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MLB Philadelphia Phillies

An Early Look at How 2013 Philadelphia Phillies Can Be Competitive

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An Early Look at How 2013 Philadelphia Phillies Can Be Competitive

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

There are more problems for the Philadelphia Phillies than just the fact that they went 81-81 in 2012.

This is a team that was coming off of five consecutive NL East titles, during which they also made two World Series and won a world championship. They entered this past season expected to challenge the franchise record (that they set in 2011) for wins and make another serious run at a world title.

What happened were costly injuries, freak injuries, numerous players underachieving, and a slow start that the team ultimately could not overcome. The Phillies were in fifth place for much of the spring, moved up to third place by the summer and early fall, and then made a late tease at the second wild card spot before falling short.

There’s no guarantee that the Phillies will be competitive next year, considering the age of some of their key players. Ryan Howard is 32, Chase Utley is 33, Jimmy Rollins is 33, Carlos Ruiz is 33, Roy Halladay is 35, and Cliff Lee is 33.

The Washington Nationals also emerged as a strong contender in the division, winning 98 games and easily securing their first division title since they relocated from Montreal. And the Atlanta Braves won the first wild card spot with relative ease, doing so largely because of their youngsters like Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, a shockingly successful season from Kris Medlen, and a Cy Young caliber season from closer Craig Kimbrel.

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5. Get Production Out of Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr.

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

The Philadelphia Phillies may platoon Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr. in 2013 and they make each the starter at a separate corner outfield spot.

But regardless of what happens, the Phillies really need production from these players next year. Brown’s numbers dropped off a bit from 2011 and the Phillies need him to show something to shed the bust label that is already beginning to tell the story of his time in Philly. Brown batted just .235 with five home runs and no stolen bases in 212 plate appearances last year, and he’s a .236 career hitter with a .703 OPS that ranks significantly below the league average during that span.

Mayberry’s numbers dropped off as well from ’11 to ’12. He hit 15 home runs and posted a .513 slugging percentage in 2011 then hit 14 home runs, posted a .395 slugging percentage, and struck out nearly twice as many times in 2012.

If these two continue to struggle in 2013, the Phillies are in big trouble. But if each – especially Brown – can pick up the pace significantly, the Phillies will be a much-improved offensive team.

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4. Add a Quality Relief Pitcher

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

The Philadelphia Phillies have a superb closer in Jonathan Papelbon (2.44 ERA, 38 saves in 41 chances, 5.11 strikeout to walk ratio in 2012) and they’re certainly paying him like one ($50 million over four years).

But after Papelbon, the options are limited. Antonio Bastardo showed the ability to be a top-notch relief pitcher in 2011, and while he still had some strong aspects of his game in 2012 (14.0 K/9, 6.9 H/9), he also had some scary aspects (1.2 HR/9, 4.5 BB/9, 4.33 ERA).

The bullpen after that is up for grabs between guys like Michael Schwimer, Michael Stutes, Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, Raul Valdes, David Herndon, Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont, and B.J. Rosenberg.

That’s why the Phillies need a guaranteed eighth inning guy. Ryan Madson would be a terrific option if the Cincinnati Reds decline his option and he has interest in coming back to Philly. Jonathan Broxton is available. Joakim Soria or Brandon League could be a candidate for the ‘pen. And if the Tampa Bay Rays aren’t going to bring Fernando Rodney back, I’ll definitely take him.

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3. Add a Third Baseman

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

The Philadelphia Phillies very likely won’t be picking up Placido Polanco’s $5.5 million option for 2013, and I doubt the team even has interest in restructuring his contract to bring him back for cheap.

Kevin Frandsen had a remarkable stretch after taking over for Polanco – even playing through a stress fracture in his leg for much of September. But looking at his career major league numbers gives me no reason to believe he had anything more than a good stretch in a small sample size that won’t carry over to next year.

Kevin Youkilis hits free agency, but I know the Phillies are always trying to get younger and Youkilis makes them even older. There’s been some talk about moving Chase Utley to third base, but I just don’t know if Utley could pull that off. And maybe the Phillies will try moving Freddy Galvis to third base and keep Utley at second base, but the problem is that Galvis is better defensively than Utley.

Whatever the Phillies do here, they need to do it right, because they haven’t gotten much production from the hot corner production since 2010 (the Phillies 30 home runs during that span are dead-last in the major leagues).

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2. Add a Big-Name Outfielder

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE
Getting Josh Hamilton would certainly be swinging for the fences, as the Philadelphia Phillies would likely have to shell out about $100-$120 million over five to six years for his services. I doubt GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. will want to do that for an outfielder who’s already 31 years old and has some off-the-field issues. Hamilton would instantly shore up the Phillies lineup though, as he’s averaged .305/.363/.549 with 28 home runs and 101 RBIs per season.

He’s coming off one of his best years, as he hit 43 home runs, drove in 128 runs, and posted a .930 OPS while helping the Texas Rangers make the playoffs. That would be terrific for a Phillies team that lost Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.

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1. Stay Healthy

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

There are so many things the Philadelphia Phillies can control and this year they couldn’t control the injuries. Ryan Howard suffered a devastating Achilles injury last October, Chase Utley missed the first half of the season again with chronic knee problems, Carlos Ruiz was sidelined for two months with a lat strain, and Roy Halladay dealt with nagging injuries all season.

Factor in DL stints to Cliff Lee, Vance Worley, Placido Polanco, Michael Stutes, David Herndon, Jose Contreras, and Freddy Galvis, and the Phillies really had to reach to find players to fill the spots.

If Howard, Utley, and Halladay can stay healthy, that will make a huge difference in the win column. If the majority of the rest of the team can stay healthy, the Phillies will be in the thick of the division race once again.