It wasn't easy, and it certainly didn't go according to plan, but the Philadelphia Phillies somehow managed to cross off all of the items on their offseason shopping list before spring training arrived, adding a center fielder, third baseman, starting pitcher, setup man and corner outfielder.
Now as January rolls into its final weeks and the month of February rounds into focus, it's time to dust off the good old crystal ball and offer up some bold predictions for this Phillies club during spring training—and it is going to be an eventful one.
The Phillies will have all of the good storylines this spring. Players returning from injury like Roy Halladay and Chase Utley will be a big focus. How about players competing for jobs, like the trio of Darin Ruf, Domonic Brown and Delmon Young? Then there is always the favorite question—what can the new guys offer?
Yes, it is certainly going to be an eventful spring for this Phillies club eager to climb back to the top of the division, but why wait? Here are 25 bold predictions for spring training in Clearwater, Florida.
Prediction: Mike Adams will participate in a large portion of spring training and show glimpses of dominance.
After establishing himself as one of the best relievers in the game with the San Diego Padres, the trade to the Texas Rangers wasn't necessarily kind to Adams. He struggled both with performance and health before joining the Phillies this offseason.
And I use that word "struggle" lightly. Adams may have struggled by his own standards, but his work was still very good. Having undergone surgery to treat his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome this winter, both he and the Phillies hope that he'll be able to return to dominance. I believe this to be possible.
Adams' repertoire, which includes a slider with a lot of movement, all but depends on having a strong grip on the baseball—something that he did not have while suffering from TOS. He'll also be facing weaker lineups in the National League than he was in the American League, which should be a benefit.
Prediction: In spring training, the Phillies' core of young relievers will begin to show why this will be a dominant bullpen for a long time.
In hindsight, it's easy to call 2012 a "transition year" for the Phillies. Nearly all of their stars dealt with some kind of injury, both large and small, which gave some of the organization's younger players a chance to shine.
This was most evident in the bullpen, where established relievers started dropping like flies and gave way to a number of young relievers for a majority of the season.
Two of the obvious names to keep an eye on are right-handed relievers Phillippe Aumont and Justin De Fratus. Both have back-end-of-the-bullpen potential and got their feet wet in MLB last season. But they won't be alone.
Antonio Bastardo and Jeremy Horst are the pair of lefties likely to be in camp on Opening Day, but they'll have competition from the likes of Jake Diekman and Joe Savery. Right-handed relievers like Mike Stutes, Mike Schwimer, B.J. Rosenberg and others can also make some noise.
Spring training is going to be fun to watch when it comes to Phillies pitching. They'll be fielding a ton of talented arms this season.
Prediction: Antonio Bastardo will be able to carry his second-half success (from 2012) into spring training and eventually the regular season.
When you look back over the last few seasons of Phillies baseball, the parallel between Bastardo pitching well and the bullpen as a whole pitching well is fairly obvious, which isn't much of a surprise. He's a key cog in the machine.
So it had to be frustrating for the Phillies' staff to watch Bastardo struggle in the first half of 2012, when his velocity took an early vacation, and he struggled with his mechanics. By the season's second half, however, he had made the necessary adjustments and was ringing batters up with relative ease.
So what's the difference? Like most pitchers, mechanics are a key for Bastardo, who tends to get a bit carried away with his delivery. When he is repeating his mechanics, he is able to locate the fastball (with the necessary velocity), which helps to make his good, tight slider more effective.
Bastardo's 2012 season was quite polarizing, but I don't think that it is unreasonable to expect to see Dr. Jekyll as opposed to Mr. Hyde in 2013.
Prediction: With the fifth starter's spot anything but a guarantee, some under-the-radar starting pitchers make some noise this spring.
Any time that a club throws some guaranteed money at a starting pitcher, you know that he has the inside track for a job, and that's exactly what the Phillies did this offseason by signing John Lannan to a one-year, $2.5 million deal with incentives.
But it is far from a guarantee that Lannan, who struggled with the Washington Nationals' Triple-A affiliate, makes the club, especially with a number of interesting starting pitchers in camp.
The two players with the highest potential to ruin Lannan's day are Tyler Cloyd, who pitched with the Phillies last season, and Jonathan Pettibone, a highly touted, right-handed pitching prospect. A poor showing from Lannan and an excellent showing from either of those guys could force some dominoes over.
The Phillies also invited a pair of veteran pitchers on minor league deals to camp with MLB experience. Rodrigo Lopez was briefly in the MLB with the Chicago Cubs last season, while Aaron Cook had his own brief showing with the Boston Red Sox. Both are seen as minor league depth, at this point.
But they'll keep it interesting, is the point here, and it wouldn't surprise me to see a guy like Pettibone completely out-pitch Lannan this spring.
Prediction: Roy Halladay will be healthy throughout the spring and get the nod for the Phillies on Opening Day.
The 2012 season was obviously a disappointment for Halladay, who struggled with an injury and never found a way to get going. Coincidentally (or maybe not), the Phillies, as a result, struggled as a team. That's the kind of impact that a pitcher like Halladay can have on a club.
But if you're looking for a bit of good news, it sure sounds as though "Doc" is going to be healthy for the start of spring training and ready to go. After a few tweaks to his offseason throwing program, the Phillies have maintained a positive health report for Halladay all winter long, and now, with spring coming into focus, we have this.
Roy Halladay threw 30 pitches from mound today in CLW w pitching coach Rich Dubee watching. All went well as he ramped up offseason program
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) January 23, 2013
And that's good news for the Phillies. With the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves both having improved this offseason, the Phillies need to improve by nursing their injured stars back to 100 percent health. Halladay is going to be a weapon they'll need to utilize.
Prediction: Cole Hamels will be dominant in spring training—a success that will carry right over into the regular season.
Hamels' changeup is kind of like a fine wine. It's only gotten better with each passing season, the culmination of which was one of the best seasons of the lefty's career in 2012, albeit in a losing effort by the Phillies as a whole.
In the past, Hamels has struggled in spring training, as most good pitchers do. It's a time for pitchers to get a feel for the baseball, work on mechanics, fine-tune their delivery, etc. But this year, things will be different for Hamels.
Spring training is going to be important for the Phillies' veterans this season. With the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves both having improved, it is important for this club to avoid a slow start. Turning up the dials in spring training is one way to accomplish that.
Having all but mastered his fastball, changeup and cutter repertoire, I expect big things out of Hamels not only this spring but throughout the regular season as well.
Prediction: Although not as stellar, Jeremy Horst will have outstanding spring and make the Phillies bullpen with ease.
Baseball is a funny sport in that good players can come out of nowhere. Jeremy Horst is a perfect example, as people were ribbing Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. for saving some money by sending Wilson Valdez to the Cincinnati Reds.
On his way back to the Phillies, however, was Horst. After a brief stint in the minors, the Phillies recalled him as a left-handed reliever, and he was excellent, retiring batters of both handedness with ease. By the end of the season, Charlie Manuel found himself calling on Horst with greater frequency.
Even then, the lefty is far from guaranteed a spot in what could quickly become a cloudy bullpen picture for the Phillies. There are a lot of great arms in camp this spring, and a poor performance could be the downfall of a few names.
However, with the Phillies having added Mike Adams to secure the eighth inning this season, Horst can be used more selectively as a left-handed specialist. That distinction should allow him plenty of success in 2013, and I would say that he has the inside track on a job already.
Prediction: Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan will be named the Phillies' fourth and fifth starters, respectively.
This one may not seem so bold on the surface, but this club actually has quite a bit riding on Kendrick and Lannan. Both are relative uncertainties at this point who could spell the difference between success and failure for the back end of this rotation.
Kendrick, of course, is a familiar face. He'll have a full offseason to prepare for a single role, and barring any catastrophic occurrences in the spring, will leave camp as the club's fourth starter. But can he maintain the success that gave him this opportunity?
Lannan is a former rival—probably most well known in Philadelphia for breaking Chase Utley's hand and being somewhat of a punching bag for the Phillies' lineup with the Washington Nationals—turned friend. The Phillies are gambling that his vastly improved record minus his struggles against the Phils is no coincidence.
Either way, as things stand right now, it would be a surprise if someone other than Kendrick and Lannan were in the starting rotation to open the season, barring an injury.
Prediction: Cliff Lee will have a great, if uneventful, spring training that centers around establishing command of all of his pitches.
I'm a big supporter of the WWE. (It's my guilty pleasure. Don't judge me!) One of my favorite slogans from the past was used by Stone Cold Steve Austin, and for some reason, it reminds me a lot of Lee's approach to the game: "Arrive. Raise Hell. Leave."
Well, that's probably what Lee is going to do this spring. It's a time for starting pitchers to prepare for the regular season, but this is the kind of guy who seems like he wants to compete every time that he steps on the mound.
Nothing that Lee does is ever all that flashy, but he'll wind up having a great spring that leaves him well-prepared for the regular season. And with a better lineup and bullpen surrounding him, it could be a fun year for a guy like Lee.
Prediction: After a strong, healthy showing in spring training, Mike Stutes will be rewarded with the final spot in the Phillies' bullpen.
We haven't even closed the book on January just yet, so the bullpen is going to be incredibly difficult to forecast. Here is what we know for sure: Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo are locks. Jeremy Horst, Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont are all but surefire bets.
If you're looking at history, there is one spot left open in the Phillies bullpen. The one thing that they're missing is a "swingman," or long reliever—something that they have liked to carry in the past.
That guy could end up being John Lannan if someone beats him out for a spot in the rotation, but that's unlikely. Another guy to consider for this role is Tyler Cloyd, who doesn't have anything left to prove in Triple-A.
But for now, I'm going to predict that Stutes winds up winning this job, because the Phillies like to bring their best arms with them. He'll have some competition, but if Stutes is healthy, he represents some of the highest upside of any Phils reliever.
Like I said, however, he will certainly have his competition. Guys like Mike Schwimer, B.J. Rosenberg, Justin Friend, Jake Diekman, Joe Savery and Raul Valdes will be in camp to give him a run for his money.
Prediction: Carlos Ruiz will have a very strong showing in spring training before he is forced to shut it down in April due to a 25-game suspension.
Ruiz certainly surprised quite a few people with his incredible maturation as a hitter last season, but the question now becomes just how much of it was real? With a high BABIP (indicating luck) and not one, but two positive tests for a banned substance (the amphetamine Adderall), we have to try and read between the lines here.
Has Ruiz become a good hitter, or was he cheating and/or lucky? The honest answer, in my opinion, is that it is some combination of both extremes.
There was obviously some benefit from taking Adderall, which is used to treat ADHD and increase focus, and there were times last season where any ball that Ruiz hit found a hole. He is not going to have that working in his favor in 2013.
But he was also a noticeably better hitter, both in approach and results. He posted strong contact and line-drive methods, and his power spiked—both indications that he was just hitting the ball better than he had at any other point in his career.
So with that in mind, I think that Ruiz will get off to a hot start in the spring. He has something to prove. What I honestly cannot even hazard a guess on is how the eventual 25-game suspension will affect him.
Prediction: Erik Kratz will see plenty of playing time in spring training to better prepare for his month-long role as the club's starting catcher—a role that he plays well.
Carlos Ruiz's 25-game suspension to start the season will give the Phillies a bit of a logistical headache right off of the bat, but the good news is that Kratz, who filled a similar role for the Phils last season, should be up to the challenge in 2013.
In fact, Kratz was at his best last season when he saw regular at-bats. He hit for average and power and gave the Phillies a real breather during Ruiz's trip to the disabled list. I think that you can expect something similar (though on a smaller scale) this spring and through April.
The real worry may be once Ruiz returns, and Kratz moves into a backup role. He struggled when his playing time was cut last season, and that could be a concern for a player who shouldn't expect to see many at-bats.
Prediction: The Phillies' best, most interesting position battle this spring will be between Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis for the super-utility role.
The Phillies are going to have a few position battles this spring. They have a lot of outfielders vying for two corner outfield spots, a lot of relievers vying for one bullpen spot and a few starting pitchers with something to prove.
The one battle that hasn't gotten much press is the one that is likely to occur between Frandsen and Galvis for the "super-utility" role, but it's going to be interesting—mainly because each player brings a very different style of play to the bench.
If this were a campaign, Frandsen should be promoting his offense. He's a quality hitter who can hit for contact and give you, as Charlie Manuel would say, a "professional at-bat" as well as play solid defense at three positions.
Galvis' counter argument is going to be his supreme defense, which many believe is more valuable in a utility infielder. He can also boast some upside offensively, whereas Frandsen has likely peaked and is unable to reproduce his 2012 numbers.
Whatever happens, this one is going to be one to keep an eye on. The "loser" will end up in Triple-A.
Prediction: Ryan Howard will arrive to camp in much better shape than last season and is able to have a healthy and productive spring, leaving optimism for the 2013 season.
It goes without saying, but Howard has something to prove in 2013. He has something to prove over each of the next few seasons, as the Phillies are paying him a ton of money to keep this lineup afloat. Is he going to be able to?
Well, that's a different story, but I predict that he'll show up to Clearwater, Florida this season in much better physical condition to do so. Now that the Achilles injury is a thing of the past, Howard has spent the offseason both slimming down and bulking up, hoping to provide the power that this Phillies' lineup so desperately needs.
The key for Howard is going to be cutting back on strikeouts and taking a better approach against left-handed pitching. He needs to make more contact and hit for more power, and that all starts with being well conditioned.
I think that he will be. You can expect a small power show from Howard this spring—a teaser for the regular season.
Prediction: Jimmy Rollins will have a brief spring training, but he'll put on a show for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
There is probably going to be a fair amount of unwarranted worry about Rollins' participation in the WBC this March, but it's going to happen whether you want it to or not, so stick along for the ride.
Rollins is going to have an abbreviated camp before joining the rest of Team USA to take on some of the world's most promising clubs. This will be Rollins' second tour of duty with Team USA, the last of which came in 2009.
That was a memorable year for Rollins for all of the wrong reasons. He struggled mightily once rejoining the Phillies that season, something that fans will not forget. 2013 will be the year that he reverses those fortunes.
The prediction here is that Rollins will have a very strong showing with Team USA (who could very well win the Classic) and then return to the Phillies to have a solid season. That means he'll playing elite defense and providing some power from (what should be) the middle of the order.
Prediction: Chase Utley will arrive to camp healthy and begins a productive run towards an All-Star caliber season.
It wouldn't be fair to say that the Phillies' season "hinges" on the health of Utley, but if he can't play for a large portion of the year, this club is in trouble. Luckily for all you Phillies fans, I'm predicting that this won't be a problem.
The end of last season seemed to be very telling for Utley. He finally came to an understanding on how to manage his chronically degenerating knees while playing at a high level. The power began to return. The plate discipline was excellent.
Those are things that the Phillies are going to need in 2013 if they have any intention of keeping pace with the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves.
Utley is going to have a full, healthy spring, and though it isn't necessarily a spring prediction, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Phillies second baseman make the All-Star team later this year.
Prediction: To the surprise of many, Michael Young will have an outstanding camp that quickly erases the doubt coming off of a poor 2012 season.
Acquiring Young was a polarizing move for the Phillies. He is coming off of the worst year of his professional career, and the Phillies haven't had a viable third baseman in what feels like forever. Fans aren't satisfied with another gamble.
But the addition of Young is one that the Phillies have been trying to make for a long time. Now that they have their man, what can you expect? I think that Young is going to surprise a few people. When you look at the situation he was in with the Texas Rangers, there is room for improvement.
Now, Young knows that he is going to be penciled into the lineup. He knows what position he'll be playing and where he'll hit in the order. All of these are important issues to professional players. Knowing these issues will allow him to prepare accordingly.
This prediction is simple: I think you'll see a reinvigorated, re-energized Michael Young in 2013, and the Phillies will be a much better team offensively because of it.
Prediction: Both Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf will do enough in spring training not only to make the club, but also appear in the Opening Day lineup.
Here's the thing about Delmon Young: The Phillies are asking a man who had ankle surgery in November to play a position that he has not played since 2007. The most likely scenario is that he tests his ankle out some in spring training but goes on the disabled list to start the season, which will allow him a rehab stint to work out there further.
That gives a few guys, namely Brown and Ruf, more time to impress the coaching staff and front office. When you break it down, however, the Phillies really need these guys to perform. They each have skill sets that would be very beneficial to this club.
Brown, who is out of minor-league options, is an obvious choice to stay even if he winds up being part of a platoon. Ruf has minor league options, but if Young isn't ready to start the season, the Phillies will burn one to give him an extended tryout.
The goal for both of these players is to exceed expectations. Doing so will likely force the Phillies' collective hand to keep them on the roster, but if they're playing well, all will go according to plan anyhow.
Prediction: The Phillies will release Laynce Nix before spring training ends.
Ruben Amaro Jr. has an awful tendency to give out more guaranteed contract years than are required to get a player signed, and while I'll spare you the list so that you won't have nightmares, just know that Laynce Nix—who probably wouldn't have gotten a MLB deal from another contender—is one of them.
Amaro, however, decided to give Nix two guaranteed years. Now he is going to pay the price. And no, it isn't a steep price but a price nonetheless. Instead of being able to hang onto a guy like Nate Schierholtz, the Phillies are still tied to Nix.
But for how long? The Phillies expected Nix to be a competent fielder, but more importantly, hit for power off of the bench. Even as one of the club's few left-handed options for the bench, he could be the odd man out in a roster crunch.
What happens if Delmon Young is ready for Opening Day? What happens if the Phillies decide to keep Ender Inciarte, who has better speed and defense, aboard? I just don't see a scenario where the Phillies are overly interested in keeping a non-productive player aboard.
Prediction: The Phillies will decide to add Rule 5 draft pick Ender Inciarte to the 25-man roster.
When you look at the Phillies' outfield situation, the addition of Delmon Young only made things more convoluted. Now, the Phillies have six outfielders with a legitimate shot of appearing on the Opening Day roster. At least one of them has to go. So let's break it down.
The Phillies seem intent on giving Young a shot to be the everyday right fielder, but his health is in question, and we're going to assume that he opens the season on the disabled list. Domonic Brown is out of minor-league options, so he stays as well.
Darin Ruf can still be sent to the minor leagues, but he gives the Phillies their best source of right-handed power. They'll need him. John Mayberry Jr. is a favorite among the coaching staff and solid part-time player. It's almost foolish to bet against him anymore. They both stay (for now).
In my opinion, Laynce Nix is the odd man out. He is a situational player who didn't produce the way that the Phillies believed he would in 2012, as he showed a lack of power and mediocre defense. So who else stays?
One interesting name to keep an eye on is Inciarte, the Phillies' Rule 5 pick. He isn't going to contribute with the bat much, but he gives the Phillies something that their other bench players can't—speed. Inciarte has plus speed and defense and could be a nice fit for the bench.
Prediction: After a mediocre spring training, John Mayberry Jr.'s chances of making the club will go down to the wire, with a last minute decision that is really 50/50.
Remember this time last year? We we're talking about how Mayberry would have an opportunity to win a job and how some of us, myself included, thought that he could do it. Hey, he played really well in the second half of 2011.
This time it's different. Mayberry is on the bubble. The addition of Delmon Young pushes him even further from a starting job, and he has shown that he can't hit right-handed pitching. Playing defense on a full-time basis left him exposed in 2012.
Mayberry is competing to be a bench player. At most, he is a platoon player. Will the Phillies still hold on to him after another mediocre spring? I'm beginning to believe that the answer is "no." They have the personnel to move on without him.
I don't think that he is going to have an excellent spring training, so a decision to keep Mayberry or cut him loose will go down to the wire and is likely dependent upon Young's health. If Young starts on the DL, which he likely will, then Mayberry makes the cut.
If not, things could get interesting.
Prediction: After a so-so spring at the plate, Delmon Young will open the regular season on the disabled list.
Signing Young is going to go one of three ways for Ruben Amaro Jr. The first one is simple: Cut him loose before he has a chance to drag you down with him, but hey, that's the easy way out.
Assuming that Young actually gets to play, the other two choices are simple: He's either going to make Amaro look like a genius or a fool.
Either way, the Phillies seem intent on giving him a shot to win the right field job. (Yes, that's right. Right field). You probably won't see much of Young in spring training—at least not in the field. Look at it this way.
The Phillies are asking Young to play right field—a position that he has not played since he was a member of the Rays" href="http://bleacherreport.com/tampa-bay-rays" target="_blank">Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2007. They'll be asking him to do so on a surgically repaired ankle, as he had bone spurs removed last November.
Now, the logical plan of attack here is that Young gets as many repetitions as he can handle in right field but more plate appearances as the designated hitter in spring training. He will then go on the disabled list to start the season, and the subsequent rehabilitation assignment will give him a chance to play right field in the minors.
In the meantime, guys like Darin Ruf, Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. will get a bit of an extended showcase.
Prediction: Ben Revere's ability to cover a lot of ground in center field will quickly become a blessing to the Phillies and help turn him into a fan-favorite.
Look, getting along with Phillies fans isn't all that difficult. When you wear the uniform, you leave it all on the field. Play the blue-collar style of baseball that this city expects and they'll embrace you. It's really as simple as that. Revere plays this style of baseball.
In spring training and beyond, he is going to have his work cut out for him, particularly defensively, where he will have the task of covering for poor defenders like Delmon Young, Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown on any given play.
But Revere plays the game with a brash, hard-nosed style of defense that should help the Phillies defensively in the outfield but perhaps more importantly, win over the hearts of the fanbase. It won't take long.
Prediction: Spring training will give fans (as well as the coaching staff and front office) a first-hand look at some of this organization's game-changing prospects, all of whom have a lot to prove.
The Phillies have quite a few prospects in MLB camp this season, but there are a few who jump off of the page, and they'll be worth keeping an eye on in the near future, as they could be wearing red pinstripes soon.
The bullpen is an easy place to begin. Relievers like Jake Diekman, Justin Friend, Kyle Simon and Mike Schwimer will be in camp, among others, and they could very well wind up in the Phillies' bullpen with a good spring.
The Phillies will also have quite a few starting pitchers in camp as well, and while Tyler Cloyd and Jon Pettibone may be the only ones with a realistic shot at making the club, we'll get a small glimpse of the future by watching guys like Adam Morgan and Ethan Martin.
Cody Asche and Tommy Joseph will also be in camp, and they could be the Phillies' starting third baseman and catcher as soon as 2014. Other positional prospects in camp include Zach Collier and Tyson Gillies, who each need to have good seasons.
The prediction here isn't all that complicated, but it needs to be said: This could be a transition year for the Phillies. Keep an eye on some of these prospects, because soon enough, they could all be at the doorstep to MLB.
Prediction: No big surprises for the Phillies this spring.
Sometimes, these prediction articles can get kind of carried away. I like to keep a realistic approach to it, and the truth is that I don't see many big surprises for the Phillies this spring.
Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay should all be healthy. There is a strong chance that Delmon Young opens the season on the disabled list, giving Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf extended looks in the lineup.
Those are the easy ones. Some of the boldest predictions have to do with position battles. The bullpen job is going to be interesting, as is the one for the final bench spot and the super-utility role. I also think that Ender Inciarte has a strong chance to beat Laynce Nix for that left-handed outfielder's spot.
But at the end of the day, the Phillies are following an obvious blueprint, and the truth is that I don't see many bumps in the road. If I may be so bold, there won't be any major surprises for the Phillies this spring.