Full Update of Surprises, Busts and Injuries at Phillies Camp
Spring training is all but history with less than a week remaining, but nary a fan will mourn its passing as Opening Day and a brand new season of Major League Baseball is right around the bend.
For the Philadelphia Phillies, Opening Day could not come sooner. After enjoying a modest run atop the National League East, the rival Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves made sure that the Phillies would not see the postseason for the first time since 2006.
"Redemption" is a word that I would use to describe the atmosphere surrounding this club heading into the regular season. With a roster full of veteran players, it's World Series or bust once again for the squad from Philadelphia, and the fans wouldn't have it any other way.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it's time once again to take stock of the Phillies as spring training rounds to a close. Who is in good shape with Opening Day on the horizon and who has drawn concern? Are there any injuries?
Here is the list of Phillies surprises, busts and injuries with less than a week of spring training to go.
Surprise: Freddy Galvis
After suffering a Pars fracture of the spine and getting a 50-game suspension for a positive test of a banned substance in 2012, Freddy Galvis has been a pleasant surprise for the Phillies this spring.
With 12 extra-base hits—seven doubles, two triples and three home runs—Galvis has shown some impressive power this spring. This comes while playing his normally superb defense at three positions: Shortstop, second base and third base. The Phillies even gave him a look in right field.
Because he is swinging the bat well and is as reliable as they come defensively, the Phillies decided to keep him on the bench as a utility infielder, along with Kevin Frandsen, and released Yuniesky Betancourt.
Surprise: Ryan Howard
Coming into the spring, there was a general sense that Ryan Howard should be improved over last season, which wouldn't be hard to do. Howard struggled mightily at the plate as he continued to recover from his Achilles injury.
I don't think that anyone expected him to be this good, this early on.
The Phillies first baseman has slugged seven home runs this spring. He also has doubled five times, both contributing to his 26 Grapefruit League hits.
Howard has certainly been a pleasant surprise throughout the spring, but the real test comes once the games count. While he is moving around infinitely better than at this time last season, getting Howard back to 100 percent is clearly still a work in progress.
Surprise: Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins' spring-training numbers are a bit skewed because he missed a big chunk while playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. But even so, the Phillies shortstop has swung the bat well.
One of the most intriguing developments of the spring has to be Rollins' patient approach. He has walked more times (seven) than he has struck out (six), and along with eight spring hits has kept his on-base percent in the .400 range.
Of course, that's an incredibly small sample size and doesn't mean anything at all at this point in the season. One of the things to keep an eye on, however, is whether this patient approach carries over into the regular season. It'll be interesting to see where he hits in the lineup, too.
The Phillies are going to have speed to burn at the top of the order with Rollins and Ben Revere. They'll be an exciting duo to watch.
Surprise: Chase Utley
After being unable to play in the Grapefruit League for two consecutive seasons with knee injuries, getting Chase Utley on the field in spring training should be considered a surprise in and of itself.
Utley also is playing well, however, which isn't much of a surprise when the second baseman is completely healthy—but who can be sure of that given the last few seasons?
He is helping to erase those doubts this spring, collecting 17 hits, including three doubles and four home runs, as well as nine walks. He has appeared in 21 games and seems to be all systems go for the regular season.
Surprise: Domonic Brown
Domonic Brown's first three stints in MLB were disappointing, and that's putting it lightly. He never hit better than .250 or never had more than five home runs in a single year, although he certainly was not receiving consistent playing time.
Throughout spring training, however, Brown has been the talk of Phillies camp. He has torn the cover off the ball since arriving in Florida and has become a near-consensus pick among experts tabbing "breakout players."
New hitting coaches Steve Henderson and Wally Joyner seem to have corrected whatever was wrong with Brown's swing, even if it was a minor fix like gripping the bat. He has 31 hits this spring, including four doubles and seven home runs. He also has walked six times.
If this level of play were to carry over into the regular season—and there is reason to believe that it will—the Phillies have a rising star on their roster.
Surprise: Ender Inciarte
It's not often that you see a 22-year-old outfielder with no experience above High-A ball get an opportunity to make a major league roster out of spring training, even as a Rule 5 pick. But that's something that—barring any outside additions—Ender Inciarte is about to do.
A large part of the reason for his impending addition is that he brings certain areas of the game to the bench that the Phillies would not have otherwise. He has a strong arm and has played excellent defense this spring, while providing strong on-base skills and speed on the basepaths.
It's clear that Inciarte has not completely convinced the Phillies that he can stick at the major league level just yet. There have been rumors that the club has been looking for help in the outfield, although they have not been attached to any names in particular. They have also given Freddy Galvis an opportunity to play the outfield and he has drawn positive reviews.
At this point in time, however, it would be a surprise to see Inciarte left off the roster. In fact, most of what the outfielder has done this spring has been considered a surprise.
Surprise: Ben Revere
After dealing Shane Victorino at the trade deadline last season and watching his replacements struggle in the months that followed, it was clear that the Phillies needed to pursue a new center fielder. With names like B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn and Angel Pagan on the board, there was little doubt that they wouldn't find one.
Of course, making a trade to land Ben Revere was a complete surprise.
The Phillies knew what they were getting out of Revere at the moment of the trade. He is a contact hitter with little power. He has speed to burn and the potential to play an elite center field defensively.
What they couldn't have known is how perfect a fit he'd be with their club—at least through spring training.
Charlie Manuel has shown an obvious comfort with batting him leadoff and he has delivered, keeping his batting average above .300 for most of the spring and showing that he can be a real asset on both sides of the ball.
It shouldn't take long for Revere to become a fan favorite, if he's not already.
Bust: Chad Durbin
The Phillies signed Chad Durbin to a one-year deal over the offseason because he has the good old baseball "intangibles."
At this stage of his career, Durbin isn't going to play a huge role in a major league bullpen. He is a right-handed, experienced reliever who was brought in just as much to tutor some of the club's younger bullpen arms as much as he is expected to contribute on the field.
Durbin, who has allowed 13 hits and seven earned runs this spring, probably isn't going to do a ton of pitching in high leverage situations, leaving some to wonder why the Phillies made a play for him at all.
With 13 years of major league experience, however, he certainly could be a good mentor for the Phillies bullpen, if a need for such a figure actually exists.
Bust: Roy Halladay
After one of the most disappointing seasons of his career in 2012, anyone hoping that Roy Halladay's spring training would be rainbows and butterflies has been hit with a dose of reality.
Halladay, who dealt with a number of nagging injuries last season, has yet to recover his fastball velocity. He also has battled a stomach virus this spring and has struggled to find the proper arm slot necessary to command all his offerings.
Halladay has allowed nine runs on 13 hits this spring, but the most telling statistic is seven walks in just 12 innings. That line does not even include his latest start against a Toronto Blue Jays minor-league squad.
The Phillies need Halladay to get it together in a hurry. Throughout the spring, he has repeatedly mentioned that his health is not an issue. In his last start he threw 82 pitches and will continue to stretch out his arm with one more spring start.
This spring has not been a smooth one for Halladay, but there is reason to believe that he will make his regularly scheduled start (April 3 vs. the Atlanta Braves) once the regular season begins.
Bust: Jeremy Horst
In a season where the Phillies bullpen struggled as a whole, Jeremy Horst was quietly putting together a fantastic season. He posted an ERA of 1.15 and struck out 40 on the year, making it even more surprising to see him struggle like this in the spring.
Horst, once believed to be a favorite to make the club before camp even began, has allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 16 hits this spring, including four home runs. He has pitched better as of late, but his spring ERA did not move under 5.00 until March 26.
With most of his competition already having been sent to minor league camp, it would be a surprise, at least at this point, if Horst didn't make the team. Regardless, he has had a disappointing spring.
Bust: Kyle Kendrick
A stellar second half to the 2012 regular season from Kyle Kendrick gave the Phillies some options. Over the offseason, they moved him back into the starting rotation full time and traded Vance Worley to the Minnesota Twins to fill their need for a center fielder.
Regardless of what happens this spring, Kendrick is going to be in the starting rotation on Opening Day. That's not the way it has been for Kendrick in years past, which is a good thing for the pitcher at this point. He has struggled this spring.
Kendrick has surrendered nine runs (eight earned) on 14 hits, including a pair of home runs. In his most recent start against a New York Yankees minor-league squad, he surrendered three home runs in the first couple of innings, though, some of those were aided by a strong wind.
The Phillies are counting on Kendrick to help solidify the back end of their rotation. Spring training statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, but he hasn't necessarily shown he can do that in camp.
Bust: Mike Stutes
After missing most of the 2012 season with a shoulder injury, this has been an up and down spring for right-handed reliever Mike Stutes.
One of the biggest concerns about Stutes this spring has been a constant worry throughout his brief major league career: Can he command his offerings?
Through 11 innings pitched, Stutes already has issued nine free passes. He also has been hit hard at times, likely a result of missing over the middle of the plate with his pitches.
In the long run, Stutes is going to help this Phillies bullpen. He has a good, hard fastball and decent offspeed offerings. Right now, however, it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see him optioned to Triple-A so that he could face some minor league batters before returning to the Phils later this season.
Bust: John Mayberry Jr.
With Darin Ruf headed back to the minors and Delmon Young on the disabled list to open the season, you would think that John Mayberry Jr. has done something to inspire confidence from the Phillies. If he has, it went right over my head.
Mayberry is having another dismal spring at the plate, going 13-for-67 with two doubles, a home run and 13 strikeouts.
At some point, the Phillies are going to have to make a decision on Mayberry's future. He is out of options and all but guaranteed to make the Opening Day roster, but at what point do you admit that he is hurting the club more than he is helping?
Bust: Laynce Nix
Laynce Nix is another player with a lot to earn given the current state of the Phillies' corner outfield situation, with Darin Ruf in Triple-A and Delmon Young on the disabled list. Like John Mayberry Jr., however, he hasn't done much to make a claim on playing time.
After dealing with a severe calf strain for a big chunk of 2012, it's easy to write off Nix's down season, but what happens now? He is 11-for-52 at the plate with two doubles, a home run and 14 strikeouts.
With Ender Inciarte, Freddy Galvis and even Mayberry on board, the Phillies certainly will not be calling on him for his defense.
At one point in time, Nix and Mayberry seemed like a strong platoon for a corner outfield spot. With both struggling this spring, their roles moving forward have to be in question.
Surprises/Busts No Longer in MLB Camp
The Phillies have had quite a few surprises and busts this spring that are no longer in major league camp, or in some instances, with the club. Here is a quick rundown and recap of how each player earned their designation.
Bust: Justin De Fratus — Came into camp as a favorite to win a bullpen spot, but never got it together over the course of the spring. He'll start the year in Triple-A Lehigh Valley and should be back soon.
Surprise: Jake Diekman — Showed some real promise this spring, but the Phillies optioned him back to the minors to refine his command and continue developing his offspeed pitches.
Bust: B.J. Rosenberg — Rosenberg was absolutely shelled this spring, leaving some to wonder about his place on the depth chart. After spending his time with the major league camp as a reliever, the plan is now to stretch him out as a starter in Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Bust: Sebastian Valle — Came into camp in what should have been a depth chart battle with Tommy Joseph, but wasn't particularly close. Nothing is confirmed, but it looks like he'll open the season in Double-A Reading, with Joseph in Triple-A.
Bust: Tyson Gillies — Could have made a name for himself with a good spring, but struggled. He'll start in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where the goal will be staying on the field for a full season.
Bust: Darin Ruf — The biggest bust on the list. Ruf could have been the Phillies' Opening Day left fielder with a good spring, but he struggled mightily. The Phillies are sending him to Triple-A to continue learning left field and to settle in at the plate. My guess is that he is back at some point in the season.
Surprise: Aaron Cook — Cook was good for the Phillies this spring, but not good enough to earn a spot on the major league roster. Instead of going to the minors, he asked for—and has been granted—his release.
Surprise: Adam Morgan — Morgan was nothing short of impressive this spring. He pitched well in every opportunity and will open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He could be a mainstay in the Phillies' rotation as soon as 2014.
Bust: J.C. Ramirez — Not to make too much out of this, but Ramirez's downward spiral continues.
Surprise: Tommy Joseph — Played really well in camp with the Phillies and has likely earned himself the role of Triple-A Lehigh Valley's starting catcher.
Surprise: Steven Lerud — Once wrote off as camp filler, Lerud could very well be the Phillies' backup catcher on Opening Day.
Surprise: Cody Asche — Continues to prove the naysayers wrong. After a great spring, he'll open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley and could be the Phillies' everyday third baseman next season.
Surprise: Yuniesky Betancourt — Betancourt played very well for the Phillies, but with Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen on board, there was no room for him. The Phillies released him and he signed on with the Milwaukee Brewers (on a major league deal, for that matter).
Surprise: Jermaine Mitchell — Had an excellent spring and could be called on in a pinch, if need be.
Injury: Delmon Young
One of the biggest positives throughout spring training for the Phillies is the fact that the only injury they're dealing with is one that they expected—Delmon Young's rehabilitation from offseason ankle surgery.
Young, who has played in a few minor league games as part of his rehab, is not projected to rejoin the Phillies until May 1, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, but all indications are that he is recovering nicely.
With Darin Ruf having been sent to Triple-A and John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix struggling, a healthy Young could make a difference for the Phillies right now, but we can't know for certain what kind of offense he can provide until he can rev up his rehab to the next stage.