Baseball is back. Phillies baseball is back.
Although the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the Atlanta Braves on Opening Day behind Cole Hamels, there is still plenty of reason to be optimistic about the season. Chase Utley looked reminiscent of his 2009 days. Ben Revere demonstrated his baserunning abilities and an ability to direct the ball where he pleases. Domonic Brown looked pretty good offensively. And Ryan Howard seemed to run down the baseline rather well, given his circumstances.
However, with the season comes changes from time to time. Already the Phillies have made a roster move, claiming outfielder Ezequiel Carrerra off waivers from the Cleveland Indians and designating Rule 5 pick Ender Inciarte in a corresponding move, per CSNPhilly.com. This means that, barring any unexpected developments, Inciarte will be returned to the Diamondbacks without having seen any official major-league action.
While Inciarte was the sacrificial lamb for a move the Phillies felt upgraded their bench options, could any Phillies starters be on the hot seat? Baseball is a volatile sport, and if a player fails to live up to expectations, he'll be sent out the door in the blink of an eye.
Regardless of the cause, here are five Phillies starters—whether in the rotation or playing every day—who could be in jeopardy of losing their spot in the 2013 season.
It's only a matter of time before Erik Kratz loses the starting catcher's job to Carlos Ruiz, who will return from suspension after the first 25 games of the 2013 season. Two down, 23 to go.
Kratz has been an amicable catching option for a Phillies team that has lacked one in recent years. Brian Schneider was a bust, as he was either hurt or unable to hit when he was on the field. His defense was valuable, as was his mentoring to Vance Worley. Both are gone now, and Kratz's role stands as Chooch's replacement until his return.
As a Phillie, Kratz has done better with consistent playing time over spot starts, and for the moment, that's exactly what he'll get. However, after a so-so spring, Kratz may have to do more than prove he's worth being the everyday starter for most of April. He may have to prove he's worth remaining the top backup option.
Currently, Kratz's backup is Humberto Quintero, who, like Schneider, is much more revered for his defensive abilities. But with a plethora of options in the minors, including top prospect Tommy Joseph, Kratz may have a run for his money on his hands.
Additionally, Kratz's game-calling skills may be in question. While it's certainly primarily Cole Hamels' fault for his lack of command on Opening Day, perhaps Kratz's calling of pitches threw Hamels off a bit. That's just my own speculation, though. We'll see if that's the case with the rest of the rotation, including Hamels himself, as April progresses.
If Quintero looks sharp in his limited play and/or Joseph is raking down in Triple-A when their season starts, Kratz's importance on the roster may dwindle quickly. For now, though, he remains the Phillies' starter. And unless he's really that terrible, he'll be the Phillies' go-to guy when Chooch isn't behind the plate.
John Mayberry, Jr. is like Kratz in that he's a starter until further notice. And his starting tenure is bound to end sooner than later. But for now, he appears to be the Phillies' everyday option in right field.
Mayberry has been given a boatload of chances by the Phillies to be an effective starter in the outfield, and time and time again he has failed to meet expectations. After a hot streak in 2011 that seemingly saw almost every one of his at-bats result in an extra-base hit, Mayberry was given the starting job in left field at the beginning of 2012.
He wasn't productive in spring training, and he was even worse in the regular season. However, due to the Phillies' lack of other options, Mayberry still saw his fair share of starts, especially after the trade deadline came and went.
The same occurred this year in spring training, as Domonic Brown outplayed not only Mayberry, but almost everyone else on the roster. Could it be Mayberry's turn to hit the trading block in 2013?
Bleacher Report MLB Featured Columnist Ely Sussman believes that if there's any Phillie to be dealt this year before the trade deadline, it's Mayberry, citing Darin Ruf's potential and Delmon Young's imminent return as reasons for possible exploration of a trade.
Most importantly, though, Sussman makes the point that Mayberry will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after the season, and the Phillies front office likely doesn't consider him to be worth much more than the major-league minimum, and possibly in excess of $1 million.
Whether or not Mayberry will last the year on the Phillies' roster is a different story. But with Delmon Young due to return from his recovery from ankle surgery sometime in a few weeks, Mayberry will at least be relegated to the bench upon Young's Phillies debut.
For all intents and purposes of this slideshow, Nix counts as a starter since he's going to be written into the lineup against most right-handers. Opening Day aside, Nix will likely be the everyday right fielder until Delmon Young fully recovers.
Like Mayberry, though, Nix has failed to impress the Phillies' brass. Although his failure to produce in the 2012 season wasn't entirely his fault, as a calf injury hampered him throughout the season (something he blames on his Nike cleats, according to Dennis Ditch of the DelCo Times), he hovered around the Mendoza line throughout spring training, which isn't acceptable by any means.
Nix, like Mayberry, is valuable in that he can play first base in addition to the outfield corners. However, also like Mayberry, that's really all he has to offer.
Supposed to be a right-handed power threat, Nix only hit two home runs off righties last year and batted just .248 with a .390 SLG against right-handers, per Baseball-Reference.com. That will not suffice again.
Could Nix be dealt if the going gets rough? Sure, but his value is relatively low on the trade market. His only perk is that he's inexpensive, but he's also cheap enough that he could be cut without the Phillies taking too big of a hit. It's not an option that's out of the question, either.
Nix has to prove that he's going to hit home runs off right-handers now that he's healthy. If not, he'll lose his starts to Mayberry, and he may very well be axed sometime this season as well.
Again, for all intents and purposes, Delmon Young is the Phillies' starting right fielder, which sends shivers down my spine. And though he's currently on the disabled list, his stay on the 25-man roster when he returns is anything but guaranteed.
The original consensus was that Young was signed as a right-handed power option for the Phillies, but soon after FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal tweeted news of the signing, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweeted that Amaro said he planned on using Young as the everyday starter in right field.
This came as a surprise because Young hasn't played adequate defense for a starter, and more importantly, he last started in right field in 2007. While he's still young (no pun intended) at only 27 years old, he's already got a bad rap around baseball, namely for making anti-Semitic comments to tourists in New York City last season, per jta.org.
Young certainly has the potential to be an above-average batter for the Phillies when he returns to their lineup, strikeouts aside. But could he be cut just as easily as he fails to field a ball in the outfield?
It shouldn't be put past the Phillies to consider releasing or trading him. If he does well, he could be worth a prospect in a trade with a desperate AL team. But because he's only making $750,000 as a base salary this year, he could be cut without much fanfare.
If his defense is truly atrocious and his strikeouts are more prevalent at the plate than his power, Young could find his way out of Philly with relative ease.
You may be thinking, "WHAT?!" Or not. I don't know. The point is, Domonic Brown had a great spring training. But he's not guaranteed squat in the majors.
Brown first made his MLB debut on August 24, 2010, and in his first at-bat, he hit a double that almost cleared the fences. Hyped as the No. 4 prospect entering the 2011 season according to Baseball America, Brown had lofty expectations on his shoulders going into that season.
After a hitless streak to begin spring training two years ago, Brown was plunked on the hand, breaking his hamate bone and rendering him sapped of his power for quite some time.
In spring training last season, Brown was also ineffective after being given an opportunity to win the starting job once again. He failed to capitalize on the opportunity and also saw himself injury-riddled again, this time with knee ailments.
Even in the minors, Brown's offense and defense took a big hit. The once-surefire prospect seemed to have lost most of his potential.
Entering 2013, Brown was on his final chance with the Phillies organization, but after being arguably the Phils' best player this spring, he made the Opening Day roster and is the incumbent starting left fielder. Contrary to the majority of his spring innings in which he played right, Brown is presumably playing left to prepare for when Delmon Young returns from the DL and starts in right.
But is Brown a guarantee in the majors? Absolutely not. I don't mean to be a pessimist as I think Brown will hold his own. But even after tinkering with his hitting mechanics, Brown could struggle as immensely as he has in years past. He may not be in a position to be traded or cut like some of the other outfielders in this slideshow, but his starting job could be in jeopardy with a lack of production this season.