Coming into the 2013 offseason, we knew that the Philadelphia Phillies' Opening Day roster for the upcoming season would look drastically different than it did in 2012, for a number of different reasons. Some players are healthy, and others are no longer with the club.
The Phillies haven't even finished adding to their product yet and, already, we get the sense that they are going to be better, stronger and healthier. That should go a long way in erasing the most disappointing season in recent history from memory.
Pitchers and catchers still won't report to Clearwater, Florida for more than two months from now, but we already have an idea of what this club will look like. The following slideshow will update what the Phillies could look like on Opening Day in April.
I will be factoring in players on the roster, recent additions the club has made and predictions for players that I believe the Phillies could still add.
There are a few places that Ben Revere can hit in the Phillies' lineup, but I like him in the leadoff spot. Of course, this can only happen if Charlie Manuel shows a willingness to move Jimmy Rollins lower in the order—something I believe to be beneficial for everyone involved.
Revere isn't the most dynamic hitter you're ever going to see, but he can make things happen at the top of the order. He is a swing-happy, contact hitter who will hit the ball on the ground at an eyebrow raising clip, but he will rarely strike out.
Once he's on base, Revere will use his speed to make things happen. In the past, Manuel has preferred having two speedy players at the top of his order—Rollins and Shane Victorino—to set the table, which is why I think Revere ultimately ends up hitting first or second.
Michael Young is another player that could fit into the Phillies' lineup in a couple of different places. I like him hitting second because he breaks up some of the left-handed hitters in the Phillies' lineup and makes a lot of contact.
The Phillies are hoping that Young's 2012 season was just a bad year. They have hope that letting him play everyday at one position will help bring some level of comfort to his approach at the plate.
Personally, I like the duo of Revere and Young at the top of the order. Both are contact hitters who do not strike out frequently and finds ways to get on base. Revere's speed and Young's contact could set the middle of the order up quite nicely.
Some people have bounced around the idea of Chase Utley hitting second, but if history is any lesson, Charlie Manuel prefers having his second baseman hit third. It's hard to fault him for that because, for some reason, that's where Utley's numbers are best.
If he is healthy, there should be little doubt that Utley is going to be playing second base and hitting either second or third in the order. The real question is whether or not his new offseason regimen is going to have him ready for Opening Day.
I think he will be. The end of the 2012 season was an upward trend for Utley, and it isn't unreasonable to expect big things from him in 2013—a contract year.
Before missing the final week or so of the season with a broken toe, Ryan Howard looked like he was finally starting to tap back into that mammoth power. If the Phillies are going to be successful in 2013, they're going to need Howard.
No, he isn't the most dynamic hitter that the Phillies have to offer, but a quick glance at this lineup shows that it is lacking any source of serious power outside of Howard. If he were to miss a significant amount of time, it could be disastrous for this lineup's balance.
The easiest way to approach this situation is to level your expectations: Howard is going to be one of the club's biggest sources of power, as long as he is healthy, and he is going to struggle mightily against left-handed pitching.
If he wasn't making more than $20 million a year, I'd seriously suggest a platoon.
Who are the Phillies going to sign to play a corner outfield spot and provide some power in the middle of the order? That, indeed, is the biggest question remaining this offseason.
There are a number of options here, but I have a gut feeling that this club is laying in the weeds, waiting out Josh Hamilton.
In fact, this would-be free agent pursuit reminds me a lot of the way the Phillies approached Cliff Lee prior to the 2011 season. All winter long, they maintained that they were not interested in Lee, leaking small phrases like "that ship has sailed" to the media while waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
But it sure sounds a lot like what is happening this offseason with Hamilton.
According to CBS Philly, the Phillies have offered the slugger a three-year deal that is believed to be in the range of $80 million. Not only would this deal result in a nice cash windfall and decent number of years for the 31-year-old, but it also seems as though his other options are running thin.
The Boston Red Sox are out of the running following their shopping spree that included Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino.
The Texas Rangers clearly prefer to trade for Justin Upton.
The New York Yankees may be interested, but they'd actually have to move salary to add Hamilton, as hard as that may be to believe. Curtis Granderson is a name that has come up in trade talks.
Hamilton's most aggressive suitor besides the Phillies may be the Seattle Mariners, and their interest has been tepid all offseason long. If Hamilton is going to be forced to sign a shorter deal than he would like, is he willing to spend the first season or two waiting on Seattle's top prospects?
That is why the Phillies are the best fit for Hamilton. They have the money, they have the need, and even though he isn't a right-handed bat, Hamilton has had more success against left-handed pitching in recent memory than Chase Utley and Ryan Howard combined. His swing is practically catered to that short porch in right field at Citizens Bank Park.
For a team with an aging core and not a single impact outfielder coming through the farm system in sight, count me in on Hamilton.
Other Options: Nick Swisher, Cody Ross, Josh Willingham
Before we really get into discussing Jimmy Rollins, here is a disclaimer of sorts: I know that there is a strong possibility that he opens the season as the club's leadoff hitter. No, I was not born under a rock. No, I am not stupid.
But with that having been said, given the current names on the Phillies' roster, Rollins is much better suited to hit lower in the order. I have him hitting sixth here. But in a lineup that would normally feature Carlos Ruiz, I'd consider hitting him seventh.
Rollins is not a bad hitter by any stretch of the imagination. He just doesn't have an approach that is conducive to being a good leadoff hitter. For a team with no other option, that's a problem, as it was for the Phillies last season. However, this year, they could conceivably hand the torch off to Ben Revere.
And I would do just that. Rollins' bat just profiles better in the middle of the order, and his average has been down in recent years. His on-base percentage is consistently declining as well. All of these factors do not make for a good leadoff hitter.
But what Rollins' does offer is good power and—in a normal year—a guy who is going to make a decent amount of contact. Throwing some speed into the lower half of the order wouldn't be a terrible idea either.
If I had my way, Domonic Brown would be the left fielder of the Philadelphia Phillies, period. He deserves an opportunity to play every day in order to show that he is capable of living up to the lofty potential that the Phillies have established for him.
But the honest truth here is that it looks like Brown is going to wind up being the left-handed portion of a solid platoon with either Darin Ruf or John Mayberry Jr.—or both.
That wouldn't be the worst idea in the world. Brown's approach was noticeably better against right-handed pitching and Ruf and Mayberry have both clobbered lefties at some point in their career. The most difficult thing about this platoon would be trying to figure out what you have in Ruf. We'll talk more about him in a different slide.
In any platoon, I'd consider Brown to be the primary guy. His approach by season's end was one of the best in the lineup and the power started coming around. It wouldn't surprise me if he started off as part of platoon but wound up playing everyday—a la Geoff Jenkins/Jayson Werth in 2008.
With Carlos Ruiz suspended for the first 25 games of the regular seasons—thanks to a positive test for an amphetamine (Adderall)—Erik Kratz will be the man starting at catcher for the Phillies through the first month of the season, if all goes according to plan.
Kratz did an excellent job for the Phillies last season when Brian Schneider went down with an injury, and his above-average play eventually left Schneider without a job.
When Ruiz is back in the fold, Kratz will move back to the bench. In either role, what the Phillies have is a solid defensive catcher with some pop from the right side of the plate. He'll be a good backup/temporary starter.
We can haggle over just what order the Phillies plan to place their starting pitchers in at a later date. Right now, all you need to know is that Roy Halladay is going to be in it.
This could be a big year for Halladay. Unless he pitches in an incredible amount of innings this season, Doc will likely hit the free agent market at season's end, making this a contract year for the Phillies' ace.
Given his track record for success, it is hard to consider 2012 as anything but an outlier for Halladay. The drop in fastball velocity leads a lot of people—myself included—to believe that he was pitching with an injury last season. Even at 35 years old, Halladay is one of the most well conditioned athletes around.
And even if the drop in velocity is permanent, don't be so naive to believe that Halladay hasn't spent his every waking moment this offseason learning how to pitch with an upper 80s cutter as his best pitch—just in case.
But the lack in velocity, weird pitch selection and lack of command lead me to believe that Halladay was pitching hurt in 2012. By 2013, he should be good to go.
Sure, it's cliche, but the starting pitchers at the front of the Phillies' starting rotation are some of the most intense competitors in the game today, and I have little doubt that Cliff Lee will make it a personal mission to prove the naysayers wrong in 2013.
With Cole Hamels moving into the prime of his career, Charlie Manuel may decide to make Lee the third starter of the regular season, but in all honesty, that makes little difference.
What you need to know is that the Phillies will once again employ three elite pitchers in 2013 and Lee is among them. He is second on my depth chart.
This could be a big year for Cole Hamels. With Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee both pushing into their mid 30s, is this the year that Hamels becomes the ace of the Philadelphia Phillies once again?
It could happen.
2013 will be the first year of Hamels' six-year, $144 million contract extension that he signed last summer, and even after seven seasons with the Phillies, there is going to be a fair amount of pressure on Hamels to live up to that deal.
With that having been said, I don't see any reason that Hamels can't win 20 games in 2013. He has been inching closer and closer over the past two seasons and with a bit of run support, he could be good for the feat next year.
After trading Vance Worley to the Minnesota Twins, the Phillies clearly need a starting pitcher to stick in the back end of their rotation. But teams seem to be paying a premium price for pitching right now and a difference-maker may be tough to find.
One guy that makes a good bit of sense for the Phillies is former Toronto Blue Jay and Milwaukee Brewer Shaun Marcum. He is coming off of an injury-riddled season, but he is also just a year removed from back-to-back 13-win seasons.
With that being said, I picked Marcum for this list before the Twins went out and signed Kevin Correia to a two-year, $10 million deal, and you also have to remember that the Washington Nationals signed Dan Haren to a one-year, $13 million deal earlier this winter.
The question about Marcum is whether or not he'll be looking for a multi-year commitment or a one-year deal to rebuild some of his value. He may be too expensive for the Phillies in either scenario, but he is one of the few pitchers left on the market that actually represents a huge upgrade over Tyler Cloyd and he could fit within the Phillies' price range (assuming they need to spend most of those available funds on am impact outfielder).
Other Options: Jon Pettibone, Cloyd, Francisco Liriano, Jair Jurrjens, Edwin Jackson, John Lannan, Brett Myers, Joe Saunders, Carlos Villanuvea.
Kyle Kendrick earned his spot in the starting rotation with an excellent second half performance in 2012, and trading Vance Worley all but guaranteed him a spot in the rotation moving forward. Now, that could be a good thing or a bad thing for the Phillies.
If Kendrick's improvement in 2012 was legitimate—and there is reason to believe that it was—then the Phillies have themselves a solid, back-of-the-rotation starter at an affordable price.
If not, the Phillies could be in some trouble, especially if they can't replace Worley in the rotation. If they're forced to open the season with both Kedrick and Tyler Cloyd in the rotation, they could be looking at a pair of upgrades come midseason, and that won't go well.
The Phillies essentially need Kendrick to at least be average. They need him to pitch like a fifth starter, and that isn't too much to ask for.
Lost in the drama of Major League Baseball suspending Phillies starting catcher Carlos Ruiz for 25 games was the fact that the Phillies signed a pretty solid backup catcher in Humberto Quintero.
Quintero, who spent 2012 with the Kansas City Royals, is the kind of catcher that the Phillies like having in their organization—a solid defender who is going to call a good game, even if it means producing lightly at the plate.
There have been some questions about Quintero's character in the past, but if all goes according to plan for the Phillies, he probably won't see much of the MLB outside of April anyway.
The Phillies have quite a few possibilities on their bench this offseason, but one player that I expect to see on it come Opening Day is left fielder Darin Ruf. If the Phillies are able to land a right fielder, he could see plenty of action as the right-handed half of a platoon with Domonic Brown.
Some have speculated that Ruf could be sent to Triple-A in a roster crunch with John Mayberry Jr. remaining on the roster, but the Phillies' best roster construction is with Ruf on it. It comes down to the simple fact that Ruf is 26 years old and won't do much more developing in the minor leagues.
The Phillies know what they're getting out of Mayberry, and if 2012 was any indication, it isn't much. Ruf offers more power and upside. Mayberry offers better defense. The latter of those skills is very replaceable, and upside is something that the Phillies could desperately use.
I expect to see Ruf on the roster. At the very least, he is the best right-handed bat off of the bench.
Then again, I don't think that John Mayberry Jr. is going anywhere either—mainly because he is out of minor league options and the Phillies won't risk exposing him to waivers. I tried to convince myself that he was expendable, and in my mind, he is. I just can't see the Phillies cutting him, however, and keeping Darin Ruf on board makes more sense to me.
So Mayberry stays, and without a backup center fielder on the roster, that makes a good bit of sense. He also provides some right-handed power and has handled left-handed pitching well over the course of his career. If the Phillies can't find an everyday right fielder, Mayberry could be a solid right-handed platoon option.
But if not Mayberry...
I'd love to see the Phillies hang on to Ender Inciarte.
The Phils recently plucked him out of the Arizona Diamondbacks system in the Rule 5 draft, but that was before they had acquired Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins. Without a doubt, Inciarte was a backup plan in case they couldn't find a center fielder.
But he brings certain aspects to this club that they desperately need—speed and defense. Inciarte is a plus-runner and an above-average defender. The hit tool is lacking, but if the Phillies are seriously going to keep someone around for defense, Inciarte could be the better fit.
I'm giving the nod to Kevin Frandsen here because it was painfully obvious that Freddy Galvis is not ready to hit MLB pitching. He is better served playing a full season at Triple-A as the Phillies decide Chase Utley's future.
In the short term, Kevin Frandsen is a perfectly suitable option as the club's utility infielder. He is a solid defender at second and third base and has played shortstop in the past. He isn't half of the defender that Galvis is, but right now, Frandsen is a much better hitter.
If the Phillies still have big plans for Galvis in the future, they'll give him a full season's worth of at-bats in Lehigh Valley. Frandsen is better suited for a utility role.
A lot of people around the game were surprised that the Phillies non-tendered Nate Schierholtz, and you can count me among them. While everyone realized it was a possibility, Schierholtz could be a solid big league regular, if given the opportunity.
So when the Phillies actually made the decision to non-tender him, it spoke more to their plans for Laynce Nix than anyone else. Now, Nix is the lone left-handed hitter remaining on the bench and the Phils are counting on him to stay healthy in 2013.
That's a big leap of faith on the Phillies' behalf, seeing as how Nix struggled in 2012. He missed more than 50 games with a severe calf strain and never tapped into his power. With Jim Thome long out of the picture, they'll need that left-handed pop from Nix in '13.
Lost in the hype of some of the Phillies' top relief prospects pushing their way to the MLB last season was one of the first guys to arrive on the scene in 2011—Mike Stutes. The right-handed reliever missed nearly all of the 2012 season following exploratory shoulder surgery.
But Stutes is on pace to rejoin the Phillies in spring training and should have a spot on the club, unless someone comes into camp and completely blows him out of the water. Considering the fact that the Phillies once considered Stutes to be a possible setup man, I don't see that happening.
Other Options: Mike Schwimer, BJ Rosenberg, Tyler Cloyd
Who would have thought that Jeremy Horst would close the 2012 season as one of the best relievers in the Phillies' bullpen? This is a man who didn't even make the club out of spring training.
But as the Phillies decided to shake up their bullpen, Horst was given a chance and slowly made his way up the depth chart. Charlie Manuel initially used him as a left-handed specialist, but by the end of the season, Horst was one of his go-to guys in the later innings.
Because the Phillies have a number of left-handed options, I wouldn't consider Horst to be a "sure thing," but he is close. He was easily one of the best relievers they had last season and there is little reason to believe that he can't repeat his performance—especially if he is only facing lefties, which is a strong possibility.
Other Options: Jake Diekman, Joe Savery, Raul Valdes.
After missing a ton of time early in the season with an arm injury, Justin De Fratus joined the Phillies late in the season and gave fans a glimpse into the future. He is only one of a few exciting, late-inning relievers that this club has to offer.
De Fratus was a guy that I thought was impressive because he looked more poised with each outing. He has a great fastball/slider combination that, as the season wore on, looked even better.
A lot of that has to do with command and control. When he first returned to the MLB, both of those things were shaky, but with each passing outing, De Fratus' control improved and he went on one of the best runs for any Phillies' reliever last season.
Some people still think he has to earn his way on to the club. I don't. He is one of the best relievers on the roster.
Sure, Phillippe Aumont can be kind of nerve-wracking at times, but that's the trade-off, because when this guy is throwing strikes (or perhaps more appropriately, anything close to the strike zone), he is nearly impossible to hit.
And that, in a nutshell, is why he'll be in the Phillies' bullpen next season, especially if they can't find a right-handed setup man from outside of the organization.
By now, everyone knows about Aumont's repertoire. He has the dazzling fastball that sits in the mid 90s with incredible movement. He has the knee-buckling "slurve" and a splitter that drops off the table in the blink of an eye.
What Aumont really needs to do is repeat his mechanics better and by proxy, improve his command and control. If he is able to do that, the Phillies could essentially have two closers between him and Jonathan Papelbon.
Antonio Bastardo had an interesting year in 2012. In the first half of the season, he was bad. In the second half, he was very good. And that's the volatile nature of being a reliever and dealing with small sample sizes in a nutshell.
You can break down Bastardo's struggles and successes into a couple of different categories. Early in the season, he struggled with his control, which led to an increase in both walks and home runs.
After the All-Star break, he seemed to have figured something out. Bastardo's control improved quite a bit and, as a result, his strikeout rate shot through the roof. He finished the year with a strikeout rate of 36.2.
The Phillies will be hoping that "good Bastardo" shows up to pitch as their left-handed setup man in 2013.
There are a lot of people who believe that the Phillies absolutely need to go out and acquire a veteran, right-handed setup man, but I'm not one of them. I think the Phillies have enough talent in their bullpen to spend those available funds in other places (perhaps for a corner outfield spot and a starting pitcher).
However, if the Phillies do acquire a right-handed setup man, he needs to be someone who is affordable, both in terms of salary and prospects. Colorado's Matt Belisle is someone that they should look into.
According to FanGraphs' WAR calculator, only two pitchers in the game have been more valuable than Belisle over the last three seasons: Craig Kimbrel and Sean Marshall. That's it. The man who is fourth on that list is currently closing games for the Phillies.
Over that span of time, Belisle has thrown 244 innings, induced plenty of groundballs (49.9 percent) and posted a strikeout-to-walk rate of 4.54.
The Phillies and Rockies have already had some discussions this winter (surrounding Dexter Fowler) and were apparently willing to deal Tyler Cloyd and Sebastian Valle to Houston for Wilton Lopez, now a member of the Rockies.
Would they be willing to part with a bit more for Belisle?
Other Options: Mike Adams
The Phillies are never going to live down giving Jonathan Papelbon $50 million, but where would this bullpen have been without him in the ninth inning last season? As a young bullpen experimented, Papelbon was the rock that (barely) held the whole thing together.
In 2013, the Phillies figure to be both healthier and more experienced in the bullpen, which could help ease the workload for Papelbon and pay dividends to the Phillies' starters.
If the Phillies, as a team, are healthy next season, Papelbon will be among the league leaders in saves.