Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Big Weaknesses That Must Be Fixed to Compete in 2013
2012 will be a season to forget for the Philadelphia Phillies who will be lucky to finish the season with a .500 record. The Phillies sold off most of their outfield at the deadline, and the stars we have seen flourish in 2008 are becoming older, more injury-prone and less and less productive.
In order to compete with the Washington Nationals, who have turned into one of the best teams in baseball, drastic changes must be made to the Phillies current roster.
The Phillies have major holes in all three outfield positions, third base, the bullpen and one, maybe two rotation spots depending on how Vance Worley will respond to offseason surgery.
Here are five weaknesses the Phillies must address if they want to compete for a title in 2013.
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After the Phillies dealt Joe Blanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers, they left a void in the fifth spot of their starting rotation. Since his departure, Kyle Kendrick has done an admirable job replacing Blanton, but can that last the length of 34 starts during an entire regular season? That remains to be seen. Kendrick has been a model of inconsistency.
Filling the fifth-starter's spot will be the easiest hole to fill this offseason. The Phillies have a plethora of starting pitching prospects nipping at the heels of the major leagues.
Tyler Cloyd and Jonathan Pettibone appear to be the closest to being major-league ready, with Ethan Martin, Adam Morgan and Jesse Biddle not far behind. Trevor May was the Phillies No. 1 pitching prospect going into 2012, but has been beat up pretty hard all season in Double-A.
Look for some of these pitching prospects to get a September call up to see if they can contribute at the major-league level. If Vance Worley or Kyle Kendrick struggles in 2013, look for them to be quickly replaced by a slew of young talented arms.
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Who will man the hot corner for the Phillies in 2013? Your guess is as good as mine.
Can the Phillies honestly take on Placido Polanco's 2013 option worth $5.5 million? He will turn 37 in October. Hopefully, the answers is no, but if worst comes to worst, they can always bring back Polanco.
Kevin Frandsen has been unbelievable since he was called up to fill in for Polanco. He plays 150 percent day in and day out which is something other Phillies players should look at on how to approach the game. Can the minor-league journeyman play everyday if need be?
That remains to be seen; his success, so far this season,is too small of a sample size to judge his true ability. However, it does look like he has played himself into a utility role for the 2013 season. So far, he is batting .358 with an OPS of .833 in 81 at-bats this season.
So where do we go from here?
Names like Kevin Youkalis have been thrown around as a rental for 2013, but I believe it's time for the Philles to take a risk on a younger player and role the dice. Down on the farm, the Philles have several third-base prospects who are having very respectable seasons in the minor leagues.
At age 22, Cody Asche has probably been the biggest surprise of any position player in the Phillies minor-league system. He has made the jump from High-A Clearwater to Double-A Reading where he struggled at first, but has recently been on surge to give himself very respectable numbers in 56 games in Double-A.
In both leagues, Asche is batting a combined .321 with 11 HR, 66 RBI, 11 SB and an OPS of .831.
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Oh, that terrible Phillies bullpen, how miserable you have made Phillies fans here in 2012. It's been a disaster from top to bottom, from overpaying for Jonathan Papelbon to Ruben Amaro thinking the aging Jose Contreras and the terrible Chad Qualls could contribute at the major-league level. It seems every arm that comes into pitch blows lead after lead.
The Phillies need to make a drastic change in the type of arms they make available for the late innings. Whether it be re-signing Ryan Madson, signing a quality relief arm like Mike Adam or anything in between. Something needs to be done and fast. The Phillies cannot afford to lose games past the seventh inning if they want to compete with the Nationals and Braves in 2013.
Ruben Amaro Jr. acquired Josh Lindblom as apart of the deal for Shane Victorino, but he has been absolutely terrible in his nine appearances with the Phillies. In eight innings of work, he has an ERA of 7.88 and has given up seven walks and three home runs. Those numbers speak for themselves and only add to the bullpen's woes.
One or two significant additions must be acquired, but has overpaying for Papelbon and Ruben's soured relationship with super agent Scott Boras handcuffed the Phillies? Only time will tell.
Charlie Manuel and His Staff
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Charlie Manuel and his crew of coaches appear to be wearing out their welcome here in Philadelphia. If the Phillies want to wipe the slate clean and start a new era of Phillies baseball, they will have to part ways with Charlie and the majority of his coaching staff—in particular Greg Gross who has brought nothing to this team in his tenure in Philadelphia.
His replacement should be Lehigh Valley's manager and Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg. If the Phillies choose to let Manuel coach the final year of his contract, they should at least bring up Ryan to the major-league staff and replace one of the current coaches.
Charlie and his coaches' commitment to veteran players have hurt this team's productivity. Their commitment to having Jimmy Rollins remain as the lead off hitter has especially been affected. Rollins' average has just dropped under .240, and his OBP is below .300.
If the Phillies want to start a brand of Phillies baseball where things like Rollins jogging out a ground ball will not be tolerated, Sandberg is the answer.
Just look what he has done with players like Erik Kratz and Kevin Frandsen. Both of them are contributing and playing at a high level since reaching the major leagues, while a player like John Mayberry Jr. continues to spin out of control toward non-existence.
Vote Ryne Sandberg for 2013.
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Currently, the Phillies have maybe one everyday outfielder on their current roster. John Mayberry Jr. is not and will never be an everyday major-league outfielder. His splits against right-handed pitching are pathetic at best, in 179 at-bats, he is batting a whopping .218. He's a fifth outfielder on a good day.
At 35 years old, Juan Pierre has been the best acquisition the Phillies made going into 2012. He is currently batting .304 with a .342 OBP and an incredible 31 stolen bases while being caught only five times.
The Phillies should re-sign Pierre to either man left field if they cannot sign a major outfield free agent or be a fourth outfielder and pinch-runner. He is also a great veteran presence in the clubhouse and is a work horse to boot.
Nate Schierholtz will remain a question mark after he broke his toe after whacking a foul ball off his foot. He will be 29 going into the 2013 season and is not the long-term solution at any outfield position. He is a career .268 hitter with an OPS of .726. He's nothing to write home about. Him and Mayberry should battle for one of the final bench spots in 2013.
A wild card for an outfield position, most likely left field, is Darin Ruf, who currently is killing the ball in Double-A. The 26-year-old is currently batting .310 with 32 HR, 88 RBI, 61 BB, 84 R and an OPS of .999. He also has 63 extra-base hits. Impressed? So is everyone else. Look for him to get a September call-up to see what he can do against big-league pitching.
Finally, we come to the enigma that is Domonic Brown. It looks like the Phillies are finally committed to see what he's got at the major-league level. In his audition for the 2013 squad, he has not disappointed.
Through 21 games, he is batting .282 with an OPS of .761. His defense is still a work in progress to say the least, but his arm has been astonishing from right field. Look for Brown to lock up an everyday starting spot for 2013.
Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino will both be free agents after the 2012 season. Could the Phillies bring back Shane? If he still commands a five-year deal, the answer is no. As far as Bourn is concerned, his agent is Scot Boras, so he will command a huge contract. Fortunately for the Phillies, they have money to spend.
Get ready for a busy offseason Phillies fans; it should be an exciting one.