In anticipation of Opening Day, we have broken down and graded the Phillies roster.
C: Carlos Ruiz- More commonly known as “Chooch,” Ruiz has become a fan favorite over the past few seasons in Philadelphia. The anchor of the Phillies pitching staff, Ruiz has become a staple behind the plate. After Roy Halladay’s Perfect Game vs. the Marlins last May, he quickly gave Ruiz credit for calling such a brilliant game. A very good defensive player combines with an average hitter, makes Chooch a solid starter behind the plate. B
1B: Ryan Howard- After going down looking in the NLCS to end the Phillies 2010 season, Howard is looking to have a bounce back year. Entering his sixth season as the Phils starting first baseman, Howard is looking to regain the stroke that won him the 2006 National League Most Valuable Player Award. Howard’s batting average took a hit in 2007 and 2008. It dropped 45 points in ’07 and then another 17 in ’08. Having two very similar years in 2009 and 2010, Howard looks to break out once again to one of the most feared hitters in the National League. He still needs to prove he can hit left handed pitching and off speed pitches consistently. Nonetheless, he is still one of the best first basemen in baseball. A
2B: Wilson Valdez- The 32 year old utility infielder was a diamond in the rough last year when Rollins and, subsequently, Utley went down with injuries. Valdez was a serviceable replacement. He hit .258 with four homeruns and 35 RBIs. An above average defensive player, Valdez stands as a decent replacement because who knows how long Utley is actually going to be out. C+
SS: Jimmy Rollins- Rollins enters his 11th season as the Phillies starting shortstop. Rollins, sidelined by injuries for much of last season is also looking to bounce back this year (common theme?). The 2007 NL MVP has watched his batting average decline each year since winning the award. Rollins, the Phillies leadoff man, is looking to be the table setter for the Phillies. The old cliché may still apply: “As Rollins goes, so do the Phillies.” B+
3B: Placido Polanco- After a four and a half year stay in Detroit, Polanco returned to Philadelphia last year only to be the team’s most consistent hitter. Hitting .298 last year, Polanco always seemed to come through when needed. Slowed by an elbow injury in the spring, Polanco said it was just precautionary after surgery last November. A suitable defensive player to go along with a consistent bat makes third base a strong point for the Phillies if he can remain healthy. B+
LF: Raul Ibanez- The 38, soon to be 39, year old left fielder has put up some solid numbers in his first two years with the Phillies. Entering the final year of his three year contract signed in December 2008, Ibanez is looking to continue his solid play. Despite not being the fastest outfielder, Ibanez has played good defense in left field. Along with two solid seasons at the plate, Ibanez hopes to keep up the solid hitting especially with the loss of Chase Utley to injury to start the year and the loss of former right fielder Jayson Werth. B-
CF: Shane Victorino- Once again, the outfield is anchored by reigning three-time Gold Glove winner, Shane Victorino. The former Rule 5 pick has played exceptional defense over the years as the Phillies starter. With top speed and a power arm, Victorino is a defensive stud. At the plate, Victorino had the best power season of his career in 2010 but he posted his worst batting average of his Major League career. Despite being a career .279 hitter, Victorino checked in with BA of .259. One problem that many people have with Victorino is that he doesn’t always play the smartest baseball but has the skill to get away with it. At age 30, this has some people a little concerned. Nonetheless, Victorino is one of the biggest bright spots for the Phillies offense and defense; look for him to have a big year. A
RF: Ben Francisco- With the departure of former right fielder, Jayson Werth, many believed the logical successor would be Minor League phenom, Domonic Brown. With the Phillies lacking a right handed bat in the lineup and the inconsistency of Dom Brown in winter ball, the Phillies opened the right fielder position up for competition. The winner of that competition is none other than Ben Francisco. The 29 year old, former Indians starting outfielder, needed to have the spring of his career. This spring he led the Phillies in hits, homeruns, total bases, batting average, and walks. He was also second on the team in RBIs and runs scored. Needless to say that Ben Francisco proved that he is the guy in right field. And, with the injury to Dom Brown, he will be the guy in right field for a large portion of early season. C+
C: Brian Schneider- The backup to Carlos Ruiz did a good job last year when called upon. The Scranton, Pa. native seems to fit right in with the Phillies clubhouse. The 34 year old reached his first ever postseason last year and looks to do so again this year. A so-so left handed bat doesn’t add a lot to the offense but doesn’t subtract a lot, either. Defensively, Schneider is good behind the plate and the pitchers trust him. Solid backup. C
IF: Michael Martinez- The 28 year old, Rule 5 draft pick from Washington, Martinez has played very well this spring. The versatile infielder can play second base, shortstop, third base, and centerfield. Martinez has impressed manager, Charlie Manuel, this spring with his versatility and defense. Expect to see more of him in defensive situation. He has never played above Triple-A so we will see if he has what it takes to be a good Major League player. If he does not remain on the Phillies 25-man roster all season, he must be offered back to the Nationals. C-
IF: Peter Orr- Orr is a name that should sound somewhat familiar to Phillies fans. He has spent all five of his major league seasons in the National League East (three with the Braves, two with the Nationals). He spent all of last year in Triple-A with the Syracuse Chiefs. Orr had a very good spring for the Phillies. The Phillies hit ten triples all spring and Orr had five of them. In addition to the unusually high amount of triples, Orr also hit .298 this spring. He played his way onto the roster and is versatile enough to play second base, third base, and the outfield. C
OF: John Mayberry, Jr.- Mayberry, 27, has spent parts of two seasons with the Phillies. The former first round pick, acquired from the Rangers in a swap of first round picks (G. Golson), has hit his way onto the roster. Mayberry is a lanky, 6’6’’ outfielder with speed and a lot of power. One gaping hole in Mayberry’s game is his swing. He has a tendency to swing and miss (24.9% of the time) which makes him a strikeout liability. He has made the Phillies roster by being tied with Ben Francisco and Ryan Howard for the team lead in homeruns this spring with five. C-
OF: Ross Gload- Gload joined the Phillies in 2010 coming off of an impressive 2009 season that saw him as the Major League leader in pinch hits. In 702 career games, Gload is a .283 hitter. With a powerful left handed swing, Gload provides a solid bat off the bench. Gload also can play first base and both corner outfield spots. He is the best bench player the Phillies have. C+
- Roy Halladay- The best pitcher in all of baseball. Period. In his first season with the Phillies, Halladay lead the Majors in wins (21), innings pitched (250 2/3), shutouts (4), and complete games (9). This does not even take into consideration his perfect game against the Marlins on May 29th (the 20th in Major League history) and his NLDS Game 1 no-hitter against the Reds on October 6th (the second in Major League history). The 33 year old ace is as good as ever. With a five pitch repertoire, Halladay has five different “out” pitches. Another monster season is expected. A+
- Cliff Lee- The prodigal son has returned. The most dominant pitcher in the last two postseasons is back in Phillies red after a 364 day retreat with the Mariners and Rangers. In an unexpected turn of events, during the latter hours of December 13th, rumors began to leak that the Phillies were in on the Cliff Lee negotiations. And, by midnight on the 14th, ESPN was breaking down what the Phillies, in particular Ruben Amaro, had just accomplished. The 32 year old Lee, signed a 5 year, $120 million contract to come back to the NL East Champions. Lee adds a 1a. to accompany Roy Halladay. The best one-two punch in baseball. A+
- Roy Oswalt- Hands down the best #3 starter in the league. Oswalt, 33, went 7-1 in the 2010 regular season after being acquired by the Phillies from the Houston Astros. The 2005 NLCS MVP adds another right handed dimension to the Phillies rotation. Easily 1b. to add to Halladay and Lee. He is often forgotten in the rotation (not as much as Blanton) but equally as important as any of the others. He got hit by a Manny Ramirez line drive off the back of his head in his last spring training game but appears to be ok now. A+
- Cole Hamels- The 2008 World Series and NLCS MVP returned to form in 2010. He was 12-11 with a 3.06 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 211 strikeouts. Hamels record would be much better had he received decent run support. Nonetheless, the ace of the 2008 World Champion Phillies is now the number four starter. Hamels arrived at camp in the best shape of his life and was lighting up radar guns all over south Florida which has Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee excited to see what the 27 year old stud can do. Once again, the Phillies have the best #4 starter in the Majors. ESPN Baseball Analyst predicts that Cole Hamels will be the 2011 NL Cy Young Award Winner. A+
- Joe Blanton- Joltin’ Joe is the only other member of the Phillies starting rotation with a World Series ring (the other is Cole Hamels). Often forgotten when it comes to the rotation, Blanton is the best fifth starter in the Major Leagues. Blanton is a work horse and will let the hitters put the ball in play and force the fielders to make plays. Blanton has not had an ERA below 4 since 2007 and only twice in his career (2005, ’07). The 30 year old is making $7.5 million this year which has some people wondering if he is going to remain with the Phillies all season. But, right now, Joltin’ Joe is the Phillies 5th starter and is rounding out the rotation in 2011. B
RHP: Jose Contreras- Contreras pitched extremely well out of the bullpen last year for the Phillies. The 39 year old went 6-4 with a 3.36 ERA while recording four saves and 13 holds. Contreras will be called upon a lot in the first half of the season with the loss of Brad Lidge to a strained rotator cuff. B+
RHP: Ryan Madson- The 6’6’’ flamethrower has been a very consistent set up man for the Phillies. That eighth inning belongs to Madson but he might be called upon to close games along with Contreras with the absence of Lidge. Madson, 30, is eager for a chance to redeem himself as a closer after some shaky outings last season that enraged him so much that he kicked a chair and broke his toe. The broken toe cost him two months of the season. After Madson came back healthy in July, he had an ERA of 1.64. Overall on the year, Madson was 6-2 with 5 saves, 15 holds, and 64 strikeouts. A
RHP: Danys Baez- Baez, 33, struggled mightily in 2010 for the Phillies. He was 3-4 with five saves and a 5.48 ERA. Baez needs to be more productive this year if he wants to keep a job because there is a hungry RHP Scott Mathieson in Triple-A Lehigh Valley waiting for a chance. C
RHP: David Herndon- Last year’s Rule 5 selection, Herndon, 25, is now property of the Phillies. After some rough outings, Herndon started to show signs of improvement towards the end of the year. We will find out this year at Citizens Bank Park. Last year, Herndon was 1-3 with a 4.30 ERA. C
RHP: Kyle Kendrick- Before the acquisition of Lee, Kendrick had the fifth starter’s job. Kendrick, 26, was inconsistent in 31 starts last year. He was 11-10 with a 4.73 ERA and 84 strikeouts. Kendrick moves to the bullpen and, as we are all hoping, will use the sinker to his advantage in relief. B-
LHP: J.C. Romero- Juan Carlos Romero, 34, was resigned this off season after the Phillies declined their club option on him. Going 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA in 60 games last year for the Phillies, Romero is the Phils left handed specialist. He signed a one year contract in the winter so this is a contract year for Romero; look for him to perform as such. B
LHP: Antonio Bastardo- Bastardo is the second lefty option in the Phillies bullpen behind Romero. Bastardo bounced between Triple-A Lehigh Valley and the major League club. In 25 appearances last season, he went 2-0 with two holds and an ERA of 4.34. But, the Phillies love the upside of the 25 year old lefty. C+
2B: Chase Utley- Diagnosed with patellar tendonitis, Utley did not appear in any spring training games. Currently, the 32 year old is taking it slow with his rehab and there is no time-table for his return. There are many anxious Phillies fans waiting to hear updates on Utley. A loss of Utley for the season would be a very tough loss to overcome.
RF: Domonic Brown- Brown fractured a bone in his hand/wrist on March 5th. He had surgery to repair the fracture and the time table for his return on March 5th was 3-6 weeks. He is likely to start the season on the DL and will need to regain his timing when he comes back healthy. He was 0-for-15 when he broke the bone. He is the future of this team and at 23 years old, Brown needs to make sure his long term health is okay before he returns.
RP: Brad Lidge- For the third time in his four years with the Phillies, Brad Lidge, 34, is starting the season on the 15 Day Disabled List. Ruben Amaro said Lidge will be out 3-6 weeks but Lidge is sending a different message. “Best case is between 3-6 weeks to not throw at all. Then you’ve got to build up just as much on the other side, however long it takes. I’m thinking in my mind I’ve got to be back for the second half,” said Lidge. So Lidge is basically saying that he is not expecting to be back before the All-Star Game in Arizona. Contreras and Madson are going to have to step up in his absence.