After a disappointing campaign in 2012 riddled with injury, a beleaguered bullpen and a win-less Cliff Lee until July, the Philadelphia Phillies come into the 2013 season focused and, most importantly, healthy.
Spring training is a chance to get back in the groove of things, iron out the kinks and both mentally and physically prepare for the upcoming grueling season. Some players certainly went above and beyond that calling this spring, turning heads and opening eyes league-wide. Let's just hope they save some magic for the regular season. Manager Charlie Manuel would certainly agree.
This slideshow highlights some major expectations out of this Phillies team coming out of spring training.
It can be debated for hours upon hours; does playing well in spring training have any correlation to playing well in the regular season? Perhaps the answer is no. Domonic Brown doesn't want to hear that. If anything, Brown needs the confidence. There is no better way for a hitter to build confidence than to reach base consistently. Of course, seeing the ball go over the fence doesn't hurt either.
Brown has flat out raked this spring. Seven home runs coupled with 16 runs batted in to go along with an impressive .429 on-base percentage is just what the doctor ordered for the potential budding star. He compiled those stats in a mere 25 games.
I look for Brown to carry this hot spring right into the regular season. All the team can ask of him at this point in his career is productivity. With the big boys ahead of him in the lineup, Brown won't be relied upon to drive in the majority of the runs, though he will have plenty of opportunities. Brown will be asked to get on base in any way possible.
I see Brown batting .275 this year with 17 home runs and driving in 69 runs all while playing a shaky—yet suitable—right field.
Stay healthy, Ryan. That is first and foremost for the Phillies 33-year old first basemen. While he is certainly getting up there in age, it does not mean Mr. Howard can't tear the cover off of the baseball. He has shown this spring he still has "it."
Howard has matched Brown with seven home runs and 16 runs batted in. Like Brown, confidence is key for Howard, but for different reasons. Howard has a clean slate this season with nothing to lose. Plenty of people are down on him, proclaiming he is over the hill. Once a slugger, always a slugger.
Howard will be relied upon heavily to drive in runs consistently. In what is not an extremely intimidating lineup by any means, Howard is the left-handed bat in the middle of the order pitchers once feared facing. Come the summer, I think Howard regains his status as a ball-masher and instills that fear back in pitchers.
I see Howard having an above-average year. Look for him to hit about 32 home runs and drive in close to 100 runs while hovering around the .255 mark.
Talk about picking up where he left off. Hamels finished last season with 17 wins and a 3.06 earned run average. This spring: Two wins, 1.13 ERA, .81 WHIP and opponents hitting a mere .182 against the southpaw.
Hamels received one vote for fifth place in last year's National League Cy Young voting. This year, he will again lead the three-headed monster that is the Phillies pitching rotation. Hamels' changeup lulls hitters to sleep and is a thing of beauty when it's on, which is most of the time.
Hamels has solidified himself as an ace and shows no sign of changing anyone's mind about that. The question isn't whether or not he will be in the Cy Young race this year, it is a question of whether or not he will win it. Hamels is a surefire bet to throw 200 innings this year with 200 strikeouts.
I see Hamels building on his momentum from last season and this spring. Hamels should be somewhere in the 18-win area with an ERA of 3.10. This would put him smack-dab in the middle of the Cy Young conversation.
I want Ben Revere to bat lead-off more than Charlie Manuel wants Jimmy Rollins to bat lead-off, and that's saying something. Please Charlie, do the right thing. Revere can fly and he will find ways to get on base. He may add some excitement to the game and try bunting for hits. He can bring flare to what—on paper—seems like an overly dull team.
Revere has no power. Zero. Zilch. He has no value batting seventh or eighth. He would be wasted that low in the lineup. Early runs in baseball are crucial for setting the tone of the game. I can see it now: A Ben Revere first-pitch bunt single, a steal of second base, a sacrifice bunt followed by a sacrifice fly to go up a run.
Sounds a lot better than a Jimmy Rollins two-pitch pop up.
I don't want to rip Rollins, but he is known to be lazy at times. Give the younger, more fiery player in Revere a chance to lead off and see what happens. No lineup is ever set in stone.
Revere's on-base percentage last season was .333, which bodes well for a Phillies team that could hit cold streaks and struggle to score runs. I view Revere as an X-factor this year as much as anything. An efficient year might just take the Phillies back to the playoffs.
I like Revere to bat around .270 with about 53 runs batted in with one—yes, I said it—one home run! I never said it couldn't be of the inside-the-park variety. They all count the same, right?
Kyle Kendrick may be the most underrated below-average pitcher in the history of baseball. He is not flashy or someone who makes other hitters cringe, he just gets the job done (usually). Kendrick is a needle in a haystack in a very unique kind of way.
Kendrick had 11 wins last season and an ERA under four. That is not a misprint. He has proven he can pitch. He is not going to blow anyone away and yes, as Phillies fans can attest to, he most certainly pitches to contact. When his sinkers sink he is a ground-ball machine. Key word: When.
Kendrick is the X-factor for the pitching staff. You know what you're going to get with Hamels and Lee at the top. If Halladay doesn't find his old ways then it will be up to Kendrick (gulp) to carry the load as a potential third starter. I am surprisingly confident in that situation. All Manuel and company can ask of Kendrick every time he toes the rubber is simple: Keep us in the game.
Kendrick is going to reach that 10-win plateau again this year, barring injury. I see those 10 wins coupled with an ERA hovering around 3.75. Kendrick has proven he is not awful after all and can eat innings, pretty much all Manuel can expect out of his fourth starter.