming into camp, all the Phillies wanted Placido Polanco to do was stay healthy, and outside of a freak finger injury from sliding back into first base, the third baseman was able to do just that.
He also had a great spring at the plate.
Polanco collected 14 hits in 32 at-bats, doubling and walking twice. That bodes well for the lineup heading into the regular season. Already without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the Phillies will benefit greatly from a healthy, productive Polanco in the fold.
Carlos Ruiz has been a mainstay as the eighth hitter in the Phillies lineup in recent seasons, a position normally reserved for light-hitting players with other strengths. That is certainly true of Ruiz, a defensive wizard behind the plate tasked with handling one of the game's best pitching staffs.
I'm sure you've heard someone say or read somewhere that the Phillies will be happy with Ruiz as long as he is playing his caliber of defense, and while that may be true, he has been the club's best hitter this spring as well.
Ruiz has collected 21 hits in 41 at-bats this spring, walking twice to bring his average to an incredible .512. He's also slugged a pair of home runs and struck out just once.
It has been a phenomenal spring for "Chooch."