Philadelphia Phillies: 6 Most Disappointing Players in Spring Training so Far
As two weeks of spring training have shown the Philadelphia Phillies, not every player invited to major league camp can be deemed as impressive and ready for the start of the 2013 season.
Obviously, no team expects that every guy is going to put on a spring training performance for the ages. Some of the guys invited to camp are there just to get a tryout as it were. Others are there as minor league guys the team wants to take a better look at. And of course, there are the veterans who just are not 100 percent ready at the end of February.
Every team must face that for every Domonic Brown, (2013 spring numbers: .395 BA, 17 H, 15 R, 3 HR), there is going to be a Darin Ruf (2013 spring numbers: .200 BA, 8 SO).
So in taking into consideration factors such as the expectation (measured on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being the highest), 2012 stats and overall spring performance, here are the guys who have disappointed in baseball’s preseason.
6. Roy Halladay
Expectation Level: 7/8 of 10
2012 Season Stats: 25 GS, 156.1 IP, 155 H, 18 HR, 4.49 ERA
2013 Spring Training Stats: 4 GS, 11 IP, 12 H, 3 HR, 7.36 ERA
Halladay’s inclusion on this list may not be the most popular choice, but ultimately, the numbers speak for themselves.
While Halladay’s numbers are slightly inflated because of a recent performance in which he surrendered seven runs in 2.2 innings, the veteran really has not been sharp all spring. He has given up at least one run in three of his four outings and has done that never going more than 2.2 innings pitched.
With the exception of six walks, Halladay's command has been pretty solid as he is throwing nearly 68 percent of his pitches for strikes. The concern, however, is his declining velocity, which has rarely topped out at 90 this spring.
According to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, in Halladay’s most recent start, his fastball measured on the gun in the 86-88 MPH range, topping out at 88. Not coincidentally, he got hit hard in this start, surrendering seven runs and a grand slam to the Detroit Tigers.
Even though lower velocity in the spring is not too much of a concern as pitchers are just warming up their arm, the Phillies are worried about Halladay’s readings on the gun considering that he has lost ticks off of his fastball in each of the past three seasons.
Add this to the fact that he is 35 years old with a host of innings piled on to his arm and the red flag of last season’s injury, and his declining velocity could appear as a real issue for Halladay and the Phillies’ once the 2013 season starts.
5. Chase Utley
Expectation Level: 4/5 of 10
2012 Season Stats: 86 GP, 301 AB, 77 H, 48 R, 45 RBI, .256 BA
2013 Spring Training Stats: 12 GP, 30 AB, 5 R, 5 H, 6 RBI, .167 BA
Admittedly, other than to remain healthy, the expectations of Utley this spring training were not very high.
For some, just being able to see Chase Utley wear a spring training uniform and take BP and turn double plays with Jimmy Rollins during spring games qualifies his 2013 as a success. After all, this is the first season since 2010 that Utley has even participated in spring training.
Despite being a pretty solid performer in spring training, (career .276 BA), Utley has struggled at times this year, especially as of late. Since opening up the month of February by going 3-for-6, Utley has faltered as of late, managing just two hits in his last 24 at-bats.
Utley's six strikeouts, while they may seem low, amount to the fact that 20 percent of the time when he has an at-bat, he strikes out. Considering Utley's career mark of 17 percent, this is just a touch high.
It may not be an immediate concern, but Utley has shown signs this spring of not being able to consistently hit the ball where it is pitched, something he has done so well in his career.
At the moment, Utley's spring numbers, while not spectacular, do not give pause as to what he will do in 2013. While he does need to continue to make better contact and keep his swing compact, it is, as people say, "just spring training," and the disappointing start really should not carry over.
4. Cliff Lee
Expectation Level: 9/10 of 10
2012 Season Stats: 30 GS, 211 IP, 207 H, 207 SO, 26 HR, 3.16 ERA
2013 Spring Training Stats: 4 GS, 11.1 IP, 15 H, 3 HR, 12 SO, 5.56 ERA
While the 2012 win-loss record may tell one story, Lee’s stats tell another. He finished in the top 10 in the NL in IP, WHIP, ERA and SO, of which he hit 207, the second highest of his career.
Still, Lee entered spring training determined to do better, to improve in the areas he believed he fell short in. That said, so far, Lee has not exactly put up numbers worthy of a grand comeback.
Lee has given up at least two runs in all but one of his starts. For Lee, this number is not too bad, as he is a bit of a slow starter, only once posting an ERA under 4.70 during his career spring trainings. The number that does stand out, however, is that he has given up 15 hits in just nine innings pitched.
On March 3, Lee responded to feeling great about his spring performance to that point, saying:
"I feel good. I feel like I'm locating very well," Lee told the Phillies' official site. "I just missed up a little bit. It's just a matter of getting repetitions and getting comfortable with your delivery and repeating. ... I feel good. I feel like I'm right where I need to be. Physically, I feel great."
Since then, however, two starts have come and gone, and Lee’s performance has not gotten any better. His command is still a little off and he has made some pretty big mistakes thus far.
That said, don’t be too worried about Lee’s disappointing spring translating into a disappointing regular season. After all, in the year he won the Cy Young (2008), Lee pitched six starts to a 5.68 ERA and gave up 27 hits in just 19 innings.
3. Kyle Kendrick
Expectation Level: 6/7 of 10
2012 Stats: 25 GS, 37 GP, 159.1 IP, 154 H, 20 HR, 3.90 ERA
2013 Spring Training Stats: 3 GS, 8 IP, 12 H, 2 HR, 9.00 ERA
Last season, Kendrick had to fight for a spot in the rotation during spring training. While he ultimately did not make the Opening Day roster as a starter, his spring numbers were fantastic (2012: 1.54 ERA, 11.2 IP, 11 SO).
Entering 2013, Kendrick is not only guaranteed a spot, but it is also one that is likely to stick as he has been named the fourth man in a rotation of five. For the first time in quite a few years, Kendrick’s back is not against the wall.
Unfortunately, it is then when he does his best. In 2010 and 2012, when Kendrick was competing for a rotation spot, he pitched his two best spring training numbers, an ERA of 1.46 in 2010 and 1.54 in 2012.
Without having to worry about job security, Kendrick’s pitching seems to have suffered. In two of his three starts, including each of his past two, Kendrick has surrendered at least three runs in no more than four innings pitched.
Now Kendrick’s numbers may be hurt by the fact that he has used the spring to fine-tune his pitching, specifically his changeup. As one of his most effective pitches last year, Kendrick has worked this offseason to improve it further. It is worth noting, however, that where he has been hurt the most this spring is with his fastball, which at times has looked flat.
Regardless of why Kendrick’s numbers are down, the fact is that they are. The way he pitched last year set up high expectations, but Kendrick still has all of the 2013 season to show the Phils what he can do.
2. Erik Kratz
Expectation Level: 5 of 10
2012 Season Stats: 50 GP, 141 AB, 35 H, 9 HR, 26 RBI, .248 BA
2013 Spring Training Stats: 8 GP, 21 AB, 4 H, 1 HR, 5 RBI, .190 BA
When the 2013 regular season starts, Kratz will be the guy behind the plate. With the exception of a few games due to needed rest, he will be behind the plate for the first 25 contests of the season as Carlos Ruiz waits out his suspension due to violating MLB's substance abuse policy.
Because Kratz will be the catcher for the start of the season, the hope was that he could manage to replicate, at least in part, some of his 2012 numbers. Unfortunately, so far this spring, this has not been the case.
Kratz has played in a little less than half of the Phillies' games but is still struggling to regain his pop behind the plate. He has just one home run in 21 at-bats, and with just four hits, he has had problems with consistency in batting as well.
After starting the month of February without a hit, Kratz has found more success as of late. In March, he has four hits in 14 at-bats, a triple, a home run and all five of his RBI.
While Kratz still needs to work on his swing and approach at the plate, he has the rest of spring training to do so. His disappointing start is likely not going to last, especially with the strides he has already made in his past few games.
#1 Darin Ruf
Expectation Level: 7/8 of 10
2012 Season Stats: 12 GP, 33 AB, 11 H, 2 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 12 SO, .333 BA
2012 Minors Stats: 139 GP, 489 AB, 155 H, 32 2B, 38 HR, 104 RBI, 102 SO, .317 BA
2013 Spring Training Stats: 12 GP, 35 AB, 7 H, 3 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 8 SO, .200 BA
At 26 years old and in Double-A Reading, Ruf was not the typical prospect. In fact, it wasn't until he mashed 20 home runs in the month of July alone, leading to the eventual passing of Ryan Howard's Reading HR record, that Ruf appeared on the Phillies' radar.
He received a September call-up and the team took notice. Then he played winter league ball in Venezuela and recorded eight doubles and 10 home runs in 120 at-bats.
Now in the major league spring camp, the team found themselves so enamored with Ruf's raw potential that they attempted to convert him into a left fielder so that he could make the team. That did not go over so well (.85 FPCT, 1.38 range factor), and now it seems almost certain Ruf will begin the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Converting Ruf to a left fielder had a 50/50 shot of working, so the fact that he has not yet been able to figure out the position is not disappointing.
What is disappointing, however, is that in the approximate same sample of at-bats in his major league debut season and the 2013 spring, Ruf has failed to show the power and pop he was expected to produce.
Ruf has struggled with both the glove and bat this spring. He has gotten the chances to play everyday, but his bat has not stayed hot.
He has had a few notable games, including on March 7 against Minnesota where he went 2-for-4, hit two doubles and recorded three RBI, but overall, Ruf's spring has been disappointing and certainly not the one he had hoped for while competing for a major league job.
All spring training stats courtesy of philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com AND all other stats, unless other wise noted, courtesy of espn.go.com