The Philadelphia Phillies are still in the process of filling out their roster after the acquisitions of Jonathan Papelbon, Laynce Nix, Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome. The thought of Ruben Amaro as GM of this ball club makes many wonder if there is more exciting news on the horizon.
Can the "Riverboat Gambler" find another diamond piece to add to the puzzle? We have a pretty good idea of who will be in the Philadelphia Phillies lineup in 2012, as it looks pretty similar to the team that couldn't score a run in the NLDS against Chris Carpenter.
Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco are coming off serious surgeries and you can bet that both players will miss some time recuperating.
Here is a prediction of the number of games started by each Phillies' position player.
John Mayberry Jr. had a breakout 2011 season in which he launched 15 HR in just 267 AB. Mayberry showed the pop and potential that the Phillies have been expecting from the 6'5" monster.
Mayberry appeared in 104 games in 2011 (many as a PH) and you can be assured that he will get every opportunity to start in LF this season. The problem for Mayberry is that the Phillies also added Laynce Nix.
Laynce Nix hit 16 HR against LH-pitching in 2011, the same amount of HR that Raul Ibanez hit all of last season. Expect Mayberry to platoon in left and also spell Ryan Howard and Jim Thome at 1B early in the season.
Don't forget that Mayberry filled in admirably for Shane Victorino in CF last season as well. No matter where he is playing, John Mayberry Jr. will be in the starting lineup quite a bit.
Projected Games Started: 100
I don't really understand the backlash towards the Laynce Nix signing, as I think it will turn out to be a steal for the Philadelphia Phillies. Pundits may point to Nix's OBP, but let's remember here that the Phillies have lacked the power and punch off the bench that they had in 2008.
Enter the man-child Laynce Nix. He can really hit RH-pitching and has a lot of power, evidenced by his 16 HR in limited AB in 2011.
The Phillies now have a legitimate platoon in LF with Mayberry and Nix and maybe one of the two can break out like Jayson Werth did a few years ago. Nix will see a lot of time in LF against lefties and will also be a valuable pinch-hitter in the late innings.
Projected Games Started: 50
Shane Victorino has appeared in at least 130 games in six of his eight MLB seasons. The "Flyin' Hawaiian" and fan favorite will be playing for a big contract in 2012, so don't expect those numbers to diminish (barring injury) this season.
Victorino is one of the best defensive CF in MLB and he was undoubtedly the Phillies best position player the first half of last season. It's sad to say, but this may be the last season for Victorino patrolling CF at Citizens Bank Park for the Phightins.
Projected Games Started: 150
Hunter Pence is a beast, plain and simple. He loves to play the game and he's appeared in no less than 154 games in four out of five seasons in the majors.
As the lone proven RH power bat in the lineup (no offense John Mayberry), don't expect Pence to be out of the lineup much. He played in a career-high 159 games in 2009. Expect much more of the same in 2012.
It will be awesome to have Pence with the team for an entire season. Did someone say All-Star nod?
Projected Games Started: 160
The Philadelphia Phillies have been actively shopping Placido Polanco, and that's where GM Ruben Amaro Clause enters the picture. Polanco is coming off two surgeries this offseason and it was apparent that he wasn't right at the end of the season.
Amaro knows that this team needs more power in the lineup and I believe he will eat a chunk of Polanco's salary to add a stud 3B.
With the Eagles officially out of contention, All I want for Christmas is....
Projected Games Started: 0 (with the Phillies)
The re-signing of Jimmy Rollins (at Ruben Amaro's price) will now allow Jimmy Rollins to become the all-time leader in a myriad of Philadelphia Phillies categories. It's amazing to know that J-Roll has appeared in no less than 137 games in 10 out of the last 11 seasons.
Jimmy has missed games the past two seasons due to injury, but that doesn't mean the guy is breaking down. Jimmy can put the contract talks behind him and do what he does best, play SS for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Jimmy has been a constant in this lineup for the past decade and that won't change in 2012.
Projected Games Started: 150
Chase Utley's mystery knee problem was the talk of Spring Training last season. Speculation grew that Utley would not be able to play in 2011, but he played over 100 games for the seventh straight season.
Utley has been a mainstay at 2B and the double-play combination in the middle for the Phightins will be together for at least another three seasons.
Bold prediction alert: Utley will return to All-Star form in 2012 for the Phillies. Okay, that's a little too bold. Charlie Manuel would be smart to give Utley some rest whenever he can.
Projected Games Started: 135
Ryan Howard sure left a stamp on a disaster of a last game for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011. Howard is out for five to six months after surgery on his achilles and may miss the start of the season.
Howard has played at least 143 games in six straight seasons, but that streak could be in serious jeopardy in 2012. Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton, John Mayberry Jr. and others all can play 1B, and you'd have to expect that Charlie Manuel will ease the "Big Piece" back into the lineup.
If anyone knows Charlie Manuel, they know that he doesn't understand the phrase "ease back into the lineup." Expect Howard's season to be managed the same way Utley's was in 2011.
Projected Games Started: 105
Philadelphia Phillies nation has fallen in love with Carlos Ruiz (aka Chooch, Senor Octubre, etc) due to his warrior mentality, passion for the game and clutch hitting. He has appeared in no less than 107 games for five straight seasons.
This is the one position where Manuel manages the players' time effectively. The Phillies have a reliable backup catcher in Brian Schneider, who calls an excellent game and is solid defensively.
Ruiz appeared in a career-high 132 games in 2011 and it's no coincidence that he really struggled down the stretch and in the playoffs. They pay Brian Schneider a salary, so let him earn his paycheck.
The Phillies would be smart to continue giving Schneider regular action and keeping Chooch fresh.
Projected Games Started: 125