February 22, 2013 by Brian Palmer
Pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Feb. 13. This marked the unofficial kickoff of the 2013 baseball season. Over the years entering every season, fans of the Phillies have had an endless supply of optimism heading into Opening Day. However, this marks the first spring training in several years that Phillies fans can realistically expect their team to miss the postseason. This is due to two reasons: the first being the additions of key free agents by the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves and the other being the less-than-inspiring offseason the Phillies had, only adding aging veterans to the oldest roster in baseball.
Prior to the 2012 season the Phillies had very little to worry about with their roster. In the infield, the Phillies could count on Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco. Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth/Hunter Pence rounded out the outfield. However, a little over a year later, questions run rampant throughout their roster. During the offseason the Phillies did not solidify the corner outfield positions. As a result they head into 2013 with questions at those positions. Delmon Young, the 27-year-old former first overall pick, was brought in to compete for one of those positions. Despite coming off an impressive 2012 postseason for the Detroit Tigers in which he batted .357, the outfielder is a career .267 hitter. And he is one of the worst defensive outfielders in all of baseball. Along with Young, Dominic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., and 26-year-old rookie Darin Ruf will also be looking to win a corner outfield position. Aside from Ruf, none of those players have shown they have the traits to excel at their positions. General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. brought in former Minnesota Twin Ben Revere to play center field. The 24-year-old center fielder excels defensively. However, he has never hit a home run in his career. The picture in the outfield looks uncertain heading into spring training. However, strong springs from any of these players can go a long way in clearing up the picture in a very uncertain outfield.
The biggest question for the Phillies has to be how their injured veteran stars will bounce back from a disappointing 2012 season. Over a course of four seasons Roy Halladay averaged 19 wins, 242 innings, 213 strikeouts and a 2.59 ERA. Last season, however, Halladay was limited to 156 innings and a 4.49 ERA. The 4.49 ERA was the second worst of his career. In his defense, Halladay had an injured back and shoulder that limited his production last season. Utley and Howard, who were nursing injuries suffered during the 2011 season, didn’t play until midseason. Even when they returned, they were a shell of their former All-Star selves.
Halladay, Utley and Howard all reported into spring training in excellent health and ready to return to their former selves. However, Utley is 34 years old with a knee condition that has limited his range defensively and power offensively. Howard is 33 and had seen his numbers declining prior to the 2012 season. Howard hasn’t cracked 40 home runs since 2009. Halladay is 36 years old and has more mileage on his arm than most pitchers his age. Rollins, at 34, is a shell of his former MVP self. Ruiz is 34 years old and was injured for the latter half of the 2012 season. Ruiz will also be suspended 25 games this season for Adderall use. Finally, on the hot corner for the Phillies will be 37-year-old former Texas Ranger Michael Young, who hit .277 last season.
The lone bright spot for the Phillies will be their pitching staff. Their staff has been one of the best in baseball for the past four years and should continue to be. The trio of Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee still has the quality and potential to be one of the best in baseball. The bullpen, led by Jonathan Papelbon and newly added setup man Michael Adams, should rank as one of the best in baseball after a lackluster 2012 season. A prospect to watch is rookie 22-year-old lefthander Adam Morgan, a third-round pick from 2011. Morgan went 4-1 with a 3.53 ERA for the Reading Fightin Phils last season and will be fighting for a place in the rotation. Many expect the pitching staff to be the strength for the Phillies in 2013, and let’s hope so because with a struggling offense, the Phillies are going to need all the pitching they can get.
While most teams head into spring training with optimism, the Phillies simply have questions. However, if this team can show over the next month that it is at least healthy, then there may be a glimmer of hope for Phillies fans. Being healthy is key for this team not only in spring training but throughout the season because we know what this team is capable of when healthy. They had 102 wins when they were healthy in 2011. Spring training will go a long way in restoring the optimism that fans have had in previous years.