This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in the National League. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Phillies, a team full of championship holdovers on whom aging has begun to take its toll.
Projected Lineup: CF Ben Revere, SS Jimmy Rollins, 2B Chase Utley, 1B Ryan Howard, RF Marlon Byrd, LF Domonic Brown, C Carlos Ruiz, 3B Cody Asche
The Phillies’ front office are some shrewd businessmen.
Last year, where other teams might have spent a lot of money on organizing a five-year World Series team reunion, the Phillies didn’t need one because EVERYONE IS STILL ON THE TEAM.
“You guys just hang out with each other in the clubhouse,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. probably said. “I’ll put on my Chris Brown CD, it’ll feel just like 2008.”
In all seriousness though, it’s time for some new faces in Phillie land. Ryan Howard is coming off of two disappointing, injury-plagued seasons, and if he doesn’t turn things around soon, the Phillies will have to do something drastic. Something like relegating MLB’s highest-paid player* to a platoon role.
Forcing the issue is the young Darin Ruf, who posted an .806 OPS last year (Howard’s was .784 in roughly the same number of plate appearances). He wields a big-time power bat that could be deadly if he learns a little more patience.
The rotation has potential to be pretty good, but that word—”potential”—is usually indicative that a lot of things need to go right. For instance, A.J. Burnett needs to be as good as he was for the Pirates last year. Cole Hamels needs to bounce back strong from his tendinitis. Roberto Hernandez needs to pitch a little less like Roberto Hernandez, and a little more like Fausto Carmona. Everything coming together in such a way seems like a long shot.
There is one pitcher I’m excited about, but he isn’t a starter—it’s young reliever Ethan Martin. The Phils moved him into the bullpen after one too many blowouts in games he started last season—and he was lights out, with opponents batting just .185 against him as a reliever. He also struck out more than a batter an inning, and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t made the closer by midseason.
And that’s not necessarily to say that Jonathan Papelbon’s days are numbered. But let’s be honest, his “death stare” just isn’t intimidating anymore. It’s like watching a scary movie that you’ve seen a hundred times already.
It will be a tough road if manager Ryne Sandberg wants to avoid a disappointing season. The poor guy—if he wanted to lose, he could have stayed with the Cubs.
*Howard is actually tied for highest MLB salary in 2014 with teammate Cliff Lee. Chalk up another victory for the Phillies’ front office.
Projected Finish: 70-92, Fourth place in NL East