With the month of December roaring to a close and New Year's Day so close that you can practically touch it, it's that time once again—New Year's resolutions. You know, those things that—after a careful examination of things you hate in 2012—you tell yourself you're going to correct in 2013. Not ringing a bell? They normally last about a week. Or is that just me?
Well, anyway, a New Year's resolution is officially defined as a "commitment that an individual makes to a project or the reforming of a habit, often a lifestyle change, that is generally interpreted as advantageous." If the Philadelphia Phillies want to be successful in a tough National League East in 2013, they're going to have to make a bunch of resolutions.
In the following slideshow, I'll make one resolution for each player—something that they're going to have to accomplish on an individual level to help the team. If this is a club dreaming of a World Series, they'll make sure these resolutions don't fall by the wayside.
Resolution: Forget about hitting for power. Stick to your gameplan!
When the Phillies agreed to acquire Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins, there were plenty of words written about his lack of power. If the Phillies wanted power, however, Revere would have been the last person that came to mind.
What Revere brings to the table is speed and contact. He is going to hit a ton of groundballs (and hope that they find gaps between infielders) and line drives. That allows him to disrupt the game with his speed on the base paths.
Citizens Bank Park has a tendency to get into the head of guys like Revere. The fences look closer here than the did in Minnesota, but lets take things one step at a time.
Resolution: Leave Texas in the past. Focus on being a one-position player for the Phillies.
2012 was the culmination of a series of unfortunate events for Michael Young. The Texas Rangers had essentially replaced him in the infield by continuing to cultivate top young talent and the veteran infielder wanted out. He finally got his wish this offseason.
With the Phillies, Young now has the unwritten luxury of coming to the ballpark everyday knowing that he'll be in the lineup and playing third base. He can take all of his repetitions at the hot corner and use that extra time in the batting cage.
Now that he is out of Texas, it is important to leave history where it belongs. If he can do that, a solid rebound season is not out of the question for this veteran.
Resolution: Stay healthy!
Hey. Everyone knew it was coming. When Chase Utley is healthy, he is one of the best second basemen in all of baseball, but when you back over the last couple of seasons, how often has he been healthy?
And sure, "staying healthy" isn't necessarily something that Utley control, but the movement comes down to more than just working on his chronically degenerating knees. It's about not playing every moment like he'll never touch a baseball field again. It's about Charlie Manuel giving him a few days off.
The Phillies are, undoubtedly, at their best when Utley is on the field. Keeping him in playing shape is going to be important not just for him, but for the team as a whole.
Resolution: Forget about the injury history. Focus on staying in shape and being a productive power hitter.
In other words, "Do what the Phillies are paying you to do."
But it's more than that for Ryan Howard. Returning from a partially torn Achilles tendon last season, Howard looked noticeably lost at times. He struggled to get anything going offensively and looked very uncomfortable against left-handed pitching.
If the Phillies are going to be operating at full potential, Howard is one of their most important pieces. This is a club already lacking power in the order. If Howard isn't hitting for power, the Phillies may have some trouble scoring runs.
Howard's resolution this year will be to leave the injury history in the past. Get comfortable at the plate and anchor this lineup. The Phillies are going to need "The Big Piece."
Resolution: Prove that the best season of his career was not the result of a banned substance.
With "steroids" all but removed from the game thanks to Major League Baseball's stringent drug testing policy, one of the more frequent positive tests in today's game is for the amphetamine Adderall—a drug used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and stimulant that increases focus.
The Phillies have contracted a few players in the past to test positive for the substance, including Kevin Frandsen and outfield prospect Zach Collier, but the big blow came this offseason when the club's starting catcher (and best offensive player from 2012) tested positive, Carlos Ruiz.
Coming off of the heels of a career year, now Ruiz will have to face the naysayers. How can he prove that his performance in '12 was not enhanced by a banned substance? Show that the strides he made offensively were real.
When his suspension expires at the end of April, the Phillies are going to need him to step right into the lineup and produce. No excuses.
Resolution: Show a willingness to move out of the leadoff spot!
First things first. We need to set the record straight. Jimmy Rollins is not a bad offensive player. For his position, he has above average power and speed to burn. Pair that with defense that is well above average and you have one of the most valuable shortstops in the game.
The problem is that Rollins just isn't suited to function as the Phillies' leadoff hitter, and there is nothing wrong with that. The addition of Ben Revere gives the Phillies the option of dropping Rollins to a lower spot in the batting order that better suits his power.
Again, Rollins is not a bad hitter. What the Phillies really need, however, is to create a more balanced lineup. In my opinion, Rollins is better suited to hit in the middle of the order, around sixth.
Resolution: Prove to the Phillies that he can be an everyday corner outfielder by producing results.
From a personal point of view, I've been very transparent about my feelings towards Domonic Brown. The Phillies are essentially shooting themselves in the foot by limiting his at-bats and sticking him in platoons. What he really needs is a chance to play everyday.
However, the Phillies clearly do not feel the same way. Ever since Brown has made his MLB debut, he has been sheltered from left-handed pitchers and forced to platoon with extraordinarily average right-handed hitters.
Eventually, that is going to have to come to an end. The only way for Brown to reach his true potential at this point is apparently to tear the cover off of the ball in platoon. If that's what it takes for him to become an everyday player, then that's what it takes.
Resolution: Hit for power! Show the Phillies you can be a strong, left-handed platoon option.
When the Phillies signed Laynce Nix to a two-year deal last offseason, the thought was that he was a very good role player. He could hit for some power off of the bench or serve as a platoon partner with John Mayberry Jr.
Eventually, both of those things fell by the wayside. Nix dealt with a severe calf strain during the season that cause him to miss more than 50 games. When he returned from the injury, he didn't show the power that the Phillies expected.
If the Phillies are going to make two platoons work in 2013, they're going to need Nix to stay healthy and hit for power. He is never going to be a good contact hitter, and without that tool, he is going to need to reach into the well and drive the ball into the stands next season.
Resolution: Don't worry about being the best pitcher in the game. Worry about staying healthy. By proxy, make sure last season's control and pitch selection issues were an aberration.
Believe it or not, Roy Halladay is not a cyborg. He is a mere mortal, just like the rest of us (okay, maybe not just like the rest of us) and isn't getting younger. At 35 years old, his best baseball is probably a thing of the past.
But that's okay. The Phillies don't need Halladay to throw no-hitters and win Cy Young awards to be effective. What they need him to do is pitch. It sounds simple, but it's the truth.
Sure, it's a microcosm of the entire season, but how much of a coincidence is it that Halladay hits the disabled list for the first time as a member of the Phillies and the club misses the postseason? This team is at its best when Halladay is on the mound.
So with that in mind, the first resolution for Halladay is to stay healthy, something he will have addressed by spring training. On a similar note, it is important for Halladay to erase the baffling pitch selection he used in 2012. Trust the cutter, regardless of the velocity, because of the movement it has.
Even in the latter years of his career, Halladay is still one of the game's better pitchers. He gets a ton of movement on his pitches and as long as he can control them, is going to be successful.
Resolution: Cut back on home runs and stay the course.
The 2012 season was an ugly one for the Phillies, so there are a lot of resolutions to be made for the 2013 campaign. Cliff Lee is one of the few guys still on this team that could repeat his '12 season and be successful.
That may sound a bit funny to say about a guy who won six games last year, but how many of those were the direct result of bad bullpen management, blown leads and poor offense?
When you look across Lee's statistics, there aren't many improvements to be made. He is one of the game's premier control pitchers. The strikeouts were good. Across the board, the only real blemish was an increased home run rate.
With some offense, a good bullpen and fewer home runs, Lee could win a Cy Young in 2013.
Resolution: Don't draw any unnecessary attention to the club.
Admittedly, I'm drawing a blank for a resolution for Cole Hamels. Here we have a player that just signed a "mega-deal" to remain with the Phillies and had one of the best seasons of his career. Strikeouts, walks and home runs are all in line with his career norms.
If you could say one thing about Hamels, it may be that he has a flair for drawing heat to the Phillies. Plunking rookie sensations is probably a tradition that should end with the conclusion of 2012.
Otherwise, Hamels could essentially repeat his '12 campaign and receive consideration for a Cy Young Award. Is repeating the previous year an acceptable New Year's resolution?
Resolution: So you're a member of the starting rotation... Pitch like it!
I almost feel bad for Kyle Kendrick. Even when Roy Halladay is on the mend and he is pitching like one of the league's top starters, Kendrick still draws the venom of Phillies fans. Well, there is one surefire way to fix that—pick up where you left off in 2012.
Following the All-Star break, something clicked for Kendrick. He was utilizing his changeup perfectly, working his cutter in good counts and moving away from the sinker that runs right over the heart of the plate. As a result, he was one of the club's best pitchers in the second half, going 9-4 with a 2.87 ERA.
The Phillies' front office must have liked what they saw. They felt confident in moving Vance Worley in a trade and allowing Kendrick to become the club's fourth starter. Needless to say, if Kendrick tanks in 2013, things are going to get ugly.
Resolution: Build off of late-season success.
One of the most important things for John Lannan is the fact that he is joining a starting rotation with the knowledge that he is going to have a spot during the regular season. With that in mind, he'll be able to attempt to build off of his late-season success with the Washington Nationals in 2012.
It's not all sunshine and rainbows for Lannan though. This is a guy that struggled in Triple-A last season before making a handful of very good starts for the Nats in September.
Don't expect anything flashy. He has a very standard repertoire (fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, slider, changeup) and doesn't throw hard. He needs to improve his control and produce a strong ground-ball rate.
If those things fall into place, there is no reason that Lannan can not be a quality fifth starter for the Phillies.
Resolution: Don't try and do too much. The Phillies need a good catcher here. Worry about the offense when applicable.
The last thing that you want a guy like Erik Kratz to do is come into the season with a mindset that he has to be the guy. He has to be the guy to replace Carlos Ruiz's production both offensively and defensively, and that's just not going to happen.
What the Phillies really need Kratz to do is continue to play solid defense. While he isn't Ruiz, Kratz flashed a strong, accurate arm last season and was very good blocking pitches in the dirt.
Handling a pitching staff that features names like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Phillippe Aumont and others isn't a simple task. Kratz can't bite off more than he can chew in his month or so as the club's starter.
Resolution: Take the 2013 season in stride—whatever it throws at you. Don't try and be something you're not. Improve plate discipline and pick right up where you left off.
I'm going with more of a vague approach to Darin Ruf's New Year's resolution because the honest truth here is that no one knows just what is in store for him in 2013. Part of the solution is going to be take things in stride. If he's sent to Triple-A, for example, he'll need to mash the cover off of the ball to get back.
But I don't think that will be the case. The Phillies have given Ruf every chance in the world to prove that he is ready to play in the MLB. He went from Double-A straight to the Phillies. He mashed the ball in his Venezuelan winter league.
The next step for Ruf is to have some role with the Phils. Will he be a platoon player? Can he be an everyday guy? That question is yet to be answered.
In any role, Ruf will have to improve his discipline at the plate. We all know that he is going to hit for power, but striking out at a clip of 32.4 percent and barely taking a walk is going to turn him into a very one-dimensional hitter, quickly.
Resolution: Embrace being a role player. Continue to hit left-handed pitching well and play solid defense. Cut back on strikeouts and refine approach.
John Mayberry Jr. had every chance in the world to prove that he could play everyday. Coming from a guy who is well aware of what happens when you receive three strikes in this game, it's time for Mayberry to take his seat on the bench.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Mayberry can be a very good role player. This is a man who, through all of his struggles, has always hit left-handed pitching well (career .875 OPS, 20 home runs) and plays a solid defense when not overexposed both in the outfield and at first base.
Part of the onus here is on the Phillies to accept the fact that Mayberry is never going to be an everyday player. If both parties accept the fact that he is a platoon player who plays solid defense, at best, then he could have a solid season.
Resolution: Adjust to playing in a reduced role. Play solid defense and provide quality at-bats.
Kevin Frandsen isn't a lock to make this club out of spring training, but I'd give him the inside track. As we'll discuss in a moment, Freddy Galvis could benefit from getting regular at-bats in Triple-A and Frandsen is more suited to being a utility man.
What exactly does that mean? Frandsen had an incredible second half for the Phillies last season—one that had some fans heralding him as the next third baseman, but the acquisition of Michael Young spells the end of that.
Now, what the Phillies need Frandsen to do is become a very good utility man. He'll need to play average defense at three positions (third base, shortstop and second base) and continue to have a quality approach at the plate.
Frandsen's biggest resolution this season will be to hit his new role in stride. Failure to do so will likely result in a demotion, with Galvis waiting in the wings.
Resolution: Make some noise in spring training! Show the club why you can be a valuable bench player.
Just in case you had already forgotten, as most people have, the Phillies did make a selection in the MLB portion of this year's Rule 5 Draft, plucking Arizona Diamondbacks' prospect Ender Inciarte out of High-A.
Now, the Phillies already have a crowded outfield. Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix will absorb a majority of the at-bats, and the Phillies could still add another outfielder before the spring.
For Inciarte to make the club, he'll need to show that he can provide an element that a guy like Nix cannot. He has great speed and is a tremendous defender. He could be a solid bench player in 2013 with room to grow into an interest prospect, but can he make the cut over what the Phils already have?
Resolution: Prove that you're healthy. Continue to play elite defense and produce in the limited opportunities you're given.
This is a resolution for Freddy Galvis.
With the addition of Michael Young and Kevin Frandsen still aboard, the picture has become cloudy for Galvis. If the Phillies still value him as a prospect, they'll send him back to Triple-A, not because he deserves a demotion, but because he needs to have regular at-bats.
In the even of an injury in the infield, he should be the first player recalled.
Resolution: Stay healthy! Attack the strike zone more often with that good fastball.
The Phillies bullpen has a chance to be very good this season. Not only are they promoting some of their top prospects for good, but they're going to be healthy as well. One of the big names on that front is Mike Stutes.
Stutes, who missed nearly all of the 2012 season with a shoulder injury, had opened a few eyes in 2011. He was called up when the Phillies desperately needed a right-handed setup man, and though he eventually faded down the stretch run, showed a lot of promise.
That's why I think that he'll end up pitch with the Phillies this season. It wouldn't surprise me if the Phillies sent him to Triple-A to log some innings and used a "long man" in the mold of a Michael Schwimer or BJ Rosenberg instead, but Stutes will be back eventually.
When he returns, he'll need to cut back on the walks. He has a good fastball and solid offspeed offerings, and there is no reason that he should be afraid to attack the strike zone.
Resolution: Improve command and pick up where you left off in 2012.
In hindsight, Jeremy Horst was one of the Phillies' best relievers last season. That's nothing short of a minor miracle given the fact that he was considered a "throw-in" to the trade that sent Wilson Valdez to the Cincinnati Reds.
Though he started the season in Triple-A, when Horst arrived in the MLB, he certainly pitched like he didn't want to go back. In 31.1 innings, he posted an ERA of just 1.15. The strikeouts were good, but it would be nice to see the BB/9 mark come down from 4.02.
In all honesty, however, that's probably the only blemish. There is no reason that Horst cannot be a sensational left-handed specialist, at the least, in 2013.
Resolution: Stay healthy! Don't be afraid to pound the strike zone and make a name for yourself.
For the last few seasons, all the talk in regards to Phillies' prospects has been their proficiency for developing late-inning reliever types that would have a sound impact on the MLB club. Well, they're here, and Justin De Fratus is among them.
After missing the first half of the season with an injury in 2012, De Fratus joined the Phillies once again in September and showed flashes of brilliance.
For a guy coming off of a serious injury, the obvious resolution here is to stay healthy. Beyond that, it will be important for De Fratus to assert himself. His control is much better than that of fellow highly-touted relief prospect Phillippe Aumont, and he has the fastball / slider combination to be a very effective reliever.
Resolution: Throw strikes!
Throwing strikes is not something that comes easily for Phillippe Aumont, but that's not surprising. His entire repertoire consists of pitches with ridiculous movement that can't be easy to control, but he'll have to do his best if he wants to stick in this bullpen.
The key for Aumont is going to be pounding the strike zone. He has the great fastball that will make hitters miss. He has the knee-buckling slurve that will start in the strike zone and fall out quickly. Ditto for the eye-popping splitter.
Aumont is at his worst when he is afraid to throw strikes. It will be important for him to have faith in his repertoire. Most of the stuff that this guy throws in the strike zone doesn't stay there for long anyway.
Resolution: Improve command and cut back on the home runs.
Antonio Bastardo had an interesting season in 2012. He admitted to feeling a bit of a numbing sensation in his fingers early in spring training and was not himself throughout the campaign's first half. However, when the All-Star break ended, it was all business for Bastardo.
He was incredible in the second half of the season and it had everything to do with commanding his fastball. He was throwing it by hitters, locating, but most importantly, setting up his slider. He finished with a very strong K/9 mark of 14.02.
With Mike Adams aboard, Bastardo's role isn't going to be as important in 2013, but it will still be important. Even if he is only a left-handed specialist at this point, commanding the fastball will lead to success.
Resolution: Continue to regain health and do what you do best.
Last offseason, the Phillies felt as though they could not compete without a legitimate, shutdown closer and went out and signed the best on the market in Jonathan Papelbon. This offseason, the Phillies felt as though they couldn't compete without a good eighth inning setup man, and once again, signed the best.
Mike Adams, health permitting, is going to help this club quite a bit. Over the last half decade or so, he has been the best setup man in the game. Of course, health is an issue for Adams right now. He had a rib removed over the offseason to treat a condition known as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which caused numbness in his fingertips and stress in other parts of his arm.
But now that he is more than three weeks into a throwing program, it looks like all systems will be go in April. At that point, all Adams really has to do is continue to pitch like the dominant eighth inning man that helped him make his name.
Resolution: Repeat 2012.
I'd like to make a strong resolution for Jonathan Papelbon, but the man was really every bit as good as advertised for the Phillies last season.
Looking across his statistics, the one thing that really jumps out is the fact that his home run rate has nearly doubled from the previous year, but that wasn't entirely unexpected. He is a flyball pitcher moving into Citizens Bank Park.
And even then, 1.03 HR/9 is a normal rate. It isn't above average. He posted above average strikeout numbers and didn't walk many batters. He saved 38 games in a season where the Phillies only won a total of 81.
With a better bullpen ahead of him, who knows what Papelbon could do in 2013.