One Year-End Goal for All 25 Philadelphia Phillies Players
The Philadelphia Phillies are having quite the memorable season, but for all of the wrong reasons.
Coming into the 2012 campaign, you would find few so-called "experts" with the nerve to go against the grain and pick any team but the Phillies to win the National League East. They were carrying that level of expectation.
Of course, fast-forward a couple of months and the Washington Nationals are the talk of the division with the Atlanta Braves right on their doorstep. The Phillies, meanwhile, are battling the Miami Marlins to stay out of last place and looking forward to 2013.
That's right. How many people would have guessed that, at the beginning of August, the Phillies would be out of the postseason race and looking forward to next season?
With Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton all officially in the books as "former" Phillies, it's time for their replacements and the rest of the club to start preparing to come back strong next season.
One of the most vital ways to do so is to finish the 2012 season strong. Here's what each player needs to accomplish by the end of this year, with an eye on the future.
Goal: Hone control to regain form as setup man.
The Phillies are going to give Antonio Bastardo every chance in the world to be their setup man for the foreseeable future because that's the kind of potential that he has. Like it or not, we know this to be the case.
Now, if Bastardo actually wants to do something about his struggles this season, he'll work hard on his mechanics and repeat his delivery more frequently. That should help him locate his fastball a bit better, which in turn should help his slider.
There's no doubt that Bastardo has the potential to be a dominant setup man. We saw that in 2011. But he'll need to throw more strikes to be consistently dominant. His BB/9 is almost a full walk higher this season than his 2011 total.
Goal: Work on becoming an everyday MLB player.
That's a broad goal.
Then again, Domonic Brown has a lot to work on if he's really going to help the Phillies out on an everyday basis in 2013. The Phillies are definitely ready to give him the job and Brown should be ready to take it.
The Phillies, who have been a notorious group of free-swingers over the last few seasons, should greatly benefit from Brown's patient approach. He has the ability and potential to see a lot of pitches per at-bat and should generate a nice on-base percentage.
Of course, the Phillies wouldn't mind seeing him reach down and draw out some of that power potential either.
Regardless of that, he'll need to work on going through the grind of playing everyday at the MLB level, ditch the rookie status, and come ready to win a World Series in 2013. That will be the goal.
Goal: Compete for a spot on the bench for 2013.
If Kevin Frandsen wants to play for the Phillies in 2013, he is going to have to play like his pants are on fire.
The Phillies have tried just about everything to shake up their bench this season, including adding Frandsen to the 40-man roster and calling him to the MLB after he led the International League in hits for a while down in Triple-A.
Charlie Manuel has rewarded him with quite a few starts at third base in place of the ailing Placido Polanco, currently on the disabled list.
He probably doesn't have much of an opportunity to do so, but Frandsen should be playing with an eye on a job in 2013.
Goal: Work on regaining velocity / making adjustments on the fly.
It's been an interesting season for Roy Halladay. He spent most of the spring battling rumors that he was dealing with an injury when people around the game noticed that his fastball velocity was down and eventually wound up on the disabled list with, you guessed it, an injury.
Since returning from the disabled list, not much has changed for Halladay. He's still missing some velocity on his famous cutter and has been throwing more curveballs this season than he has in any year in recent memory.
Obviously, more than a few people are wondering if he's actually healthy, despite confirmation from up and down the Phillies' organization that he is.
If that is truly the case, it may be time for Halladay to do what all great pitchers have done in the past—adapt. If anyone could do it, it's Halladay.
Goal: Put contract concerns in the past and focus on future in Philadelphia.
Now that his six-year, $144 million contract extension is in the books, Cole Hamels can put all of the drama that surrounds a top player reaching free agency to bed and just focus on what he intended to do all along: Winning another World Series in Philadelphia.
When you look at Hamels' numbers this season, there really isn't much to work on. Sure, the walks and home runs are up a bit, but that's not much of a concern.
Realistically, all Hamels needs to focus on doing now is being the ace that the Phillies are paying him to be. He needs to win big games and put the team on his back, but that's nothing new for Hamels.
Goal: Pitch with an eye on a job in 2013.
Sure, their middle infield depth has been kind of shaky this season, but the Phillies have to be happy with the trade they made in the off-season that sent Wilson Valdez to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for left-handed pitcher Jeremy Horst.
The Phillies called up Horst to shake up their bullpen a bit midseason and all he's done is get batters out since coming back to the MLB.
In 11.1 innings, the lefty has allowed just a single earned run.
The Phillies are going to wind up with a crowded bullpen next season, so it would benefit both Horst and the Phillies if he was able to keep up this dominant stretch of pitching, perhaps with an eye on helping the club climb back to the top of the NL East next season.
Goal: Stay healthy and improve approach at the plate.
After missing the first half of the season while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last October, the first goal for Ryan Howard should be to stay healthy.
Now that he's back on the field, the goal for Howard needs to be to improve his approach at the plate. Ever since returning from the disabled list, Howard has been striking out at a rate of better than 30%, which is just unacceptable for a middle of the order hitter (or any hitter, at that).
The Phillies need him to improve upon his lack of plate discipline this season and regain his form as a threat in the middle of the lineup. If not, their offense will suffer.
Goal: Find a niche and make it stick.
Given the way the 2012 season has gone, that's been a difficult goal for Kyle Kendrick to accomplish. He's bounced back and forth between the bullpen and the starting rotation again, and now that Joe Blanton is a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, his immediate future is a bit unclear.
Kendrick has been the whipping boy for the Phillies' struggles for some time now, but it may be time to accept the fact that, as a reliever, Kendrick has been very good this season. The opposition is hitting just .231 against him in that role and he's posted an ERA of 3.95—surprisingly low given how the first few outings went for him.
So now the Phillies have to make a decision: Move him into the starting rotation full time because he's a "cheap" option or let him pitch in the role that he's clearly best in.
Goal: Fight to be the Phillies' back-up catcher in 2013.
Erik Kratz is doing his best to show the Phillies' front office that he's more than capable of being the club's backup catcher next season.
Called up to replace the ailing Brian Schneider a few weeks ago, Kratz was playing so well that when Schneider returned, the Phillies refused to send Kratz back to Triple-A.
So what's next?
In the near future, the Phillies may give him an opportunity to play some other positions, just to get his bat into the lineup with Schneider serving as the backup catcher.
In the future, however, Kratz and Carlos Ruiz could make a nice tandem.
Goal: Persuade Lady Luck / cut back on the home run ball.
It's easy to look at Cliff Lee's record this season and assume that he's had a bad year, but that wouldn't be entirely accurate. He hasn't had the greatest of seasons, but it certainly hasn't been bad either. Average is a more accurate term.
Of course, that's not something Phillies fans want to see out of a man making the kind of money that Lee is.
As the season progresses, it just seems like Lee rubbed the baseball gods the wrong way somehow. He needs to get back in Lady Luck's good graces and come back ready to win a World Series in 2013!
On a serious note, there isn't much statistically wrong with Lee. The strikeout rate is down just a bit, but it's the home run rate—up over one per every nine innings right now—that needs to come down by season's end.
Goal: Establish himself as the club's right-handed setup man.
It's not easy joining a new club midseason, especially when you're going to be saddled with high expectations. That's exactly the case for right-handed pitcher Josh Lindblom, who is not only expected to take over as the Phillies setup man, but was also acquired for a fan-favorite in Shane Victorino.
Lindblom has big strikeout potential, but needs to dramatically reduce his home run rate and cut back on his walks if he wants to have any kind of success in the Phillies bullpen.
Goal: Prove that he isn't just a "versatile defender" and that he can be an adequate utility man for the 2013 season.
Let's cut straight to the point here: Phillies fans don't like Michael Martinez very much. That's understandable, given that he's come to the MLB and posted a career OPS of .515. That's not going to win you an award here.
But the Phillies keep giving "Mini-Mart" a chance because he's so versatile defensively. He can step into a game and play second and third base, shortstop, or the outfield. That's what is keeping him around right now.
However, if he plans on sticking around for the 2013 season, he is going to need to prove to the front office and coaching staff that he can be more than a "versatile" defensive player. He is going to have to do some situational hitting and contribute offensively.
John Mayberry Jr.
Goal: Show that he can be a valuable bench bat for the 2013 season while scratching and clawing his way back into consideration for more of an everyday role.
Don't look now, but here comes John Mayberry Jr. again. It is more than clear that this is one man who is happy to have seen the trade deadline come and go. Since taking more of an everyday role following the Phillies' trades of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, Mayberry is playing well.
The outfielder has gone 5-for-16 with a pair of doubles since July 31 and is, yet again, showing glimpses of why the Phillies were comfortable giving him a shot at playing on an everyday basis to open the season.
That ship has probably sailed, however.
The Phillies just can't afford to take another chance at giving him an opportunity to play everyday. It is much more realistic that Mayberry either finds a spot on the bench or a solid left-handed platoon partner.
Of course, he'll have to prove that he can handle those roles in 2012 first.
Goal: Improve plate discipline / mash right-handed pitching.
Seems like a simple task for a Major League player, but I think that the Phillies would be happy with Laynce Nix as long as he could stay healthy and complete that goal.
After all, the Phillies signed him to his first Major League contract over the offseason to be a role player. They wanted him to come aboard and continue his assault of right-handed pitching off of the bench—possibly in a small platoon role.
That shouldn't change much throughout the rest of this season and heading into 2013.
The Phillies would like to see him take a few more walks and cut back on his strikeouts, but they'll be happy with him as long as he brings the thunder from the left side of the plate, something he actually hasn't done much since returning from the disabled list.
Goal: Repeat his 2012 campaign in a year that actually matters in 2013.
Though they'll never be able to justify the money they shelled out to bring Jonathan Papelbon to town, it is hard to argue with the results.
Sure, I could nitpick about his struggles in non-save situations or when he's pitching in a game that "doesn't matter," but that's as much a complaint for Charlie Manuel as it is for Papelbon.
Instead, Papelbon's goal should be to replicate his debut season as a member of the Phillies throughout the duration of his contract. If he can do that, both he and the Phillies will be in good shape.
Goal: Take a backseat role in 2012 in hopes of securing a role with the 2013 club.
Juan Pierre has been one of the best minor league signings of the offseason, but I'm still not sure that he's done enough to improve his value this season to land more of a starting gig next season.
First and foremost, he needs to take a backseat and let some of the Phillies' younger guys play as the club tries to figure out what it has in the outfield for 2013. So you should see some combination of Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., Nate Schierholtz and Laynce Nix get a majority of the playing time.
Pierre, who will probably have more of a coaching role than a playing role throughout the season, should probably have his eye on 2013 if he survives the August waiver period.
It will be interesting if he and the Phillies share a mutual interest in reuniting next year when he can play the bench role that he was supposed to play in 2012.
Goal: Accept the fact that he's not a leadoff hitter anymore and convince Charlie Manuel to move him down in the order.
This is more of a mission than a goal, but if you're really interested in why the Phillies have had trouble scoring runs, look no further than the top of the order.
If the Phillies are going to be stuck with Jimmy Rollins for, at least, the next two seasons, they're going to need to find a new leadoff man. Rollins isn't going to change his approach at the plate at this stage of his career. He can't do it.
Instead, the Phillies need to drop him into the lower half of the batting order. His walk rate has steadily declined, his OBP is hovering around .300, and his wRC+ is 94—six points below league average.
The best thing for both the Phillies and Rollins would be for all parties involved to realize that he should be hitting seventh or eighth, not first.
Goal: Make enough noise in 2012 to earn a shot at making the MLB roster in 2013.
This is going to be a tough goal for BJ Rosenberg because I'm not even convinced that he lasts for a full week in the MLB, when the Phillies could decide that they'd rather have Kyle Kendrick in the bullpen and Tyler Cloyd in the rotation.
For argument's sake, we'll assume that Rosenberg is going to hang around for a while. If he does that, he'll need to pitch exceptionally well, for his sake.
The competition for the Phillies' bullpen is going to run deep next spring. Looking at the bigger picture, you would assume that the only pitchers guaranteed spots are Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, and possibly Kendrick.
That leaves quite the competition for a group that could included Josh Lindblom, Michael Schwimer, Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont, Jake Diekman, David Herndon, Mike Stutes, Joe Savery, Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes, among others.
So it's safe to say that this will be a difficult goal for Rosenberg, but there's nothing wrong with setting your goals high.
Goal: Finish out the 2012 season strong (and healthy) and approach 2013 without trying to replicate '12.
Phillies fans aren't going to want to hear this, but Carlos Ruiz's 2012 season is a fluke. He may not drop off the face of the earth next season because he's made significant strides as a hitter.
However, he has also posted a BABIP of .347 this season and that is a number that simply cannot be sustained on a year-to-year basis.
Ruiz can continue to be a significant offensive contributor moving forward. However, it would be wise of him to realize that this season was an anomaly and not pressure himself into repeating it. That's how hitters fall into bad habits and that is the last thing the Phillies need.
Goal: Fight for a starting job in 2013.
The goal for Nate Schierholtz is simple. He'll have the remainder of the 2012 season to prove to Charlie Manuel and company that he can hit left-handed pitching well enough to be an everyday player next season.
Now, that's not a simple goal for a guy who's struggling to hit .200 against left-handed pitching this season, but the alternative isn't very promising.
The Phillies will also have Laynce Nix on the roster next season—a player that they brought aboard knowing that he can't hit lefties and to focus on providing power against right-handed pitchers. He is better suited for that role than Schierholtz.
For the newest Phillies' outfielder, he could wind up playing everyday or not much at all.
Goal: Fight for job in 2013.
This may be the end of the road for Brian Schneider.
The Phillies made somewhat of a surprising move this offseason when they brought Schneider back for another season as their backup catcher, only because there were cheaper options to play at a similar level.
Next season, I expect the Phillies to move in a different direction. Pitchers like working with Schneider, but he's probably the most replaceable player on the roster. A guy like Erik Kratz, who has done a very nice job for the Phillies in his absence, could also provide offense on the cheap.
If Schneider wants to have any shot at returning next season, he is going to have to play for a job in the final two months of the season.
Goal: Continue to show that he can be a realistic option for the late innings in the Phillies bullpen.
The 2012 season has been a mixed bag for Michael Schwimer.
At one point during the season, he was pitching poorly enough to be sent back to Triple-A in a season where the Phillies were willing to try anything in the bullpen. At another point in the season, he was the best right-handed reliever they had not named Jonathan Papelbon.
So what does the future hold for Schwimer?
Personally, I feel as though he's made legitimate progress this season that could land him a significant role in the bullpen for the future, perhaps as the seventh inning guy.
One thing that he'll need to work on is his command. That was a strength for him coming through the system that has flown out the window in the MLB.
Goal: Continue to make progress both at the plate and in keeping his knees healthy to be ready for the start of the 2013 season.
A guy like Chase Utley would never admit that the season is over for the Phillies in early August, but I think it is safe to say that this is the case.
Once the Phillies swallow that bitter pill, the focus will shift from the lost 2012 season to the potential comeback in 2013. That begins and ends with Utley, a leader in the clubhouse and on the field.
There is no denying that the Phillies are a much different team without Utley manning second base and they would not be able to survive a third consecutive season without him in the first half.
So with that in mind, Utley's goal for the remainder of the season should be to think about the future. He can't run his knees into the ground playing pointless baseball and should continue to condition them for the long haul, starting in 2013.
Goal: Convince the Phillies that he can still be a productive, right-handed bat off of the bench by cutting back on strikeouts and having better at-bats.
The Phillies brought Ty Wigginton aboard over the offseason to play a bench role. They wanted to use him to give players like Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco a breather and have quality at-bats against tough left-handed pitchers.
None of that has really happened.
Wigginton's best days this season came in a role where he played nearly every day with Howard on the disabled list.
Since then, he hasn't done much. Wigginton's K% climbed to 22.7% and he's hitting just .200 against lefties.
After playing terrible defense at third base, it has become clear that Wigginton is not a utility man. The Phillies hold a $4 million club option for next season and now, it would be hard to imagine them picking that option up.
Goal: Save his arm down the stretch / recover from offseason surgery in time to contribute in 2013.
We're still months away from receiving the offseason surgery list, but we already know that Vance Worley is going to be on it. The right-handed starter has been pitching with bone chips in his right elbow this season, similar to what Cole Hamels was going through last season, and will need to have them removed over the winter.
Now, the goal for Worley this season is one that he'll need the Phillies to help with. In short, there is no reason for the club to run his arm into the ground in the last couple months of a meaningless season.
In fact, I would realistically consider shutting him down to have the procedure early so that he can have a "normal" offseason, meaning that he can get back into his normal winter regimen.
There is no reason to believe that guys like Kyle Kendrick and Tyler Cloyd can't log some innings in his place in August and September.