MLB Spring Training: Analyzing What We've Learned About the Phillies So Far
In the most anticipated spring training in Phillies' history, the Phightins opened up Grapefruit League play Saturday and Sunday against the Yankees.
Let's take a look at what we've learned so far...
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Patience Is a Virtue for Domonic Brown
Dominic Brown debuted his new batting stance this past weekend.
Brown previously held his hands up extremely high looking like a less exagerrated version of Craig Counsell. Now, his hands are significantly lower near his shoulder area like Carlos Pena.
So far, Brown is 0-for-5 with four strikeouts and one walk; it's going to take time.
The Phillies are known to bring their top prospects slowly—note that Brown is 23.
Chase Utley debuted at the start of the 2003 season at 24. Utley bounced back and forth between the Bigs and the Triple-A for two years until the Phillies traded Placido Polanco to the Tigers in June of 2005.
Ryan Howard is another example. His first MLB call-up came in the September of 2005 at the age of 25. He won the Rookie of the Year award a year later.
If it were up to me, I'd start Brown in Lehigh and call him up around June as long as Francisco is productive. With the new stance, I believe those extra plate appearances the first two months with the Iron Pigs are more important than the reduced at-bats he'll see with the Phillies.
By this time next year, with Ibanez most likely gone in left field, Brown will start. That's when the Phillies will need him most.
Ben Francisco and Domonic Brown have each been up to the plate six times, tied for first on the team with Ross Gload. It's clear that the right field battle is going to take up all of spring training.
While Brown struggled this weekend, Francisco looked very good in his at-bats. He's hit the ball hard. Francisco is 3-for-5, including the three-run bomb he hit in the ninth inning against the Yankees.
If Francisco continues to pound the ball during the spring, he could be a dark-horse candidate to replace Jayson Werth in the five-hole.
Big Joe Looks Solid
Joe Blanton and Cole Hamels each looked good in their first spring training starts.
Blanton has been in the front and center of trade speculation since the signing of Cliff Lee. If indeed Blanton does get traded, a solid spring improves his trade stock. Then again, the Phillies may decide to keep him if he continues pitching well.
We saw Adam Wainwright go down for the season last week; I think the Phillies will hold on to Blanton for a while. If a trade is made before the deadline, I believe it will be during the year near the deadline.
If Blanton does stay a Phillie the entire season, the starting rotation will need a new nickname. Perhaps "Five Guys" could work?
Sizing Up the Young Pitchers
Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimer and Michael Stutes are the three young pitchers that most people have a keen eye on during the spring.
Each has made his debut, and each showed jitters.
Schlitter picked up the blown save-and-win in an inning of work Saturday. He pitched the seventh inning and allowed two earned runs, two hits and a walk.
De Fratus pitched the fourth and fifth innings yesterday. He allowed a two-run bomb and two walks.
Schwimer pitched the sixth inning, allowed four runs, only one of which were earned.
We'll see how these three progress as the minor league season goes along. Who will get called up to be a possible reliever in the bullpen for the Phillies?
Howard Hungry in Other Ways
Ryan Howard made his best Bill Buckner impersonation yesterday as he let a slow dribbler go through the five hole.
All jokes aside, I thought Howard looked trim last spring, but he looks even better this year. Currently, Howard is around the 250-pound mark. He was previously 280 pounds.
Nutrition changes helped out Howard's weight loss considerably. He proclaimed that good nutrition is more important than lifting weights. Before, the Big Bear munched out on fast food; he's cut that out of his diet. There will be no more Burger King stuffed steakhouses stuffed in Howard's belly anytime soon.
His weight loss was a main reason for Howard's improvement in the field last season; he's quicker. Howard still hesitates and airmails his throws to second. I'll be keeping an eye on those throws as the year moves along.
Chase Utley has knee tendinitis. It's clear that rest is the key. Utley stated that the tendinitis comes and goes, and Manuel said that he usually plays through it during the year.
Roy Halladay starts against his former team the Blue Jays today in Dunedin.
Jimmy Rollins led off the game yesterday with Victorino second. We'll see how Manuel handles the top of the lineup during the rest of spring.
Vance Worley looked very solid in two innings of work Saturday.
Oh, and Jayson Werth hates the bleeping Phillies.