Jimmy Rollins is currently playing in the World Baseball Classic. When “J-Roll” returns from this Olympic-like event to the Philadelphia Phillies‘ training camp, he won’t spend the remainder of his days hitting in the leadoff spot. That’s just one of the differences in this year’s team.
Beyond a potentially deeper starting pitching staff and an improved bullpen, Charlie Manuel finds himself with some nice offensive options in 2013. This new flexibility begins at the top.
Ben Revere wasn’t the Phillies’ first choice to replace Shane Victorino, but he should fill his positional spot quite well. In addition to sound glove work, he has shown the ability to handle a top batting order assignment. I expect Revere and Rollins to rotate in the leadoff and number 2 spots, depending upon pitching matchups.
Michael Young can still rake. His right-handed bat control allows him to bat second, third, or fifth.
Chase Utley and Ryan Howard should retain their traditional roles as the 3-4 hitters against all right-handed pitchers. When some left-handers climb the mound, Utley might move to the two-hole, or potentially hit sixth in order to create a more balanced offensive approach.
The “Big Piece” will bat fourth every time he starts. No one on this team displays a similar power stroke.
Domonic Brown’s very encouraging spring performance should earn him the left fielder’s job and a regular spot in the batting order. Ideally he would bat sixth, which would enable his continuing development.
A variety of people will play right-field this season. Delmon Young should make his debut by May, at the latest. As long as he can field his position adequately, he’ll start against right-handers. Signed due to his power-potential, his bat will fit nicely behind Howard and ahead of Brown.
Carlos Ruiz is a mystery, because we don’t know how he’ll perform when he returns from his 25-game ban. We also have no way of knowing how he will play in the short- or long-term without the help of supplements. However, it’s possible that he will obtain a prescription and continue to use the ADHD drug as he has in the past.
If “Chooch” is able to use his bat like he did last season, he must hit fifth. Otherwise, a seventh, or eighth slot would be in order.
Laynce Nix‘ left-handed bat is somewhat underrated. When he starts in either corner outfield spot, he should hit before or after whoever is catching. Nix will hit seventh when Erik Kratz, or his backup, starts behind the plate in April. Kratz will be the eighth-hole hitter.
Kevin Frandsen and John Mayberry, Jr. will also have opportunities to play. Frandsen displayed unbelievable bat control last year and shouldn’t be discounted as a solid supplemental offensive piece this season. Mayberry has some power and can be effective depending upon the pitching matchup.
This season’s Phillies’ team has its question marks, but should also have plenty of offensive answers due to the flexibility that general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. has created through his off-season efforts.