2013 MLB Seasn Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

Leading up to the 2013 MLB regular season, Greg Kaplan will be taking a close look at all 30 teams, division by division. Along with previewing each team heading into the season, Kaplan will try to predict which teams will be playing baseball deep into the October playoffs, and which teams will be playing golf come that time of year.

philliesNational League East

Third Place – Philadelphia Phillies

Fourth Place – New York Mets

Fifth Place – Miami Marlins

Starting Line-Up

Catcher - Carlos Ruiz (34) – 114 games, .325/.394/.540, 16HR 68RBI, 56 runs, 32 doubles, 149 OPS+ – 2012 All-Star

First Base - Ryan Howard (33) – 71 games, .219/.295/.423, 14HR 56RBI, 28 runs, 11 doubles

Second Base - Chase Utley (34) – 83 games, .256/.365/.429, 11HR 45RBI, 48 runs, 15 doubles, 11 stolen bases, 113 OPS+

Third Base - Michael Young (36) - 156 games, .277/.312/.370, 8HR 67RBI, 79 runs, 27 doubles (w/ Texas Rangers)

Shortstop - Jimmy Rollins (34) – 156 games, .250/.316/.427, 23HR 68RBI, 102 runs, 33 doubles, 30 stolen bases

Left Field - Dominic Brown (25) – 56 games, .235/.316/.396, 5HR 26RBI, 21 runs, 11 doubles

Center Field - Ben Revere (24) – 124 games, .294/.333/.342, 0HR 32RBI, 70 runs, 13 doubles, 6 triples, 40 stolen bases (w/ Minnesota Twins)

Right Field - Delmon Young (27) – 151 games, .267/.296/.411, 18HR 74RBI, 54 runs, 27 doubles (w/ Detroit Tigers)

ryan howardThe Good News -

The best news any Phillies fan could get entering this season is that they should be getting more than 150+ combined games from the heart and soul of their order, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. The Phillies success in 2013 will be directly linked to the health of their two sluggers in the middle of the order. As we saw last year, things in Philadelphia don’t move properly when one or both players are out of the line-up for an extended period of time.

One of the better moves of the off-season that has flown a little under the radar for casual baseball fans was the Phillies bringing in speedster center fielder Ben Revere from Minnesota. Revere was given a chane to play every day for a really bad Twins team last year, and turned out to be one of their lone bright spots. He plays a Gold Glove caliber center and is the clear-cut favorite to lead the National League in stolen bases in 2013. With power bats behind him like Howard, Utley and even Michael Young, there’s a really good chance Revere could be a 110+ runs guy at the top of the line-up.

jimmy rollins confusedThe Bad News –

Philadelphia has the two things a really strong line-up can’t rely on: bad health and advanced age. Outside of Revere, every player scheduled to be in the Phillies Opening Day line-up is either past their prime, inconsistent, injury prone, or all of the above. Delmon Young is already scheduled to miss the first month of the season, Carlos Ruiz is suspended, Dominic Brown has battled injury and underachivement, Jimmy Rollins is no longer Jimmy Rollins, and Michael Young is no spring chicken. We already talked about Utley, who can’t seem to stay healthy anymore, and Howard.

The fear that should be running throughout the Phillies organization is that they’ve been lapped by both the Braves and Nationals above them. Not only do both those teams have deeper line-ups on paper, they’re much younger. And unlike those two teams, the Phillies don’t have the farm system to replace their aging stars. It is nearly impossible to replace the type of talent it took Philadelphia to trade for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, even Ben Revere and Michael Young, then signing talent like Jonathan Papelbon and losing first round picks in the process.

The organizational depth does not exist in Philadelphia for them to keep up with their peers in the division. Without question, they have the worst farm system of the five teams in the East, and that more than anything else should begin to scare their fans with a line-up this old.

Starting Rotation - 

Ace - Roy Halladay (36) – 25 starts, 156.1 IP, 11-8, 4.49ERA, 132 Ks (7.6 K/9), 3.67 K/BB, 1.22 WHIP

#2 - Cliff Lee (34) – 30 starts, 211.0 IP, 6-9, 3.16ERA, 207 Ks (8.8 K/9), 7.39 K/BB (Led MLB), 1.11 WHIP

#3 - Cole Hamels (29) – 31 starts, 215.1 IP, 17-6, 3.05ERA, 216 Ks (9.0 K/9), 4.15 K/BB, 1.12 WHIP – 2012 All-Star, 8th in National League Cy Young Voting

#4 - Kyle Kendrick (28) – 25 starts (37 games total), 159.1 IP, 11-12, 3.90ERA, 116 Ks (6.6 K/9), 2.37 K/BB, 1.27 WHIP

#5 - John Lannan (28) – 6 starts, 32.2 IP, 4-1, 4.13ERA, 17 Ks (4.7 K/9), 1.21 K/BB, 1.44 WHIP (w/ Washington Nationals)

Cole HamelsThe Good News –

Once viewed as possibly the best starting rotation in the history of baseball, the Phillies will always be around .500 at worst because of the incredible depth of their starting rotation. In most seasons, it could be a coin toss between which of the top three Phillies starters could win the Cy Young award.

Lost somewhat in the middle of the Phillies down year was the tremendous season Cole Hamels was having in what many thought was a walk year. On any other rotation, Hamels would be the unquestioned ace. However, in Philly, with Halladay and Lee sharing a locker room with Hamels, it’s sometimes easy to forget how dominate a pitcher he really is. You could make the case that, throughout the entire league, there is no rotation with three starters as talented as Halladay, Lee and Hamels.

The Bad News -

Well, the mistake was thinking that the Phillies could’ve had the greatest rotation in the history of the game originally. And while their top three starters are elite, the bottom of their rotation is far from it. Kyle Kendricks has seemingly spent the last five years going in and out of the Philadelphia rotation due to various reasons that include inconsistency, while John Lannan couldn’t crack even the Nationals bullpen last year after being their de facto ace.

It’s not to say that Kendricks and Lannan are bad pitchers, though. Both are more than capable, and there is no team in baseball that would complain about having one of them in your starting rotation. However, the pressure will be on these two pitchers to keep pace with the stars of the staff as, again, the line-up is not going to be as lethal as in years past.

The hard truth is that, from top to bottom, the Phillies no longer have the best line-up in the division (Atlanta does), nor do they have the most complete starting rotation in the division even with Halladay, Lee and Hamels (Washington does, remember, Dan Haren is their #4). This is a bit of an awkward year of transition for the Phillies. They’re clearly not one of the top dogs in the division, but a lot of people in their organization still views them as such. How this season plays out will be telling for years to come down the road.

Bench - 

Erik Kratz (32) – 50 games, .248/.306/.504, 9HR 26RBI, 14 runs, 9 doubles, 114 OPS+

IF Freddy Galvis (23) – 58 games, .226/.254/.363, 3HR 24RBI, 14 runs, 15 doubles

OF John Mayberry Jr. (29) – 149 games, .245/.301/.395, 14HR 46RBI, 53 runs, 24 doubles

UTIL Kevin Frandsen (30) – 55 games, .338/.383/.451, 2HR 14RBI, 24 runs, 10 doubles, 3 triples, 124 OPS+

UTIL Darin Ruf (26) – 12 games, .333/.351/.727, 3HR 10RBI, 4 runs, 2 doubles, 11 hits

The Skinny -

The Philadelphia bench is, well, it’s a bench. It might not be the flashiest group of role players, but there are two that may play a larger part in the Phillies season depending on injuries and performance of every day players.

It took John Mayberry Jr. a long time to get the engine revving in the big leagues, but he established himself as a more-than-capable replacement player should someone be lost to injury. He finally started hitting with consistent power in the bandbox that is Citizens Bank Park, and while he’ll likely never develop into an All-Star like many fans once thought, he is a strong right-handed bench player that has the ability to play in the outfield and first base.

Then there is Darin Ruf. Ruf is one of the few players in the Phillies system that has the type of potential to break into the every day line-up sooner rather than later. He has immense power, and could be given the opportunity to play should Delmon Young’s injury keep him out of the line-up for an extended period of time, or if Dominic Brown falters yet again in a starting role. However, Ruf is naturally a first baseman, a position he will never play as a full-time starter because of Ryan Howard. His impact with the Phillies is directly tied to how well he takes to the outfield.

Bullpen - 

Closer - Jonathan Papelbon (R) (32) – 70 games, 70.0 IP, 5-6, 2.44ERA, 38 saves, 92 Ks (11.8 K/9), 5.11 K/BB, 1.06 WHIP – 2012 All-Star

Set-Up Man - Mike Adams (R) (34) – 61 games, 52.1 IP, 5-3, 3.27ERA, 1 save, 45 Ks (7.7 K/9), 2.65 K/BB, 1.40 WHIP (w/ Texas Rangers)

Middle Reliever - Antonio Bastardo (L) (27) – 65 games, 52.0 IP, 2-5, 4.33ERA, 1 save, 81 Ks (14.0 K/9), 3.12 K/BB, 1.27 WHIP

Middle Reliever - Mike Stutes (R) (26) – 6 games, 5.2 IP, 0-0, 6.35ERA, 5 Ks (7.9 K/9), 1.25 K/BB, 1.94 WHIP

Middle Reliever - Jeremy Horst (L) (27) – 32 games, 31.1 IP, 2-0, 1.15ERA, 40 Ks (11.5 K/9), 2.86 K/BB, 1.12 WHIP

Middle Reliever - Chad Durbin (R) (35) – 76 games, 61.0 IP, 4-1, 3.10ERA, 1 save, 49 Ks (7.2 K/9), 1.75 K/BB, 1.31 WHIP (w/ Atlanta Braves)

Long Reliever - Raul Valdes (L) (35) – 27 games (1 start), 31.0 IP, 3-2, 2.90ERA, 35 Ks (10.2 K/9), 7.00 K/BB, 0.74 WHIP

Jonathan+Papelbon+Philadelphia+Phillies+v+oa36B37eHPMlThe Skinny -

Much like the Phillies bench, their bullpen outside of Jonathan Papelbon is rather unspectacular. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it is nearly impossible to predict which bullpen will succeed and which bullpen will struggle. It’s pretty much a coin toss these days.

While we’re talking about Papelbon, his numbers indicate that he hasn’t lost a step in his transition from the Red Sox to the Phillies. But, from an outsiders perspective, I feel like a lot of the mystique surrounding Papelbon has worn off. When I see him come into the game with the game on the line, I’m not thinking the game is over. Quite the opposite, I actually feel confident in my team’s chances against him in that type of situation. Is that a result of Paps being an ass and an impossible athlete to root for? Possibly. I don’t know if it means anything beyond that as, again, his numbers generally have been consistent. I’m just not afraid of him, and that’s a huge knock against him as a closer.

Top 10 Prospects (courtesy of MLB.com)

1. LHP Jesse Biddle – Expected to start 2013 in AA

The Phillies may be a little thin at the top, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any quality prospects in their system. Biddle is both a Top 100 prospect and one of the 10 best lefty prospects the game has to offer. Biddle has a strong fastball-curve ball combination, and has the chance to get his change-up on the same level. As long as he stays on the current track he’s on, he’ll be a strong addition to the Phillies rotation by 2014. 

2. RHP Ethan Martin – Expected to start 2013 in AA

Martin was the big piece in the Shane Victorino trade with the Dodgers. A former first round pick out of high school, Martin has always had an explosive fastball. However, the command has yet to come with his development, raising concern that his long-term home may be in the bullpen. The walks haven’t killed him yet in the Minors, but if they problem remains, it’ll catch up with him.

3. C Tommy Joseph – Expected to start 2013 in AA

Joseph, another mid-season addition in the Hunter Pence trade with the Giants, is already an above-average defensive catcher. Teams know he has strong power that needs to be harnessed a bit more, and he needs to hit with more consistency in general. With Carlos Ruiz scheduled to hit free agency after this year, Joseph could be the heir apparent in Philly. 

4. RHP Jonathan Pettibone – Expected to start 2013 in AAA

Pettibone may never rack up huge strikeout numbers or break off 95+ MPH fastballs, but he’s the most polished pitching prospect the Phillies have to offer. His greatest strength is his control over all three pitches he has in his arsenal, which keeps hitters off-balance. Fans could see Pettibone as soon as May of this year should Lannan or Kendricks struggle out of the gates.

5. SS Roman Quinn – Expected to start 2013 in Low-A

Quinn is a young, athletic shortstop with a ton of tools and potential, but right now that’s all he is. He had a solid debut in the New York-Penn League in his first taste of professional baseball, but there is a ton of development left to do before we know what the Phillies really have. He won’t turn 20 until May, so it’s not like he’s running out of time. 

6. OF Larry Greene – Expected to start 2013 in Low-A

Did somebody say projections? Greene is already a big kid even at 20-years old, but he, too, has only played at the short-season level. He didn’t turn his big physique into production in his debut (.381 slugging percentage), but he still has the profile to be a power-hitting corner outfielder or first baseman.

7. LHP Adam Morgan – Expected to start 2013 in High-A

Morgan is lefty pitcher with immense control and a powerful fastball. In fact, ranking him this far down, to me, seems like a bit of a misstep. Should Morgan be able to work on his secondary offerings a smidge more, there’s no reason to think he can’t be a middle-of-the-rotation starter in a talented rotation. His fastball is already plus, so there is no question that he’ll be a Major Leaguer sooner rather than later.

8. C Sebastian Valle – Expected to start 2013 in AAA

Valle is a good news, bad news type prospect. The good news is his power can play at the Major League level, and he’s plenty adequate behind the plate to hold down a catching job. The bad news is he has never been able to translate his power into a more patient approach at the plate or consistent contact, routinely plummeting his average and exposing his holes as a hitter. He’s still 22-years old, so it’s not like he’s completely doomed. However, it’s hard to judge just what type of player he may be down the road, and appears to have been lapped by Joseph as the future of the Phillies catchers.

9. 3B Cody Asche – Expected to start 2013 in AA

Asche is the kind of player you want to have on your team to be successful, even if he never becomes your best player. He has a fair deal of speed and could develop into a 15+ home run threat at the plate. Most importantly, he doesn’t strike out very much, which is a skill that translates throughout all levels. Michael Young could be keeping the seat warm at third base for Asche down the road.

10. LHP Austin Wright – Expected to start 2013 in AA

Wright is a similar song and dance to Ethan Martin, with the only difference be the arm in which they throw with. He’s got a fastball with a lot of life to it, but has a hard time keeping all of his pitches in the zone. His change-up lags behind his other offerings, and there’s a chance it never develops into even an average pitch, making him a likely candidate for the bullpen. 

In Summary - 

At this point in time, the Phillies are in what we would call baseball purgatory. They’re not necessarily bad enough to blow up the team and completely rebuild, but they’re also not good enough to compete for a championship. They have enough pitching to stay with the big boys in the division, but the health questions that surround their line-up on an every day basis should scare most fans.

Fact of the matter is, the Philadelphia Phillies are the third-best team in this division, and they’re not the same caliber team that the runner-ups in both the Central (Cardinals, Reds) and the West (Dodgers, Giants) are. The best course of strategy in Philadelphia may be to rebuild on the fly. But, even the imports brought back in the Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino deals won’t replenish a farm system stripped through trades for big name stars.

The Phillies are entering a lull. How quickly they get out of it will determine what type of team they’ll be after 2013.

Season Prediction - 82-80, third place in National League East