Apparently Chase Utley feels "pretty damn good right now." Unfortunately, many Phillies fans feel as if the club is a sitting duck primed to be overwhelmed by the rising tide of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.
In all fairness, Utley was referring to his overall health. It's no secret that Utley has been dealing with lingering hip and knee issues over the last several years. The 34-year-old second baseman is likely to enter this season the healthiest he has been since 2010.
In all honesty, I have been back and forth on the idea of the sky falling in Philadelphia. While anyone with an IQ larger than a cheesesteak can see, the Phillies are no longer the cream of the crop in the National League. They are in a state of flux, awash with aging veterans who are more prone than ever to injuries.
To put it nicely, the talent pool beneath the Big Show is shallow. Baseball America just released its Top 100 Prospects list for 2013. Guess what? Only two Phillies make the list—No. 89 LHP Jessie Biddle and No. 100 SS Roman Quinn.
Talk about taking one on the chin. The gurus at Baseball America found it evident that they could find 88 better prospects elsewhere than in Philadelphia.
Still, I still feel pretty good about the Phillies this spring.
The team is apparently at full health for the start of the season, something they missed out on last year when they tiptoed into last season relying on Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix and Juan Pierre.
While first baseman Ryan Howard will always struggle against left-handed pitching, the ability to hit 30-plus home runs is still there. Count on him to add another 100 or more RBI in this full season as well.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins proved last year that he is not on his last leg either. Statistically, Rollins had his best year at age 33 since he won the NL MVP in 2007. No one can count on him repeating last year's numbers but anything close will help in adverting disaster early on.
Utley is who he is. We can only hope for a full season of strength and health at second base for the Phillies. If that happens, Utley can rebound in his contract year.
At his age, he is playing for reputable longevity at a position that has not been kind to 30-somethings in recent years.
Believing that Michael Young can shore up the third-base position is hazardous. Let's be honest, he is just keeping the seat warm for Cody Asche.
The outfield is a major question mark though. While no one hopes to see anyone get injured, Delmon Young beginning the season on the disabled list could be more of a gift than a curse.
Why—because we should finally get an extended look at both Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown.
The rotation and bullpen remain the strong suits of this organization. While it makes sense to see a further decrease in the overall production of Roy Halladay, he can still be a successful top-of-the-rotation pitcher if he adjusts his pitching to account for a decline in velocity.
Ultimately, only a homer oblivious to the challenges the Phillies must overcome would predict an NL East title for Philadelphia in 2013. Washington and Atlanta are two young and extremely talented clubs standing in the way of this aging lineup and rotation.
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