Standing O Sports is previewing all 30 Major League teams seasons, division by division, team by team. We start with the National League East and the Philadelphia Phillies.
What Happened Last Season:
In just 2-years, the Philadelphia Phillies have gone from the class of the National League, to afterthoughts in its own division. After winning 102 games in 2011, the Phillies digressed to winning 81 games in 2012, and 73 games last season. As a result, Charlie Manuel was fired as manager in August and replaced by Ryne Sandberg. Roy Hallady has since retired from the sport, and the team is stuck with aging players on long-term deals like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins. The Braves and the Nationals with a plethora of young talent have established themselves as top dawgs in the division for years to come. This season is expected to be make or break for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. who can either choose to ride it out with the current roster, or blow it up and prepare for the future.
Re-signed 35-year-old Chase Utley to a two-year deal
Re-signed 35-year-old catcher Carlos Ruiz to a three-year deal
Signed 37-year-old A.J. Burnett to a one-year deal
Signed 36-year-old Marlon Byrd to a two-year deal
Signed Roberto Hernandez (aka Fausto Carmona)
Take: Based on the moves Amaro has made this offseason, the Phillies appear to be trying to compete in some capacity in 2014. Just look at the age of the players he signed. That could still change though come trade deadline time.
Ben Revere (CF)
Jimmy Rollins (SS)
Chase Utley (2B)
Ryan Howard (1B)
Domonic Brown (LF)
Marlon Byrd (RF)
Carlos Ruiz (C)
Cody Asche (3B)
The Phillies projected lineup is average at best. Ben Revere is arguably the fastest player in the game, but the 2-4 spots in the lineup are major question marks. Injuries continue to take their toll on Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins power numbers dropped significantly last season, and Ryan Howard was limited to 80 games. Dominic Brown has some serious potential, but after that, the Phillies lineup is pretty weak. Marlon Byrd had a resurgent year with the Mets, though it’s unrealistic he can have a repeat performance. Carlos Ruiz isn’t a difference maker offensively, and while Cody Asche is young, he’s still an unknown. Basically, a lot of things have to break the Phillies way.
Projected Pitching Rotation:
Aside from Cliff Lee, the Phillies pitching staff is nowhere near what it was even 3 years ago. Cole Hamels is dealing with shoulder tendinitis and could miss the first month of the season if not longer, and then there’s the 37-year-old, recently acquired A.J. Burnett. Burnett has been a much better pitcher in the National League than he was with the Yankees. The cold weather and the home-run friendly Citizens Bank Park are probably not ideal for him. Kyle Kendrick is a classic number 4 with a career 4.38 ERA, and Roberto Hernandez still wishes people called him Fausto Carmona.
X-Factor: Ryan Howard
If the Phillies are going to contend in 2014, Ryan Howard must return to his pre-2012 form where he consistently hit over 30 home-runs and drove in over 100 runs. In the last 2-years, Howard’s played a combined 151 games and hit just 25 home-runs. Numbers like that will result in the Phillies competing for last place with the Mets and Marlins.
Unfortunately for the city of Philadelphia, it doesn’t look like 2014 will be a good one for the Phillies. There are too many question marks throughout the pitching staff and lineup to get past the Braves and Nationals who are both expected to compete for the title. There isn’t much youth on this roster and it isn’t crazy to think Ruben Amaro Jr. will be a major seller come trade deadline time.
Frankel: 70-92 (4th in NL East)