It would be far too easy to conclude that the Philadelphia Phillies are likely to play .500 baseball again this season, even though their 2013 spring training results have been strongly mixed. But, early indications can’t simply be wished away.
Every new baseball year brings with it a slide rule of expectations for every major league team. Depending upon roster depth, farm system supplements, payroll flexibility and a wide variety of other elements, playoff hopes can range from realistic to theoretically fantastic. When considering this specific Phillies’ team, I think a 50/50 bet on this postseason’s dance is reasonable.
Darin Ruf might not be ready for prime time just yet. But, Domonic Brown‘s performance has raised expectations about this former “five-tool” prospect possibly being able to finally make an impact. So, one of the corner outfield slots might be secured.
Ryan Howard appears to be back on track, as his power stroke has returned. The “Big Piece” also seems sincere about implementing a better overall plate approach.
While Chase Utley‘s knees look sound, his batting average has been hovering around .200. What the grind of a full-season will mean for a veteran who hasn’t played anywhere close to every inning since 2009 is yet to be determined.
Cole Hamels has assumed the team’s top starting pitching spot. But, Roy Halladay‘s efforts haven’t provided any sense of security.
Mike Adams looks to be a Ryan Madson-style eighth inning fix. However, Jonathan Papelbon has thrown a mixed repertoire toward the plate through mid-March.
Each of these chosen flashpoints might be dismissed if the Phillies had been in the playoffs last fall. But, they weren’t. So, anyone who believes that they know what Charlie Manuel’s squad will, or won’t, be in 2013 is purely guessing. My hunch is that this season will be very challenging and will include a hard late-summer and early-fall road.