Breakout Performances from Phillies' First Two Weeks of Spring Training
It's already been a long spring for the Philadelphia Phillies, and it may be the start of an unbearably long season. While spring training usually isn't a full indication of the regular season to come, all games are taken into account by some measure.
At this point in time, the Phillies' spring training record is 4-10. They're the worst team in the Grapefruit League, the worst National League team in spring training and the second-worst team in baseball this spring. Only the 3-9 Texas Rangers are worse. Simply put, spring has been a disaster for the Phillies thus far.
The offense has not looked sharp. The rotation continues to thin out due to injuries. And while bullpen pitching has been surprisingly decent, the relievers have had their moments of surrendering hits and runs.
However, there have been a few bright spots worth mentioning. Here are the breakout performances from the Phillies' first two weeks of spring training games.
John Mayberry Jr.
Stats: .350/.350/.750, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB
Going into spring training, John Mayberry Jr. had a make-or-break opportunity. Now entering his sixth season in the Phillies organization, Mayberry was becoming old, expensive and inadequate.
Now 30 years old, Mayberry is standing on his last leg in Philadelphia. Once given the opportunity to become a starting outfielder for the Phillies, Mayberry lost his chance when his offense waned and his defense lacked consistency. As a reserve outfielder, Mayberry will need to do all he can to show he's got something left.
This spring, Mayberry has surprisingly done just that. In 10 games and 20 at-bats so far, he's batting .350 with a 1.100 OPS. He's hit two home runs, driven in five runs and has a stolen base to his credit. On a Phillies team lacking offensive pop, Mayberry's production is most welcome.
The question is whether Mayberry's spring stats will translate into regular-season production. As the Phillies have seen in the past, the answer is likely no. But he can still try to earn his keep. While it'll possibly make the Phillies think twice about cutting him, it could also make him a somewhat attractive trade chip.
Stats: .345/.387/.517, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 2B
One of the Phillies' largest expenditures of the offseason was Marlon Byrd. Signed to a two-year, $16 million contract, Byrd will be starting in right field on Opening Day barring any unforeseen circumstances.
So far, Byrd has looked solid in spring training. The biggest fear has been that Byrd will not be able to replicate his stats from 2013, which saw him slug over 20 home runs and drive in close to 90. While Byrd has hit only one ball out of the park in his first 10 spring games, his batting average of .345 is spectacular, and his .904 OPS is nothing to sneeze at.
Byrd is another player who's a bit older than fans would like. At 36 years of age, Byrd is no spring chicken, but he's not slowing down just yet either. Maybe his contract will turn out all right, but it is too early to tell for sure. He's off to an encouraging start, though.
Stats: .333/.455/.667, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB
Carlos Ruiz was the Phillies' biggest signing this offseason. After being retained as the Phillies' starting catcher for three years and $26 million, which was initially viewed as an overpay, the 35-year-old catcher has been a valuable asset.
Ruiz has been on fire this spring, batting .333 with a 1.121 OPS, two homers and six RBI. He has also walked three times in eight games. He's been the offensive catalyst Phillies fans have grown accustomed to, and he's also kept himself afloat after a 2013 that was a nightmare, save for August and beyond.
Chooch will anchor the pitching staff once again, and his game-calling skills will surely come in handy. He'll be paid over $8 million on average for each of the next three years, but the amount he contributes to this team right now is priceless.
Stats: 3 G (1 GS), 1.29 ERA, 6 K, 1 BB, 0.71 WHIP, .182 BAA
Jeff Manship was little more than a name coming into spring training. Signed on a minor league deal after no other teams called him this winter, Manship has made the most of his spring invite and now looks to be the favorite to win the fifth starting job out of the gate.
Thanks to injuries suffered by Cole Hamels, Jonathan Pettibone, Ethan Martin and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Manship remains the most attractive option left to step into the back of the rotation. He's certainly earned that right too. With a 1.29 ERA, a 0.71 WHIP and a .182 batting average against, Manship has been lights-out for the Phillies.
While Manship will probably have no guarantees once Cole Hamels is healthy again, he could serve as solid rotation depth in the minors or as a swingman if the Phillies see a fit for him in such a role.
Stats: 4 GS, 1-0, 2.03 ERA, 9 K, 4 BB, 0.90 WHIP, .170 BAA
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises for the Phillies this spring has been the overall outstanding performance of Roberto Hernandez. The pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona was inked to a one-year, $4.5 million contract at the end of the winter meetings, and he's proved his worth thus far.
Coming off the heels of five perfect innings against the New York Yankees on March 13, Hernandez is 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP and a .170 batting average against. He has a few more walks than the Phillies would probably like to see, but he's also been inducing more ground balls, which is especially important for a pitcher who will play half the year in shallow Citizens Bank Park.
It's only spring, but Hernandez has exceeded expectations, and the Phillies can only hope he'll pitch this well when the games start to count. Hernandez has shown he's physically set for 2014.