With the Winter Meetings set to conclude today following the Rule 5 Draft, baseball fans are seeing more and more of what their teams' rosters will look like for next season. Many teams have or will soon fill the remaining holes in their rosters, looking to bolster their offense, defense, pitching or more.
The Philadelphia Phillies, whose current primary target is Jimmy Rollins, will have most of their holes filled for next season on paper once either he or another shortstop signs with the team.
I emphasize—on paper.
As with every other team in baseball, unexpected things will happen to some of the Phillies players throughout spring training and the season that will take a toll on the team. Some players get hurt, others don't hit or pitch as well as they once did, while others may lose the skills they had with the glove.
Regardless of why, it's inevitable that some players regress each season. Being one of the oldest teams in baseball, the Phillies understand this well. Many of their MVP and All-Star-caliber players three years ago have since become mediocre. Players like Chase Utley and Rollins, who were considered to be among the best in the league at their positions, have since been downgraded to the middle of the pack with stars throughout the rest of the majors rising up.
Having said that, there are numerous players on the Phillies' roster whose performance could take a turn for the worse next season. Whether it's a gradual decline that's about to hit rock bottom or a sudden free fall, some players just may not do as well as they had in years past.
Not all players listed in this slideshow will necessarily regress next season, but they have a chance of doing so, and we'll discuss the reasons why each player mentioned could deteriorate.
Let's get crackin'.
What more is there to say about Ryan Howard?
The Big Piece will have his five-year, $125 million extension kick in next season. Whether he'll be worth the money next year is another question, one that likely comes with the answer "no."
Howard, who's due $20 million next season in the first year of his back-loaded extension, infamously ruptured his left Achilles tendon in what was the final out of NLDS Game 5 against the eventual World Series champion, the St. Louis Cardinals.
It's believed at this point that Howard could miss the first month of the season or so due to the injury. In the meantime, players such as John Mayberry, Jr., Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome could all see time at first base until Howard returns.
But what about when Howard does return?
The general consensus regarding Achilles injuries is that a player is never the same after recovery since the tendon is shortened and less flexible as a result of the surgery. When Howard returns, his running abilities (if there were any to begin with) could be diminished and his overall performance at the plate could decline more than it has in recent years if this becomes a long-term issue.
Last season, Howard hit .253 with 33 home runs, 116 RBI, and had an OPS of .835 in 152 games, all among the lowest of his career and the lowest in which he's played at least 150 games. Should the downward trend continue, Howard could be useless after a couple of years.
For the sake of the Phillies and Howard's contract though, we'll be optimistic and hope for the best.
Carlos Ruiz, the catcher who has forever endeared himself to Phillies fans as Chooch, has been a staple to the Phillies' success over the last few seasons. Despite being a converted second baseman, Ruiz has been fantastic in handling one of baseball's best rotations.
Consisting of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, the Phillies rotation is one for the ages, yet a margin of their success can be attributed to Ruiz's dominance in calling pitches behind the plate. Halladay, who has been the most vocal supporter of the Phillies' starters, has thanked Ruiz in the past many times, given him SunLife Stadium's home plate from his perfect game and an identical cast of his 2010 NL Cy Young Award, among other things.
Ruiz's defense behind the plate has gone undervalued by many outside of Philadelphia for quite some time now and his leadership of pitchers has been almost unparalleled in recent years. His offense isn't nearly as good as his defense, and while that's okay, it is an issue worth mentioning.
Over the last few seasons, Ruiz has seemed to find his swing, hitting .300 and .283 in 2010 and 2011 respectively, after never reaching .260 in his career. He's also played more games in the last two seasons than he had prior. However, his OPS has taken a hit—it went from .847 in 2010 to .754 last year. That's not something that occurs by chance.
While he may be the Phillies' most clutch player, his offensive production could take a hit next year on the track he's headed. With his average declining again, we could see Chooch's performance take a toll next season. He'll be 33 on Opening Day and plays the most physically-demanding position in the sport, so while a regression might not be surprising, it would be disappointing to see.
Was there ever anything special about David Herndon to begin with?
The Phillies' 2010 Rule 5 Draft pick has been nothing but trouble for the team. Having been claimed and never returned to his home team, the Angels, in 2010, Herndon's rights were transferred to the Phillies after they kept him on the 25-man roster all season.
In his rookie season in 2010, Herndon was average at best, going 1-3 with a 4.30 ERA, 29 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.60 in 47 games (52.1 IP). In fact, calling that season average is overstating it—it was terrible. Fans were wondering what the team was thinking in sending him out to the mound, let alone keeping him. Manager Charlie Manuel seemed to take a liking to him though, which cemented his position on the roster.
Last season, however, Herndon had to earn his roster spot out of spring training. He did, and started out the year worse than the last. As a result, Herndon was demoted to the minors where he worked on his mechanics and arm slotting, and when he returned he did very well, lowering his ERA of 9.53 prior to his demotion to 3.32 by the season's end. Although he did blow up a bit at times, his other season stats were as follows: 1-4 record, 39 strikeouts, 1.37 WHIP in 45 games (57.0 IP).
So you're likely thinking "Why would Herndon become a fixture in the minors if he improved last season?"
Three words: Minor League depth.
Of all the prospects the Phils have in their farm system that are closest to being major league ready, they have more relievers than any other position. Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimer and Phillippe Aumont are the three core relief pitching prospects the Phillies have at Triple-A right now, and all three could be called up any day, with the former two gaining that distinction late last season.
Simply put, there's no need for Herndon, and when you've got three prospects who have been better than Herndon since day one, why not take advantage of them? Herndon could blow up again next year, as was evidenced by his late-season return to infamy.
But will he blow up next year? Let's use those prospects before we find out.
Oh, Kyle Kendrick...
Kendrick, who's been a part of the big-league squad since 2007, has been one of the Phillies' most inconsistent players over the last five seasons. Whether pitching out of the bullpen or as a member of the starting rotation, Kendrick has not been the most reliable pitcher for the Phils.
In 2007, Kendrick's rookie year, he went 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA and 49 Ks along with a WHIP of 1.27 in 20 starts, placing fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting that season. But in Kendrick's sophomore season, he went just 11-9 with an atrocious 5.49 ERA and 1.61 WHIP, though he did strike out 69 batters, an improvement from the season before, all in 31 games, 30 of them starts.
In 2009, Kendrick was sent to the minors for a majority of the season to work on his mechanics, playing in just nine games for the Phillies. But in 2010, Kendrick was back on the big-league roster, going 11-10 with a 4.73 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and 84 strikeouts in 33 games (31 starts). At this point, it seemed like Kendrick was finally back on track.
Last season was one of Kendrick's best. Having been used as a long reliever and fill-in starter, Kendrick did well in his flexible role, going 8-6 with a 3.22 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 59 strikeouts in 34 games, 15 of them starts. Kendrick filled in for an injury last year in the rotation when needed and pitched out of the bullpen when one of the starters had a rough outing.
However, the success may not last.
Kyle Kendrick isn't a top-of-the-rotation kind of pitcher. He could see his luck decrease next season, and while it'd be a shame if that happened, it very well could. Even-numbered seasons tend to be a problem for Kendrick (which next year is), and assuming the Phillies tender Kendrick a contract, he'll likely make just over $3 million should he head to arbitration. But will he be worth the dough for next year? We'll have to wait and see.
Placido Polanco, when healthy, is one of the Phillies' best players. However, it seems that there's rarely a time anymore when he's 100 percent.
Polanco, who re-signed with the Phillies before the 2010 season, has given the Phils peace of mind on the left side of the diamond. His defense is spectacular, and his offensive consistency is among the best on the team.
The biggest problem with Polanco, though, is that he's seldom healthy enough to play. From being hit in the elbow by a Tim Hudson pitch in 2010 to a sports hernia in 2011, Polanco has had some issues staying on the field, and that's been a problem for the Phillies.
His recent stat lines aren't great either, and have been regressing each year since rejoining the Phillies. In 2010, Polanco hit .298 with six home runs, 52 RBI and had an OPS of .726. And then last year, in an All-Star and Gold Glove season for Polanco, he batted .277 with five homers, 50 RBI and had an OPS of .674. The difference between the two seasons? Polanco played in 10 more games in 2010 than 2011.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Polanco isn't an asset to the team, because he's a very valuable one. It's just that when he's not healthy, he isn't doing much, and that's often enough that his bat isn't sufficient upon returning to the field.
At age 36, he can only do so much, but as a career-.300 hitter, you do expect a little more. In the last year of his contract next season, Polanco makes $6.75 million thanks to his Gold Glove last year. But will he be worth it? That's what we don't know just yet.
There's been some rumors that the Phillies were shopping Polanco in an effort to sign Aramis Ramirez for third base. While that's since subsided, it gives you insight on what the Phillies are thinking, and that's that Polly may not be able to play all of next year. With the likelihood of injury again next year, Polanco could see his dwindling bat plummet even more and if he gets hurt, it's almost certain to happen.
It's good to have Jim Thome back.
There's little left for Thome to accomplish in his sure-fire Hall of Fame career. He's been a five-time All-Star, he's been near the top of MVP ballots in most seasons, and he's now a member of the 600 home run club. The only thing missing from his illustrious career is a World Series ring, and it's the reason he's back in Philly—to get one last shot at one.
Thome has been all over the place. He started out in Cleveland as an Indian but after the 2002 season, Thome signed a massive six-year, $82.5 million deal with the Phillies, where he instantly became a fan favorite. However, due to injuries and the emergence of Ryan Howard in the minors, Thome was traded to the Chicago White Sox after the 2005 season. He played there until 2009, when at the trade deadline he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After the 2009 season, Thome signed in Minnesota for one year and did the same for the 2011 season. But back last August, Thome expressed a desire to be traded, and he was sent back to Cleveland. Yet again, with history repeating itself, Thome signed with the Phillies on a one-year deal.
There is some issue with Thome, and that's his ability to stay healthy. Thome's had some back problems over the years, and it's been a huge factor in his play. It's not that he has to field first base all the time, since he won't, but even his bat has taken issue when he's hurt. As a pinch-hitting power bat and possible fill-in at first base, Thome will need to take it easy and make sure he's healthy.
Since Thome will be used in a limited role next year, his hitting could take a sharp turn for the worse. If he doesn't hit enough, he could see his average regress, and while he'd still be a power hitter, his hitting for average wouldn't be satisfactory. Then again, he wasn't signed to hit for average, but you know what I mean.
Welcome to the Phillies, Ty Wigginton.
Wigginton has been a player that the Phillies have been pursuing for ages. He's a good power bat, he's versatile in the field and he can still hit for decent average. Wigginton is a great bench bat for the Phillies, and an inexpensive one too, costing them only $2 million.
He's played in his career at first base, second base, third base and in the corner outfield spots. His batting over his career has also been decent, with a career .265 average, 158 home runs, 548 RBI, and he has an OPS of .768 throughout his 10-year career. He'll be a good bat for the Phillies to have on the bench, and he'll likely be a valuable asset to the club in the event of an injury.
However, just because he's valuable to the team doesn't mean he'll necessarily be great.
Aside from his All-Star 2010 season, Wiggy has seen his stats decline over the last few years or so. In 2008, he hit .285 and in 2009, he hit .273. Then, in 2010, his average sharply declined, going to .248 and then .242 last year. His OPS has also gone down since 2008, when it was .876, and since then it hasn't been over .731, which it was last season. Wigginton's RBI total has also gradually decreased as well, aside from 2010.
Will Wiggy be able to produce enough for the Phillies on a limited basis? His glove is questionable and mediocre at best regardless of position, and if his offense continues on its current trend, then we could see it go down. Coors Field is a great hitters' park, and if he wasn't doing extremely well there, then I wouldn't expect that his home run totals will suddenly improve at Citizens Bank Park. Maybe I'm wrong. But we could see Wigginton's hitting decline next year, and I mean by a lot.
Will John Mayberry, Jr. be the Phillies' starting left fielder next year? Barring any injury issue to Ryan Howard, it's looking more and more like that's going to happen.
Mayberry, who had been a bench player until last year, was thought to have lost his chance at major league glory. At age 27, there was little left that Mayberry could do to improve and despite starting out the year on the major league roster, he was sent to the minors partway through the year to improve his swing.
Then something incredible happened: He fixed his swing and starting hitting. From changing his upright batting stance to a crouched, tighter one, Mayberry saw his power numbers and batting average improve upon his return to the major league.
Last year, Mayberry hit 15 home runs and 49 RBI along with a .273 batting average and .854 OPS in 104 games. Sure, it's nothing spectacular, but it's better than what Raul Ibanez hit last year (except for homers and RBI). At least Mayberry was more consistent.
Mayberry's defense is above average as well, and he's not afraid to go diving for a play or to run a few extra steps to get to a fly ball. However, overall, he could regress.
Here's why: Last year, 33 of Mayberry's 73 hits were for extra bases. That's incredible. It's also not going to happen again next year. While Mayberry could hit just as many singles, unless his new batting stance is the answer to all our problems, Mayberry will likely see his extra base hit percentage decrease.
But who knows? Maybe it won't.
The Vanimal will be back next season on the major league roster.
Vance Worley had a great rookie season. He went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA, 119 Ks and had a WHIP of 1.23 in 25 games, 21 of them starts. Having seemed as a bullpen staple upon his late-season emergence in 2010, Worley was needed in 2011 to pitch in the rotation, and he did so amicably.
Worley's season didn't start out great, though. He had some control issues and his constant switching from the bullpen to the rotation was becoming a nuisance, so he was sent to the minors to improve his command, and boy did he ever. He pitched his first complete game against the San Francisco Giants last year, and he even beat the Boston Red Sox.
Having placed third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, Worley was a great asset to the Phillies' rotation. Had he not been available to fill in for Roy Oswalt, who knows what might have happened, what with Joe Blanton hurt and all.
And yet, I make the statement that Worley's sophomore season will not be as great. Keep in mind that Worley was a rookie, and more teams will have his number now that he's no longer a new face to hitters. There's also a statistical reason for a possible regression, and that's Worley's BABIP, or batting average on balls in play. In this case, this reflects how hitters fared on all hit balls in play except home runs, and against Worley they hit .290. For starters, a good BABIP for a pitcher is around .300 or so, and to have one at .290 in a rookie season? That's unreal.
Could it be a telling sign of more ability? Potentially. But BABIP tends to be a stat of chance, and Worley's happened to be in his favor last year. Will it be next year as well?
We'll have to wait and see, but chances are it will be a bit higher.
Who said that this included all major league players?
That's what Freddy Galvis could become next year if Jimmy Rollins walks in free agency. Although it seems more and more that a deal will get done with J-Roll, for the interim we have to assume that he won't be back.
Galvis is considered the Phillies' shortstop of the future. He has a glove that would be among the best in baseball already, and his bat has improved. Having hit around he .230-.240 range most of the time, Galvis took a huge step forward when he hit .273 in Double-A Reading last year, earning a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. And it didn't stop there—Galvis hit .298 in 33 games at Triple-A.
Galvis doesn't have a power bat though, hitting just eight dingers last year, though that was an improvement as well. For his overall improvement last year, Galvis was awarded the 2011 Paul Owens Award, given to the Phillies' best minor league talent. Galvis received the award for hitting, Trevor May for pitching.
Let's assume that Galvis is the starting shortstop next year. At 20 years old, his glove is major league ready, but his bat is far from it. Facing major league pitching, Galvis could see his numbers plummet further down than he's ever seen. If he doesn't hit well enough for the Phillies, there's little sense in having him play in the majors. But if worst comes to worst, he's the best option the Phillies have.
Galvis' glove would likely not worsen next year in the majors, but unless his workout ethic is great, his hitting won't be good enough to face major league pitching. For now, I'm holding my breath and hoping that Jimmy Rollins returns on a three- or four-year deal and allow Galvis to develop and become his successor.
If Galvis does remain in the minors, there's little reason to think he won't improve, but until J-Roll re-signs, there's a reason to worry about shortstop next year if it comes down to Galvis.