The Philadelphia Phillies recently sent the majority of their prospects training with the major league roster over to their minor league camp, and have just 18 games remaining before the team heads north for Opening Day.
At this point, it’s time for players to narrow down their lists of which areas still need work before the start of the season. For some players, only a few weeks remain to even earn a spot on the major league roster.
The Phillies’ camp has featured a little bit of everything this spring.
Some players have shined bright while others are still looking for a spark, and some prospects provided optimism for the future while others left much to be desired.
Basically, it’s had all the characteristics of a typical spring training camp.
Since pitchers and catchers first reported nearly a month ago, the Phillies have had their share of surprise performances from players. A few busts here and there so far and, thankfully, few injuries that are still lingering.
The Phils must now hope that two of these three trends continue into the regular season.
This list features only players who either appeared in the major leagues last season, or who were projected as having a chance to make the major league roster out of spring training this season.
With three weeks to go until Opening Day, here is an update on the surprises, busts and injuries at Phillies camp.
Ryan Howard has been a surprise in spring training not because he has actually appeared in games for the first time since 2011, but because of how well he has performed in these games.
Howard missed a considerable amount of time last season, and only batted .219 upon his return.
At the beginning of camp, questions were still surrounding Howard’s recovery from an Achilles’ injury in 2011, which preceded a broken toe he suffered late last season.
Not only has he answered these questions by playing in nearly all of the games so far, but he is also tied for the lead in home runs among all players throughout both spring training leagues.
Howard is currently batting .333 with four home runs, 12 RBI and 13 hits in 39 at-bats.
His average includes a .500 mark in 14 at-bats against left-handers.
Howard’s average has dipped in recent games due to higher strikeout numbers, but he managed to bat nearly .400 for the first two weeks of camp.
After starting spring training with some concern still surrounding his health, Howard has surprised many by having one of the best camps of all Phillies’ players.
Spring training statistics are meaningless once the regular season begins, but they still show how a player is progressing during the lead up to Opening Day.
In Howard’s case, if these numbers lead to a season of 30 home runs, 100 RBI and a batting average near .270, the Phillies have plenty of reason for optimism on offense.
If there is one batter that has had a more surprising spring than Ryan Howard, it’s Domonic Brown.
At 25, on his third chance to become an everyday starter, Brown has shown his most promising signs towards having a firm grasp on a starting job.
Brown’s .432 batting average is the highest among Phillies’ players with at least 15 at-bats this spring, and is currently the tenth highest among all players.
Brown also has three home runs, 16 hits in 37 at-bats.
Even more impressive, he has walked six times and has just five strikeouts. Brown has also scored 15 runs in 14 games.
Brown has not had this type of success in parts of three major league seasons, in which he is a career .235 hitter with five home runs and 26 RBI.
However, this is his first chance to nab an Opening Day starting job even before the end of spring training.
The Phillies recently sent players such as Tommy Joseph and Cody Asche to their minor league camp, after both turned in impressive performances with the major league team.
With Brown, the Phillies have a chance to bridge the gap from their current core to the younger wave of players on the verge of being major league ready.
A successful season by Brown can both help the Phillies this season, and enhance the team’s future.
Kevin Frandsen’s batting average could decrease by 30 points from last season to this season and he would still be a valuable option off the Phillies’ bench.
However, Frandsen’s early spring performances make it seem like such a large drop-off may not occur.
Frandsen is batting .355 with two home runs and 11 hits in 31 at-bats, and has struck out just three times.
Following the acquisition of Michael Young during the offseason, Frandsen was moved into a reserve role and may have initially been part of a competition for utility roles.
Instead, between his tremendous offensive numbers and versatility on defense, it appears as if Frandsen’s Opening Day roster spot is secure.
Frandsen batted .338 with 66 hits in 55 games after he was called-up in late July.
The question is whether he can maintain even partially similar numbers during a 162-game schedule.
So far, Frandsen has eased concerns over any significant dip in offense.
Among Phillies’ players with at least 30 at-bats this spring, only Domonic Brown and Young have higher batting averages.
Although, his high batting average will likely decrease once the regular season begins, he does have a chance to become a .300 bat off the bench.
The Phillies have a need for a solid utility infielder given its history.
Frandsen has an opportunity to take and thrive in such a role this season.
Ender Inciarte, the Phillies’ Rule 5 selection, has a great deal of work cut out for him in order to make the Opening Day roster.
However, halfway through camp, he just might have a chance.
Inciarte has never played above High-A ball, but did bat .307 with 145 hits and 46 stolen bases in 127 games last season.
Where Inciarte has shined, however, is on defense and with his speed.
Inciarte’s average has dipped recently to .273 in just 11 at-bats, although he has a .467 OBP.
The Phillies entered camp with six outfielders fighting for five spots, with Inciarte likely running in seventh place. In order to make the roster, he will need to pass two outfielders on the depth chart.
With Delmon Young out until at least April, according to general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. in an article by Todd Zolecki on the Phillies' website, Inciarte may be just one spot removed from making the roster.
If the Phillies stick with Laynce Nix as a left-handed batter with a .267 average against right-handers during the last three seasons combined, Darin Ruf may find himself at Triple-A to start the season.
In that situation, which David Murphy on Philly.com recently outlined, Inciarte could find himself on the Opening Day roster.
Inciarte entered camp having to surprise many to make the major league roster.
So far, he just might have a chance.
There is still time for Darin Ruf to heat up at the plate and improve defensively, but it must happen soon for him to start the season with the Phillies.
Ruf is a former first baseman attempting to transition to left field at the major league level directly from Double-A.
So far, the move has not gone well.
After hitting 41 home runs combined between Double-A and the major leagues last season, Ruf hasn't hit any this spring.
In 32 at-bats, Ruf is batting .188 with seven strikeouts and six RBI. He currently has just three extra base hits.
Defensively, he has been charged with two errors, and his route running and judgment are still very much a work in progress.
Ruf’s potential at the plate means that the Phillies could continue to give him time to work out the kinks in left field, but this time will likely come in the minor leagues at this point.
Now is Ruf’s best opportunity for making the major league roster, with John Mayberry, Jr. having a less than impressive spring and Delmon Young injured.
However, if Young returns to play well and Domonic Brown keeps up his solid start, Ruf could soon find himself blocked at both corner outfield spots.
John Mayberry, Jr. was unable to nail down a starting spot last season, and has watched the Phillies give Darin Ruf every opportunity to win the starting left fielder’s job this spring.
However, even with Ruf struggling and Delmon Young set to start the season on the disabled list. Left field is still wide open, Mayberry has not been able to step up and claim the starting job.
Mayberry is currently tied with Ben Revere for the most at-bats among Phillies’ players this spring.
Revere is batting .325, Mayberry .225.
In addition to his .225 average, Mayberry has nine hits, one home run and seven strikeouts, giving him a .279 OBP. In 12 at-bats against left-handers, he is batting .083.
Mayberry’s average is actually up from his final spring average of .203 last season.
If Ruf continues to struggle, Mayberry will still compete with Laynce Nix to become the Phillies’ starting left fielder.
If Mayberry does find himself in the Opening Day lineup, it will be more so due to injuries and poor performances by other players rather than due to a strong spring training.
Jeremy Horst likely only needs another solid outing or two to win one of three bullpen spots for Opening Day.
As of now however, Horst has allowed eight earned runs in six innings, with opponents batting .385.
Horst had a high ERA and allowed opponents to post a high batting average against him last spring and still managed to have a 1.15 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 31.1 innings with the Phillies last season.
Although the poor start can still be replaced with a strong finish, Horst must also make sure that pitchers such as Raul Valdes, Michael Stutes and Justin De Fratus don't also heat up and push him for a bullpen spot.
This is a projection if Phillippe Aumont is considered to already have claimed a spot.
His outing Tuesday, was a step in the right direction, as it was the first time he did not allow either a hit or a run in an outing this spring. Horst also struck out two batters for the second straight appearance.
Horst’s performances with the Phillies last season have earned him some leeway this spring, but he must continue to improve due to the amount of competition as of now.
B.J. Rosenberg likely was not in the running for a spot in the Opening Day bullpen, but he has still had one of the worst springs among Phillies’ pitchers.
In 3.1 innings, Rosenberg has given up nine earned runs with 12 hits, while walking three batters and striking out none.
Opponents are currently batting .571 off of him.
Rosenberg was called-up by the Phillies last season and appeared in 22 games, striking out 24 batters and posting a 6.12 ERA.
As a right-handed reliever, Rosenberg is behind Phillippe Aumont, Michael Stutes and Justin De Fratus among pitchers competing for bullpen spots.
His performances this spring could push him even further back.
The Phillies have fortunately had a healthy camp thus far, but, according to Todd Zolecki on the Phillies’ website, Rosenberg had a minor issue with his right elbow.
He pitched this past weekend and gave up four earned runs in .1 innings.
Rosenberg may still be on the Phillies’ radar as far as bullpen call-ups for later in the season, but he must improve greatly in order to remain there.
Tyler Cloyd could also receive some consideration as a “bust” this spring, but his poor numbers are due to just one outing, his second appearance of the spring.
According to an article by Jim Salisbury on CSNPhilly.com, Cloyd was battling stiffness in his forearm during this appearance.
However, Cloyd pitched a scoreless inning yesterday while throwing all strikes, seemingly showing that the forearm stiffness is no longer an issue.
Cloyd is competing to become the first starting pitcher called-up if either a replacement or fill-in is needed in the rotation.
As of now, he will have to battle Aaron Cook and possibly Jonathan Pettibone to earn such a call-up.
After going 15-1 with a 2.26 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 167 minor league innings last season, Cloyd was promoted to the major leagues and went 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA.
Due to his rough second outing, Cloyd is currently 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA and two strikeouts this spring.
Cloyd must continue to improve and find success at Triple-A in order to become the Phillies’ top promotion candidate
First, he must remain healthy.
Delmon Young is recovering from microfracture surgery on his ankle and is not expected to play this spring.
However, according to Todd Zolecki on the Phillies’ website, Young was recently told that he can step-up his rehab and take batting practice.
The article also contains a quote from general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. in which he says that he is hopeful that Young can return to playing in either early- or mid-April.
Young batted .267 with 18 home runs and 74 RBI last season while primarily serving as a designated hitter.
With the Phillies, Young will have to play right field.
Upon Young’s return, Domonic Brown will likely move to left field. The Phillies will also have to potentially either send Darin Ruf to Triple-A (if they haven’t already), or decide on Ender Inciarte’s future in order to make room for Young on the roster.
Young must prove that he can play at least adequate defense and provide solid offensive numbers.
If he can, the Phillies could have a surprisingly productive outfield.
If not, the Phillies will have a lot of decisions to make.