Philadelphia Phillies: 4 Toughest Decisions Remaining for the Team
With April 1st and the start of the 2013 baseball season just a few short days away, the Philadelphia Phillies have checked off quite a few items on their offseason to-do list and are closer to figuring out what their roster will look like for the regular season.
The team took care of a few housekeeping items by naming Cole Hamels the Opening Day starter, and by demoting Darin Ruf, it got a few steps closer to figuring out the outfield situation.
But for all of the things the Phillies did this offseason, there still remains open positions left to be filled and tough, unanswered questions that include:
- Which guys in camp will make the bullpen?
- Who will bat leadoff this season?
And, what are they to do with Ender Inciarte?
So with the start of the season just a few days away, here are the four toughest questions that are still facing the Phillies.
Batting Leadoff: Jimmy Rollins or Ben Revere?
For the past 13 years, Jimmy Rollins has been a mainstay not only in the Phillies lineup but as their leadoff hitter. While his status as the best shortstop to ever don red and white pinstripes may be debatable, no one can deny that Rollins has been a key cog in the Phillies' success as a leader both on and off the field.
And then there is Ben Revere.
The just 24-year-old Revere has batted either leadoff or second primarily over the course of his three-year career. He is a .263 hitter in the leadoff spot but a significantly better .307 hitter when hitting second. Revere's speed makes it a must to have him in the top two, but should he be the Phillies leadoff man?
Charlie Manuel says yes. Well, he says, "We'll see," to be exact.
According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Manuel is quoted as saying, "I will hit them first and second see how we look. Hit Rollins second sometimes, Ben first; Rollins first, Ben second. We'll see."
While this does not seem to be a ringing endorsement for either guy, Manuel's consideration of Revere is more than most in his position have received in the past. Speedster Juan Pierre couldn't wrestle the leadoff spot from Rollins and neither could Shane Victorino.
But this year, the Phillies may finally be seeing what others have known for years, and that is that Rollins is not a leadoff hitter. He doesn't take walks, he doesn't take pitches and his on-base percentage is average when at its best.
Now to Rollins' defense. Revere doesn't exactly have a glowing on-base percentage, either. The difference is that Revere has never hit a home run in his career and has no illusions about his power. As a result, he puts the ball on the ground more as opposed to Rollins, who has become the pop-up king in years past.
So regardless of the stats, one of these guys will be hitting leadoff, and it may just be determined on the right- or left-handed arm of the opposing guy on the mound.
Who Is Going to Back Up Erik Kratz in April?
By now, most people know that Carlos Ruiz will not be starting the season behind the plate. Those same people must also know that Erik Kratz, who figures to be this season's backup catcher, will have the primary catching duties until Ruiz returns.
What isn't known for certain is just who will be backing up Kratz?
The odds-on favorite is Humberto Quintero, a 10-year journeyman who was signed specifically for the chance to step into this role. And considering the fact that his competition—22-year-old Sebastian Valle and 20-year-old Tommy Joseph—both received minimal playing time before being sent to minor league camp, the job looks like Quintero's to lose.
But until Charlie Manuel and company formally announce Quintero as backup catcher, both the offensive-minded Valle and the all-around talent in Joseph remain in the conversation.
Plus, if Kratz or Quintero (permitting he gets the job) go down, it is likely one of these youngsters will be making his major league debut sooner rather than later.
What to Do with Ender Inciarte?
The Phillies have had great success in the past when it comes to turning other team's trash into treasure via the Rule 5 draft. The biggest name is Shane Victorino, who was twice a victim to the Rule 5 draft, including in 2004, when the Phillies took a chance on him.
In 2013, the Phillies took a chance on another guy by the name of Ender Inciarte.
Unprotected by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phillies decided to draft Inciarte. At just 22, Inciarte has never played above Class-A, something that could be a red flag. He has, however, played in the Venezuela summer league the past three seasons, so he does have some major league experience.
Plus, despite just a .238 average, Inciarte has made an impression and actually has an outside shot of making the 25-man roster to start the season.
There are, however, a few things standing in Inciarte's way.
As mentioned, he lacks any sort of high-level minor league experience, his tools, while there, are still raw, and he is an outfielder, a position the Phils certainly have no shortage of.
Ultimately, Inciarte will probably not make the roster and be offered back to the D-Backs, but Amaro could regret it, as this kid has potential and might end up having a Victorino-esque career in the end.
Filling out the Bullpen: Mike Stutes or Phillipe Aumont?
There are 13 pitchers left in camp and the expectation is that 12 of them will be on the roster come Opening Day. Obviously, the five starters (Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan) have all locked down spots, as have closer Jonathan Papelbon and setup man Mike Adams.
Chad Durbin could be penciled in as a sixth-inning guy with Antonio Bastardo set to take over duties in the seventh.
So that leaves three spots. According to David Murphy, it looks like Raul Vales will get one of these as the long man and that Jeremy Horst is in line for the other as the left-handed specialist.
And that leaves two: Mike Stutes and Phillipe Aumont.
The 26-year-old Stutes has the advantage of experience. Although he struggled with injury, pitching in just six games last season, Stutes put up great numbers in 2011. He pitched in 57 games, recorded 13 holds and had an ERA of 3.63. He also struck out 58.
The 24-year-old Aumont has a very small albeit successful sample of major league games. He pitched in 18 last season, allowed six runs and struck out 14. He did walk nine, and still has some control issues, but Aumont's biggest weapon is his fastball, which is routinely hitting 94-96 MPH on the gun.
The biggest factor going against Aumont is when it comes to throwing strikes. As mentioned, he has a tendency to pitch out of the zone and walk guys. Luckily enough for Aumont, Stutes has also struggled with control, walking seven in just 8.2 IP.
The Phillies will need one of these guys to start pitching in the zone and with each slated to get a lot of playing time in the team's remaining games, the hope is that one emerges and is able to do so.