(Note to reader: This article was written before I became a member at bleacher report, so I am just posting it now.)
An eventful Philadelphia Phillies off-season in which the Phillies brought in a former Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay to the expense of another former Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee, brought in their old new third baseman Placido Polanco, got rid of slick fielding third baseman Pedro Feliz, and re-shaped three fifths of their bench, the Phillies are again looking like contenders for 2010.
There is no reason to believe that this team will be getting any worse with most of their core of players in their prime.
That being the case, lets look at a position by position preview for Manager Charlie Manuel’s Phillies.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz always remains a strong option to handle the Phillies rotation, being known as one of the best defensive catchers. He has also improved at the bat turning his 2008 batting average of 219 into a 2009 batting average of 255 and his home run total increased from 4 to 9. He also knows how to turn it on in the clutch with a career 353 average in the World Series.
Ryan Howard is still regarded as one of the top first baseman in the league with his great power. As long as he keeps his strikeout totals down, and even if he doesn’t, there is no reason to believe besides injuries he won’t have another 40+ homer year as he has done in the past four years.
Second Baseman Chase Utley is clearly the best second baseman in the game throughout the past few years with a great desire to win. As a true winner who loves to play the game, the stats are only half of the equation.
I wouldn’t mind having this guy on my team.
Longest tenured Phillie Jimmy Rollins needs no introduction as the best Phillies shortstop of all time. Even though he had a down year last year, hopefully his miracle walk of hit in Game four of the NLCS last year will spark him to have another great year this year.
The Phillies welcome back Placido Polanco who was on the team from 2002-2005. Even though he has to switch over from second base to third and may not be as good as a defender as Pedro Feliz, his bat makes up for the difference and then some.
Fan favorite left fielder Rauuuuuuuuul Ibanez returns to Philly having had groin surgery after the World Series last year. He had a great first half when he was healthy last year so if he is healthy for this whole season after the surgery he could produce solid numbers.
Center Fielder Shane “Flyin’ Hawaiian” Victorino comes back after winning the gold glove in center field last year. Victorino’s energy brings the spark power the Phillies need for this upcoming season, although he could work on having a little bit more intelligence about the game.
All Star right fielder Jayson Werth returns this year with a big beard after producing monster numbers last year. He is to be a free agent after this year so the Phillies have to enjoy him while they can.
The Phillies bench has three new faces: Ross Gload, Brian Schneider, and Juan Castro. If these players get enough at bats to stay not rusty than they can be quite productive at times.
The relief pitching this year has mostly familiar faces returning from last year. A lot of their success will depend on the productiveness and health of Closer Brad Lidge and lefty J.C. Romero. Brad Lidge will have to bounce back from a horrendous 2009, and set up man Ryan Madson always plays a key role in the pen.
New Ace Roy Halladay joins the Phillies after many outstanding years in Toronto and is widely regarded as a top five pitcher in baseball. Pitching in the easier NL should help him continue at the pace he is at.
A lot of the Phillies success will rely upon 2008 World Series hero Cole Hamels having a bounce back year from his bad 2009. If Hamels should bounce back and become a co-ace of Roy Halladay, the Phillies will be a hard to beat should it come playoff time.
Steady Joe Blanton looks to have another stellar year as Sophomore J.A. Happ looks to build upon his success of his rookie year.
The fifth starters spot will be determined in spring training between 25 year old Kyle Kendrick and 47 year old Jamie Moyer.
The Phillies are coming into a season where a lot is expected of them and they should not disappoint.
There is no reason to believe that this team who have won three divisions in a row and two World Series’ in a row can’t return to where they belong.