When the Philadelphia Phillies sent outfielder Darin Ruf down to minor league camp Friday afternoon, two players breathed a sigh of relief.
It was not an easy spring training for Laynce Nix and John Mayberry, Jr., knowing that they had to prove something to management to ensure their spots on their roster. With Ruf’s demotion, one thing has become clear: Mayberry and Nix will be platooning in the outfield to begin the 2013 season.
The big question remains: will this platoon be good enough?
Nix would like to forget 2012, in which he missed 63 games with a calf injury, which he has subsequently blamed on wrong equipment this spring, saying his shoes may have had a part in the ordeal. Excuses aside, Nix didn’t add much to the team last year, hitting .246 with a .315 on-base percentage and .412 slugging percentage.
As long as the Phillies keep Nix away from left-handed pitching, this platoon could be valuable. Lifetime, Nix is a .183/.238/.288 hitter against southpaws. Against right-handers, Nix is a .253/.297/.447 hitter.
Yes, Nix isn’t going to be the first guy to go up to the plate and look for the walk. He’s usually hacking at the plate, which does get him into trouble. That said, he can play all three outfield spots, so moving him around the outfield should not be a problem.
Mayberry, much like Nix, also had a disappointing 2012 season. He was coming off a year in which he looked sharp against both lefties and righties and had some Phillies fans clamoring for his inclusion in the starting lineup over Raul Ibanez. Last year was the reminder that Mayberry is not an everyday player.
He sports a career .875 OPS against left-handers and a .680 OPS against right-handers. Much like Nix, Mayberry can play all three outfield spots. Nix is a relatively underrated outfielder, while Mayberry truly doesn’t have a strong outfield spot.
The Phillies will have Domonic Brown at one corner outfield spot, but it’s unknown which spot that will be.
Everything sets up for this Nix/Mayberry platoon heading into the year, but if Mayberry gets hot, he could become a full-time outfielder. That would mean he has to recapture that lighting in a bottle that he had in 2011. Nix just doesn’t seem to have the chance to be an everyday guy because of his struggles against lefties.
Or, all of this could be thrown out the window once Delmon Young returns from his injury. It’s unknown as to when that will be, but the Phillies have pledged right field to Young and sound committed to not moving him anywhere else.
For now, though, the Phillies will have a platoon in one of their outfield spots come Opening Day. How long it lasts it dependent on a whole host of other factors, and only time will give us the answers to many of the questions floating around right now.