Philadelphia Phillies (2012 Finish: 81-81, 3rd place)
Key Losses - The subtractions for this franchise began last summer. Shane Victorino was traded to the Dodgers (now with Red Sox) as was Officer Joe Blanton. Hunter Pence was sent to the west coast as well, being unloaded to San Francisco. In the offseason, pitcher Vance Worley was traded to Minnesota, along with pitching prospect Trevor May.
Key Additions - There really was no headline-stealing move made by GM Ruben Amaro, Jr., though he made several under-the-rader moves that could go a long way to whatever success the Phillies have this year. Center Fielder Ben Revere made his way over in the trade that saw Worley and May make their way to the Twin Cities. Trade rumor after trade rumor linking Michael Young to other teams came and went every year, but this offseason he was finally moved. With an everyday 3rd baseman needed, the Phils traded for Mr. Ranger. They also solidified the backend of their rotation by signing former National and Long Beach native John Lannan, and they hope the signing of setup man Mike Adams will shore up last year’s shaky bullpen. And to deal with the lack of offense/track record in the outfield, Delmon Young was brought it on a very team-friendly 1-year deal of $750,000.
Rookie to Watch - Phillippe Aumont, RHP, ‘pen: The Phillies’ farm system has taken a big hit in recent years, as prospect after prospect has been traded to fill current needs. One exception is when they traded Cliff Lee to the Mariners, which banked them 3 players, including Aumont. Originally slated for a starting role, injuries and ineffectiveness have dimmed what was a bright shining star. Still, the Quebec-born pitcher has transitioned to the bullpen and seems to have a future in that position with his power fastball and his curveball that is described as a “power slurve.” Back from the World Baseball Classic, Aumont is geared up to win a spot in the Phillies’ bullpen, and might get on our Metsian nerves at some point this year.
Honorable Mention but no longer a rookie - Domonic Brown: According to my Phillie fan friend Ted, Brown is finally having the kind of spring that the franchise wished he put together years ago. An interesting thing to monitor throughout the year.
…Age is starting to catch up to the team that’s owned the division since the Mets weren’t good enough to NOT hand it to them. Ryan Howard is now 33 years old and in the 2nd year of a 5-year extension. Though his .219 AVG might be partly a product of him not getting back from the NLDS-ending ankle injury until mid-season, the 30% strikeout rate becomes more of a liability with that AVG so low. In 292 PA, he still collected 14 HR and 56 RBI. BUT he walked a career-low 8.6% of the time, leading to another career-low OBP of .295.
Of course, there is also Chase Utley. His knees are shot, and he will most likely never put up the 30-100-type numbers he did when the Phillies were perennial champion contenders. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a very productive player. Utley had an easier time getting his knees under him last year (pun intended) than Howard did coming back from injury, hitting .256 with 11 HR and 45 RBI with a .365 OBP in 362 PA. If Chase goes down at any point, Freddy Galvis is a very adequate replacement, as his defense is outstanding and his bat seems to be coming around to Major League pitching.
Then there is the starting rotation, which, though with plenty of question marks, should make us shake our heads at many points throughout the season. Cole Hamels has been named the Opening Day starter, which is both a testament to his fantastic year and a testament to the concern for Roy Halladay. He has been getting tattooed in spring games where his fastball is topping out at 88 MPH (he was removed from his most recent start after 1 inning and more diminished velocity.) He missed the majority of last year with a shoulder injury, so the Liberty Bell is ringing alarmingly down in the City of Brotherly Love. Cliff Lee was very unlucky last year, taking half the season to earn his first win and only gathering a 6-9 record in total, though with a 3.16 ERA. With Vance in Minnesota, John Lannan and Kyle Kendrick will lock down the backend of the rotation, two veteran starters who are very professional pitchers.
Projected 2013 total:
Experience in winning can go a long way towards getting back to winning ways, as the Phillies strong finish when Chase and Howard got back shows. They are not as strong on paper as the Nationals or Braves, but I’m not ready to completely write the Phightin’s off just yet, especially with the nice under-the-radar moves Amaro made. The Phils will most likely finish in 3rd place, battling all year for one of the Wild Card spots.