Predicting Boom or Bust for All 25 Phillies Players Entering Opening Day
It has been a long spring for the Philadelphia Phillies thanks to the World Baseball Classic, and this club certainly has the look of a team that is ready for Opening Day. Then again, aren't we all at this point?
This season will be about trying to scratch and claw their way back to the top, with their ever elusive "window of opportunity" certainly looming as a threat. With players like Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz entering the season on expiring contracts, this could realistically be do or die.
Then again, this is a town that expects nothing short of the World Series from their Phillies. At that point, you have to wonder if this is a team capable of toppling young, talented clubs in their own division like the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves—let alone the rest of the league.
The following slideshow will attempt to determine that. We'll look at each member of the Phillies' projected Opening Day roster and determine whether they will "boom" or "bust."
Players who receive the "boom" designation are guys set to have good seasons. Players labeled as "bust" will disappoint. While the reasoning and variables will change for each slide, the general idea remains the same.
Will the Phillies boom or bust in 2013?
The Phillies' new center fielder is not going to cure all of their ailments, but he'll bring a few interesting elements to the club that have been missing in recent seasons.
Ben Revere is going to give this team some speed at the top of the order—at least, it seems as though he'll be at the top of the order given Charlie Manuel's decision making this spring.
He'll also play an outstanding defensive center field that could come close to "elite," given his speed, range and instincts.
Revere isn't going to hit for much power, but his combination of speed and defense makes him a valuable commodity for this Phillies club moving forward.
Jimmy Rollins is never going to be the perfect offensive player, but if Ben Revere is going to hit leadoff, Rollins is already in a better position to succeed.
While his on-base skills are not conducive to a successful leadoff hitter, Rollins did show above-average power for a shortstop last season and has the potential to be a dynamic hitter out of the two-hole. The Phillies could also experiment with moving him even further down the order, which would be intriguing.
As one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball, Rollins is going to give you an above-average blend of offense and defense, making him one of the most valuable shortstops in the game.
Chase Utley is an interesting case for a list like this because of the fact that if either of his knees flare up, he could be on the disabled list for an unknown period of time.
Using the spring as a barometer, however, Utley looks to be healthy. He is moving well on his knees on both sides of the ball and has played a full spring's worth of games.
If Utley can stay healthy, I have little doubt that he can be one of the most productive second basemen in the league. He'll be able to hit for more power and that, combined with his defense, should help him to have an excellent contract year.
Ryan Howard receives the same caveat as Chase Utley: He has to be healthy. Unlike Utley, however, Howard does not have a chronic, degenerative condition. For him, it's a matter of getting back to 100 percent.
Through the spring, there has been a few signs that he is not there just yet. Technically still recovering from a severe Achilles injury, there are times where Howard appears to be running with a bit of a hitch in his giddy-up. But that's to be expected.
After a terrible 2012 season, Howard has been one of the best hitters in baseball this spring. That's something that the Phillies have to look forward to. Both Howard and the Phillies will be in good shape if he can provide the power that they have become accustomed to out of that cleanup spot.
After seven spring home runs, that seems a bit more likely than it did at the end of the 2012 season.
At age 36, there are two realistic options following Michael Young's 2012 season: He was either in a bad position to succeed or at the end of the road.
While the latter is certainly possible, the Phillies think that they can put him in a better position to succeed. Unlike the Texas Rangers, they'll call him the everyday third baseman and put him in the lineup every night.
The rest is on Young.
He needs to prove that he can at least make the routine plays at third base and give the club quality at-bats from the right side of the plate, particularly with Darin Ruf in Triple-A and Delmon Young on the disabled list.
The defense won't come easy, but he has shown in spring training that he is capable of playing a decent third base for the Phillies and should be a much better option offensively than any third baseman they had last year.
This is an easy one.
Up and down the roster, few players have the same kind of potential that Domonic Brown does. The problem has been turning that potential into results over the last few seasons, with brief stints in MLB resulting in disappointing outcomes.
Spring training has been a completely different story. Not only has Brown been one of the best hitters on the club, but he has been one of the best hitters in all of baseball as well, showing off his ability to hit for contact and power.
Needless to say, the early results have people feeling pretty optimistic. It looks as though Brown will be one of this season's breakout stars.
John Mayberry Jr.
After another disappointing spring, it's easy to have the feeling that John Mayberry Jr.'s time with the Phillies is quickly drawing to a close.
The regression has been swift and dramatic. Following the 2011 season, the Phillies thought that Mayberry could blossom into an everyday player. That never happened. Following 2012, it seems as though he is destined for a role on the bench.
Even then, I have my doubts.
Early in 2013, Mayberry's role will be to keep Delmon Young's proverbial seat warm in left field. After that, he'll be relied upon to be the bench's powerful right-handed bat. If he can't produce in that role, he may be in trouble.
Erik Kratz is at his best when he is playing in a regular role. He showed that last season while serving as the starting catcher with Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider on the disabled list.
When Ruiz returned and Kratz was forced into a backup role, he struggled, leaving some to wonder if he can provide offensively in a similar, but full time, role and if that was even necessary.
Well, we're going to find out this season. With Ruiz set to serve a 25-game suspension to open the season, Kratz will be the starting catcher. Following Ruiz's return, he'll move onto the bench to serve as the backup.
Through the spring, Kratz has shown a solid defensive game and good rapport with the pitching staff. Can he hit in a limited role? I'm still not convinced.
After giving up his right to free agency by signing a six-year, $144 million contract extension with the Phillies, there are a lot of people in town who believe that Cole Hamels earned the Opening Day start a long time ago.
Granted, that's the kind of respect that you earn as a professional athlete in this town. As the only homegrown member of the Phillies' aces, Hamels was an easy choice for some.
The fact that he is moving into the prime of his career certainly didn't hurt either. He'll use arguably the best changeup in baseball to baffle hitters once again this season, and with proper run support and help from the bullpen, should be a bona fide Cy Young candidate at season's end.
I'm going to go against the grain here and predict that Roy Halladay has a good season, the main reason being that I truly believe that he is completely healthy heading into the regular season.
But this prediction is considered "against the grain" for a number of reasons. Halladay's velocity has been down this spring, his arm angle and release point have been all over the place, he has labored through certain starts—including one that lasted all of one inning thanks to a nasty stomach virus—and his spring numbers are horrendous.
If Halladay is healthy, however, I'll go against the grain to make a prediction like this.
A pitcher like this doesn't come around all that often. He may not be the same man that tossed a pair of no-hitters, perfect game included, for the Phillies in 2010, but to believe that Halladay can't adjust to losing a few miles per hour on his fastball is borderline lunacy.
He has the good curveball and changeup. He has the good cutter and sinker.
As long as Halladay can locate those offerings, he'll be effective, and that has been the main concern from my perspective this spring—there have been times where he simply cannot locate his pitches.
But a large part of me also believes that this is a result of being behind this spring. Let's not forget, he changed his offseason workout regimen and was behind schedule through most of the Grapefruit League slate.
It wouldn't surprise me in the least bit to see Halladay get the win against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of the regular season.
Last season, Cliff Lee was one of the most valuable pitchers in baseball. Some will think that sounds a bit funny after realizing that he won just six games, but it's true.
The short version of the reasoning behind that statement is that few pitchers in the game can throw quality strikes in the same way that Lee can. He posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio by a long shot and benefited from pounding the strike zone.
The two things that Lee didn't receive last season really cost him: Run support and production from the bullpen.
With the Phillies' lineup finally healthy and a bullpen that could be drastically improved from 2012, Lee should see an increase in his win total this season—not that it necessarily matters.
Kyle Kendrick was excellent for the Phillies over the second half of last season, but he also may have set some unrealistic expectations for himself moving forward.
After going 9-4 with a 2.87 ERA after the All-Star break in 2012, the Phillies dealt fellow starter Vance Worley over the offseason and solidified Kendrick's spot in the starting rotation.
Can Kendrick be effective as a full-time starter in 2013? He can be, but there is going to be a huge drop-off in production between the third and fourth spots in this rotation.
Don't be surprised to see Kendrick post an ERA in the 4.35-4.55 range.
There were people who mocked the Phillies for signing John Lannan over the offseason. With the history between he and the club and cheap options like Jon Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd available, it isn't hard to understand why.
However, this can be a solid, underrated signing.
Let's have some fun with numbers for a moment. Lannan's career record is 42-52 with an ERA of 4.01. Not bad, but certainly not great. If you remove his starts against the Phillies from that equation, all of the sudden, Lannan is a .500 pitcher (39-39) with an ERA well below 4.00.
For a back-of-the-rotation option, Lannan is very solid. On some levels, it wouldn't surprise me if he was more productive than Kyle Kendrick in 2013.
When spring training first began, the popular school of thought was that veteran catcher Humberto Quintero would break camp as the Phillies' backup catcher through the first month or so of the regular season.
With the Grapefruit League slate now officially in the books, there has been much more talk about Steven Lerud's chances of winning the job than Quintero's, so he'll get the nod for the purpose of this slideshow.
A great spring may land Lerud a temporary job on the Phillies' bench, but he'll be optioned to the minors once Carlos Ruiz returns to serve as the backup to either Tommy Joseph or Sebastian Valle, depending on the level.
There is an argument to be made that with Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins healthy, Freddy Galvis would be best served going to Triple-A, where he would be able to play every day and receive consistent at-bats.
After watching him play this spring, that may not be necessary.
Galvis is quickly evolving into a "super utility man" for the Phillies. He has spent time playing several defensive positions this spring, including shortstop, second base, third base, left field and right field.
The biggest improvement for the defensive wizard, however, has been the glove. Galvis has shown off some extra base power and a more consistent approach this spring, moving into the regular season on a very positive note.
Kevin Frandsen is another player that set his own bar unreasonably high with an unrepeatable 2012 season. He stepped in to replace an injured Placido Polanco at third base and left some fans wishing to see more of him as the starter in 2013.
With Michael Young aboard, that obviously is not going to happen. Instead, Frandsen will play a key role on the Phillies' bench. Will he receive enough playing time to stay sharp?
After a hot start to the spring, Frandsen has been in a bit of a slump as it comes to a close. With Freddy Galvis also on the roster, he'll play second fiddle in defensive situations, leaving me to wonder whether the Phillies will find enough at-bats for him early on.
Laynce Nix is the Phillies' primary left-handed bat off the bench, which isn't a statement that should inspire much confidence given the spring he has had.
At the outset of the spring, Nix's inclusion on the roster was no guarantee, but with Delmon Young set to open the year on the disabled list and Darin Ruf unable to play the outfield on a full-time basis at this stage, Nix isn't worrying about his job at the moment.
Will that become a concern as the season progresses? The Phillies seem to like what Rule 5 pick Ender Inciarte brings to the table and there are rumors that the club could actually add another outfielder before Opening Day.
Granted, that would mean more for Inciarte than Nix at this point, but what happens later in the season? Nix would be doing himself a huge favor by getting off on the right foot at the starting gate.
If you ignore the fact that they're giving a 22-year-old baseball player a shot at the big league, one could say what the Phillies are doing to Ender Inciarte is a bit unfair.
They plucked him out of the Arizona Diamondbacks system—where he had never played above High-A—in the Rule 5 draft and now will ask him to serve a role on their bench as the fifth outfielder, at least, temporarily.
Now that I think about it, I don't think that Inciarte will mind.
A numbers crunch may force the Phillies to make a decision about their young outfielder eventually, but a gut feeling tells me that they'll keep him in the organization somehow. Even if they need to cut him from the major league roster at some point, their outfield depth is thin and he could be a quick replacement option.
With that being said, let's not forget that Inciarte is a career minor-league player who has never played above High-A in the minors. It would be borderline foolish not to expect growing pains early in his career.
Here's your spring leader in strikeouts. Not Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee, but Raul Valdes.
Valdes fought his way onto the roster with an excellent spring, posting an outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratio of 22-to-1. He did surrender eight earned runs on 15 hits, including five home runs, but he has also thrown an impressive 17.1 innings.
Barring a big surprise, Valdes will move into the regular season as the Phillies' long reliever. The truth of the matter is that I wanted to call him a "bust," but where is that argument?
Frankly, I'm not quite sure why Phillippe Aumont had to fight so hard for a spot in the bullpen this spring. You can't build the best possible relief corps without him, and there is nothing left for the hulking Canadian in Triple-A.
But that's beside the point. Aumont is one of the names on this roster trending upward in a big way. Few relievers have the same potential as this right-handed flamethrower and a full season in the major league will do him wonders.
Sure, he has had some command issues this spring, but that has been a constant throughout his career. Once he gets into a solid rhythm, Aumont is a strikeout machine.
Jeremy Horst had one hell of a season for the Phillies in 2012.
He basically joined the club as a throw-in in the deal that sent Wilson Valdez to the Cincinnati Reds and quickly emerged as one of the Phillies' most consistent relievers, in a year where their bullpen was anything but consistent.
After posting an ERA of 1.15 over 31.1 innings, however, it is easy to be suspicious. If he had a solid spring, the caveat here would be to expect a solid season out of Horst, but nothing close to what he did in '12.
Granted, Horst hasn't had a solid spring. He has surrendered eight earned runs on 15 hits, including four home runs, in just 15 innings pitched.
Horst was pitching much better by the end of camp, but it was a spring that generated concern for the left-handed reliever. If the Phillies use him solely as a left-handed specialist—which is not likely—it would be much easier to be more optimistic about Horst moving forward.
Having bullpen depth is never a bad thing. It's a long season.
But there is a difference between having "quality" depth and "quantity" depth and the addition of Chad Durbin certainly leans towards the latter for the Phillies, who signed the right-handed reliever over the offseason thanks in large part to his "veteran leadership."
Durbin, who posted a 3.10 ERA with the Atlanta Braves last season, was not nearly as productive as that mark would indicate. He posted a batting average on balls in play of .251, which would indicate that he was quite lucky, and for the season, posted a WAR of -0.5 (per FanGraphs).
He certainly has not done anything to prove those metrics wrong this spring, allowing seven earned runs in 11.1 innings.
So, does Durbin actually make this bullpen better? One has to believe that there would have been much more upside to bringing either Justin De Fratus or Jake Diekman north.
It's been a quiet spring for Antonio Bastardo, which is a good thing.
The Phillies' lefty got off to a rough start to open the 2012 season, dealing with a major lack of control and battling the home run ball through most of the first half. He was much better following the All-Star break, but the club added a bona fide setup man over the offseason regardless.
The addition of Mike Adams could be an excellent thing for both the Phillies and Bastardo. They now have the option of pitching him in much more favorable situations this season, especially against left-handed hitters.
The trio of Bastardo, Adams and Jonathan Papelbon has the potential to be a three-headed monster that teams will not want to deal with in the later innings.
The Phillies made a few key additions this offseason, including a pair of regulars in Ben Revere and Michael Young. But few new additions have the potential to make their presence felt more than Mike Adams in the eighth inning.
Outside of Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies' bullpen was atrocious in the later innings last season. Had they not blown even a handful of the leads that they did in the eighth inning, they may have made the postseason.
Knowing that, adding an above-average setup man was a priority this offseason and the Phillies walked away with one of the best in Adams.
As long as he is healthy—and he has shown no indication that he is not this spring—Adams is going to make a strong and noticeable impact on the Phillies' bullpen this season.
Even in a year where the Phillies' bullpen was a disappointment as a whole, Jonathan Papelbon was as-advertised. His first appearance of this year's Grapefruit League slate was a completely different story.
But if there is one player in camp that can have a bad spring and not induce a panic in the city of Philadelphia, it's Papelbon, who has a tendency to really turn his game up another notch when there is something of substance on the line.
The Phillies spent most of the offseason attempting to retool most of their bullpen ahead of their closer, even if that means adding just a few guys to put relievers—like Antonio Bastardo, for example—in better positions to succeed.
On paper, it seems as though they have done a nice job, and that's good news for Papelbon (and the Phillies).