Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Reuben Amaro Jr. struck out this past offseason when he failed to land any upper tier free agent outfield players. Those whiffs may prove costly to the Phillies postseason hopes.
Likewise, Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourne, B.J. Upton, Nick Swisher, Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera were easily better options than the players Amaro had on his roster.
Signing one of these coveted players wasn’t going to be easy but that’s never stopped Amaro in the past. His reputation has been one of pulling off the nearly impossible deal including the extraordinary agreements that brought Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to the Phillies.
Who’s left in the outfield for the Phillies? The answer to that question is not one that will have Phillies fans lining up to buy more season tickets. It almost certainly means Phillies fans will not have to reserve a date on the calendar in October to witness a World Series championship parade down Broad Street.
Center fielders much like football quarterbacks direct the action in the outfield. Usually endowed with great speed and intuition, they are the glue that holds the outfielders together.
Ben Revere, formerly of the Minnesota Twins will fill that position for the Phillies. His defensive skills and speed are above average; his career batting average is an acceptable .278. He’ll probably share lead-off with Jimmy Rollins but will need to increase his hits and walks.
However, compared to the free agents from which Amaro had to choose, Revere doesn’t measure up. Don’t be surprised if fans think they’re seeing Juan Pierre all over again which may not be all bad. Let’s hope Revere gets to frequently use his speed on the base paths.
This spring, when games don’t count in the standings, Domonic Brown resembles a professional baseball player. His bat is alive, he’s hitting for power and he acts like right field is home rather than a place he only visits occasionally. Can he make it last? Don’t hold your breath.
Here’s where the downhill slide in the outfield gets really slippery. Left field is a mess. Darin Ruf, he of the powerful swing and prodigious home run totals (albeit mostly of the minor league variety) needs seasoning and will find himself in AAA to start the season. Strike one.
Platoon experiments seldom work well in baseball. It’s almost an admission that neither player is good enough to hold their own. With Ruf getting settled in the Lehigh Valley, Laynce Nix and John Mayberry, Jr. will share duties in left field.
Corner outfield players are supposed to be power hitters. Nix has hit only 67 home runs since coming to the major leagues in 2003. His batting average is a mediocre .245.
Mayberry, Jr. is an enigma. Nice guy, smart and from all observations highly liked and respected. He is a really decent man. But, the Phillies aren’t in the business of honoring Mr. Congeniality. Like Nix, he’s never hit many home runs although he does make great contact when the ball finds his bat.
When hitting coaches have to encourage players to be more aggressive at the plate as they’ve done with Mayberry, Jr. it speaks volumes about the player’s frame of mind. He is blessed with great physical tools yet he has never lived up to expectations. My guess is that he’s just not aggressive enough.
One has to wonder what has kept Mayberry, Jr. in Philadelphia. When players like Jayson Werth, Pence and Victorino are dealt away like cheap baseball cards, how does a player like Mayberry, Jr. stick? It’s a question that only Amaro and a few others can answer. Combined, Nix and Mayberry, Jr. are strike two.
Last is Delmon Young. At least, he comes relatively cheap at $750,000 for one year. Like Brown, the talent is there; he was ALCS, MVP against the New York Yankees in 2012.
But his off-field behavior has been nothing short of disgraceful and is worrisome. The Philllies are hoping he can behave himself and become the power right-hand hitter they need. Strike three.
Until these outfield question marks are addressed, the 2013 season could be a most difficult one to watch for Phillie fans.