With football season officially over, it’s now time to focus on the start of another baseball season. For the Philadelphia Phillies, this means the start of what many fans see as the beginning of the end of an era. This offseason has seen significant change for the Phillies compared to recent years. They will have at least four new everyday starters on a team that has underperformed the past two seasons. Add to that the fact the Braves are much stronger with the addition of Justin Upton and B.J. Upton and the Nationals could make a push for their own decade of NL East dominance, and this season means a lot for the future of Philadelphia baseball.
There are many more questions heading into spring training than in past years. The Phillies will rely heavily on strong comebacks for veteran stars and overperformances by young unknowns. Here is a list of some of the top questions for the Phillies heading into spring training:
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1. Will Domonic Brown ever live up to his potential or have the Phillies overrated the young “five-tool” outfielder? The Phillies refused to include Brown in any deal over the last four seasons because he had such a high ceiling. He was often compared to Darryl Strawberry but has yet to live up to the hype. He shows glimpses of being a player who can help the Phillies move toward the future, but he is never consistent enough to win a starting job. Brown is still only 25 years old, but the clock is definitely ticking. If he does not show some improvement this year, it’s realistic to picture the Phillies getting rid of their future franchise player.
2. Can Darin Ruf perform at the Major League level? Ruf came out of nowhere to become one of the Phillies’ best prospects, and at an older age than most. It is unrealistic to expect him to put up comparable power numbers against major league pitching, but it does seem like the Phillies are going to give Ruf a chance to win a starting spot in left field. To be honest, Ruf makes former Phillie Pat Burrell look like Torii Hunter in the outfield, but if he can contribute offensively, his bad defense can be ignored.
3. Can Roy Halladay be the stud that he has been in the past? Two years ago, Halladay was considered one of the best pitchers in the game, but after a injury-prone season last year, he is looked at as an afterthought in the Phillies rotation. This is likely to be Halladay’s last season because he won’t have enough innings to qualify for his one-year opt in, so it is expected he’ll be pitching for a new contract from Philly or another club. The team is transitioning to Cole Hamels being its ace, but if Halladay can pitch like the Halladay of two years ago, the Phillies may surprise this season.
4. Can the Phillies depend on their bullpen? The bullpen was a huge disappointment last season. The team depended heavily on young arms with no big league experience, and their lack of success was predictable. The team brought in veteran pitchers Mike Adams and Chad Durbin to help serve as stopgaps between starting pitchers and closer Jonathan Papelbon. The seventh and eighth innings are key to the Phillies success this season.
5. Will Michael Young bring consistency to the Phillies lineup? The Phillies got exactly what they needed in a right-handed bat to put near the top of the lineup, but the question is how much is left in Young’s tank? He brings a veteran presence with plate discipline, which is something that was much needed last year. Young’s fielding is not a huge downgrade by any means over what the Phillies had at third last year, but he is not the ideal third base option. However, using Young as a stopgap until they find a third baseman of the future is not the worst situation to be in. Hopefully, he has more left in him then people think.