Philadelphia Phillies preview: Is the window open for another year?
The Philadelphia Phillies hobbled into 2012 with a variety of spare parts playing significant roles on a daily basis. Injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, as well as an elbow concern for Roy Halladay would eventually do enough to halt the Phillies run of five consecutive playoff appearances. However, it’s looking more sunny in Philadelphia as 2013 approaches for various reasons.
The usual suspects — Jimmy Rollins, Utley and Howard — appear to be at full health for the start of 2013. An overhaul of the complementary pieces to the roster did occur, though. Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco and Ty Wigginton are no longer in Philly. They’ve been replaced by Ben Revere, Michael Young and Delmon Young.
Aside from question marks surrounding Halladay’s health and velocity, the pitching staff looks formidable once again. The acquisition of John Lannan should bode well. He will provide a complimentary presence towards the back end of the rotation alongside Kyle Kendrick.
Additionally, the Philadelphia Phillies added to their bullpen with the signings of Mike Adams and Chad Durbin. Adams had significant issues with his velocity last season due to thoracic outlet syndrome. Adams underwent surgery in the offseason for this condition, and the Phillies appear pleased with his potential to rebound. Durbin, a core member of the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies championship team, is back and will provide stability in the middle-relief role.
After swinging and missing on Justin Upton and other high-profile movers from the offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies appear more ordinary than ever. No longer are Utley, Halladay, Howard and Adams at the pinnacle of their positions. Times are changing, and if anything, this offseason showed how far the Phillies are behind the rejuvenated Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves.
Philadelphia Phillies position players
Despite AARP memberships in sight, the veteran core of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup remains intact. First baseman Howard is entering April at full strength for the first time since 2011. At second base, Utley is opening with a clean bill of health for the first time since 2010. Meanwhile, Rollins will continue to man shortstop with Michael Young hovers at third base.
Aside from having zero pop in his bat and a weak arm, Revere will patrol center field. The Phillies hope his speed will make up for his other deficiencies. Once healthy, Delmon Young will start in right field. In the meantime, right field will be a platoon between John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix. The biggest surprise thus far is Domonic Brown. Since joining the coaching staff, new hitting coach Wally Joyner has tweaked Brown’s swing. After a breakout performance in spring training, Brown will be the everyday left fielder. If he can continue his production from the spring into the season, he will finally live up to the billing of a top prospect.
Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff
The starting rotation will consist of Hamels, Lee, Halladay, Kendrick and Lannan. Hamels and Lee are tuned to perform masterfully on the mound this season. Both pitchers could easily surpass the 200-strikeout barrier in 200 innings pitched. Concerns over Halladay’s health, and his subsequent loss in velocity and control, are paramount though. After a down year last season, it seems as if the Halladay train is finally coming to stop. Finally, Kendrick and Lannan have industrious arms that will complement the top-heavy Philadelphia Phillies rotation.
Not much has changed in the bullpen. Aside from the acquisitions of Adams and Durbin, Jonathan Papelbon will remain one of the game’s elite closers. If Adams fails as the set-up man, Antonio Bastardo could see a return to that role. Finally at full health, Mike Stutes will look to regain the momentum he had in his 2011 rookie year where he was one of the better relievers in baseball. Raul Valdes and Jeremy Horst will round out the bullpen.
Philadelphia Phillies opening day lineup
- Jimmy Rollins SS
- Ben Revere CF
- Chase Utley 2B
- Ryan Howard 1B
- Michael Young 3B
- Domonic Brown LF
- Laynce Nix RF
- Erik Kratz C
Philadelphia Phillies Prospect Watch
Despite being 26 years old, Darin Ruf was the prospect to watch this spring. After a dismal defensive showing in Clearwater, Ruf has been sent to triple-A. With a lot of pop in his bat and the ability to hit for .300 average, Ruf has the potential to be an everyday player at the major-league level if he can hone in his defensive inadequacies.
Third-base prospect Cody Asche is a player to watch. The Philadelphia Phillies appear content to have Michael Young keep Asche’s seat warm for 2013. With a solid bat and defensive skills to match, Asche eventually could see playing time in September when rosters expand. If he continues to progress at his current rate, Asche is likely to begin 2014 as the starting third baseman for the Phillies.
If things go awry quick and the Philadelphia Phillies are determined to lack patience, righty Jonathan Pettibone could see a promotion in 2013 much quicker than anticipated. A brief stint late last season showed Pettibone has the potential to be a menace on the mound. With a four-pitch repertoire, Pettibone could be the answer to the Halladay question. With Halladay set to sail on from Philadelphia after 2013, Pettibone is in line for a full-time gig next season.
After last season, the morale of the Philadelphia Phillies fan base was at its lowest since the 97-loss debacle of 2000. Productive spring training outings from Howard and Brown have rectified the fan base in anticipating a bounce-back season in 2013. Unfortunately, the loaded rosters of the Nationals and Braves stand in their way.
It would be easier to be higher on the Phillies if it appeared that Halladay has recovered from an awful 2012. Instead, it looks like he may be worse in 2013. The addition of Adams in the bullpen is front page news. On the other hand, no one from the front office has propagated the idea that Adams’ best days are likely behind him. The same can be said of Rollins, Utley, Howard, and the Young duo.
With that in mind, the Philadelphia Phillies have the potential to allure fans so long as the team core remains healthy. While they are not a viable threat to win the division, things could get interesting. The Phillies have the pitching to tease everyone into thinking they’re relevant. Attaining one of the two wild cards is viable if the Phillies overachieve. At the end of the day, expect the Philadelphia Phillies to miss the postseason for a second consecutive season while remaining .500 or better for the 11th consecutive year.