Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training Stock Watch: Who Is Rising, Falling

Phil Keidel@@PhilKeidelContributor IIMarch 12, 2014

Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training Stock Watch: Who Is Rising, Falling

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    Last week in this space my message was that the negative perception of the Phillies by the team's fans and the Philadelphia media probably was overblown.

    In the past week, the Phillies have done everything in their power to prove that the fans and the media were right all along.

    Look at this list of spring training results.

    Thanks to the phenomenon that is the spring training tie, the Phillies are 1-4-2 in their last seven and 2-10-2 overall.

    Despite these ugly numbers, quite a few of the Phillies are on the rise based on their individual statistics.

    But a few of them are falling like a skydiver with a faulty ripcord.

FALLING: Maikel Franco

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    It is no secret that the Phillies are an old baseball club that desperately needs an infusion of youth.

    It is thus no surprise that the Phillies are taking a long look at highly touted offensive prospect Maikel Franco. So far, though, Franco is not convincing anyone that he is ready to play in the major leagues.

    Franco is hitting .200 through 11 games with five singles and no extra-base hits in 25 at-bats.

    If Franco is not going to drive the ball all over the lot, he is not going to make the team because his defense is not about to punch his ticket for him.

FALLING: Chase Utley

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    So it is only 19 at-bats, but Chase Utley is hitting .158 in Clearwater. And that is not the worst of it.

    The worst of it is that Utley has three hits and they are all singles.

    Utley's value to the Phillies as a second baseman is almost entirely based on his ability to drive the baseball into gaps and over fences.

    If Utley's power is for whatever reason drying up, he becomes a well-below-average second baseman with chronically bad knees who is not going to drive in runs with singles.

    Of course, a couple of home runs in the next week or two would render this analysis moot, which is what Phillies fans have to be pulling for.

RISING: Marlon Byrd

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    The Phillies' decision to give Marlon Byrd two guaranteed years for $16 million was met with skepticism in Philadelphia.

    Byrd's hitting in Clearwater so far is validating general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s faith in the journeyman outfielder.

    His .346 average is certainly not sustainable, but Byrd's ability to hit for occasional power and a decent average while playing good right field defense will only be enhanced if he hits closer to .300 than .250 in Philadelphia this season.

FALLING: Ryan Howard

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    Last spring, Ryan Howard went on a spring training power tear and got at least a few Phillies fans thinking that he would have a big bounce-back season in 2013.

    It did not happen that way.

    Phillies fans can only hope that the reverse happens this season, i.e., that Howard struggles through the spring and catches fire once the regular season starts.

    For now, though, Howard's .160 average with no home runs and 10 strikeouts in 25 at-bats is cause for serious concern.

RISING: John Mayberry Jr.

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    At age 30, John Mayberry Jr. is more or less a finished product as a major league baseball player. He is not suddenly going to learn how to take a walk or hit for a higher average.

    But he is a power-hitting, right-handed batter for a Phillies team that can use all the power from that side of the plate that it can find.

    Mayberry Jr. is the hottest Phillies hitter right now, hitting .368 and slugging .789. He also has five runs batted in his 19 at-bats.

    The Phillies starting outfield is surely going to be Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Marlon Byrd. Mayberry Jr. is working to ensure that his name is called first when one of those three needs a blow.

FALLING: A.J. Burnett

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    With Cole Hamels' status uncertain, the Phillies need free agent right-hander A.J. Burnett to pitch at or above his career levels.

    Early returns are not encouraging.

    Burnett got knocked around by the Baltimore Orioles in his last start, yielding six runs on seven hits in three innings of work. He is 0-2 this spring with an earned run average of 12.60.

    More than you would for a clearly declining player like Ryan Howard, though, you have to give a veteran like Burnett the benefit of the doubt that he will be ready in April.

RISING: David Buchanan

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    More often than not, players who wear a numbers like 78 in spring training are not coming north with the big club.

    Don't tell David Buchanan that, though. The only numbers that are relevant to him right now are his earned run average (1.50) and his WHIP (0.67) through six innings pitched.

    Certainly this is unexpected. Buchanan had a poor stay at Double-A Reading last season, though he did turn things around some at Triple-A Lehigh Valley as the season wound down. Maybe he is one of those rare players who only thrives against better competition.

    Or maybe this is a bit of a fluke for Buchanan in Clearwater right now.

    But the Phillies could use a fifth starter with Cole Hamels' status in doubt. Buchanan has nothing to lose by continuing to pitch this way, and a lot to gain.

FALLING: Jake Diekman

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    Jake Diekman has electric movement and pace on his ball. Unfortunately, right now that movement and pace is coming from the ball after it leaves opponents' bats.

    Through five appearances and five innings, opponents are hitting .348 against Diekman. His earned run average is nine.

    He is still averaging a strikeout per inning, but those are just serving to rest the opposing baserunners' legs between sprints home.