Philadelphia Phillies Facing An Epidemic of Positional Problems

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Manuel can only work with what he's been given

Manuel can only work with what he's been given
Howard Smith–USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies' roster was feared across the major leagues for a number of seasons. These days, there isn't much to be frightened about.

Catching was a team strength. Due to a suspension, Carlos Ruiz started the season late and now he's suffering from a hamstring pull. Erik Kratz is a nice backup, but he's hardly 'Chooch' in his prime.

Ryan Howard was arguably the greatest slugger in the game for awhile. Unable to avoid 'The Shift', Howard has looked like a shell of himself. His recently revealed lingering knee issues have helped to explain matters, while also creating understandable concern about the future.

Chase Utley has been a bright spot on this year's team. Number 26 has looked like his old self since spring training and may have found a way to revitalize his career through alternative lower-core conditioning.

Jimmy Rollins still carries a fine glove. If 'J-Roll' is able to remain productive through his late 30s, his body of offensive work will also open a potential Hall of Fame conversation. The problem is, he hasn't produced consistent offensive numbers across many categories in over five years.

Michael Young had a great career in the American League. No longer possessing much power, he still makes contact often enough to warrant inclusion in the top-third of the batting order. Defensively, he's just adequate.

Domonic Brown has steadied his swing and isn't the worst outfielder in the League. That's not an advertisement for a budding superstar. It's more of a modest endorsement for a decent player in his mid-20s whose career path remains uncertain.

Ben Revere is a work-in-progress. I'm withholding my grade on this energetic Juan Pierre-like figure.

Delmon Young was an obvious low-risk gamble. Payroll issues and the lack of available alternatives made him a Phillie.

The steady emergence of Freddy Galvis can't be denied. Due to his talent and low-salary slot, he's almost assured of a starting spot somewhere on the field in the not-too-distant future. His first regular Philadelphia assignment might coincide with this season's July 31 trade deadline.

Darin Ruf has gotten off to a decent, though not great, start in Triple-A this season. The possibility of 'Babe Ruf' patrolling left field, with Brown being shifted to right, is still a realistic possibility. Of course, Ruf's name could be fired across the internet as part of a trade at any moment as well.

Many Phillies' players who were active during the 2007-2011 years are assured of eventually receiving plaques on the team's beautiful Wall of Fame. But, how many men who weren't part of that group currently display the potential of joining their fellow alumni? The answer to that question is a vexing problem.

Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanyOB, Facebook, Google+ and read his blog Insight.

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Utley is re-establishing his place within the game

Utley is re-establishing his place within the game
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Utley isn't a problem. This pending free agent's efforts basically represent a comeback of sorts. Whether he's dealt by the trade deadline, or not, number 26 might spend another three, or four, seasons in red pinstripes starting in 2014.

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Howard's ongoing health issues have hampered his production

Howard's ongoing health issues have hampered his production
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

One has to wonder how many truly productive seasons Ryan Howard has left in his body? At 33, he's hardly washed up. But, the $100 million that he's guaranteed to earn through 2016 creates a rather interesting situation for his employer to work through.

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Brown's modest output is welcomed

Brown's modest output is welcomed
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Domonic Brown should hit 20+ home runs, knock in 70+ runs and not embarrass himself in left field this season. That's not exactly lofty praise for a highly-hyped prospect who's playing in his eighth professional season. But, he's one of the only usable positional products that the farm system has produced of late.

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Rollins' decision could fall between more Phillies' records, or another World Series ring

Rollins' decision could fall between more Phillies' records, or another World Series ring
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Rollins' better offensive days are behind him, but he has a guaranteed deal through 2014. Will he finish his career in Philadelphia? Equally worthy of consideration is whether this 10-5 man will agree to join a stronger team in the right trade sometime this year, or next.

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Ruiz' future is far from certain

Ruiz' future is far from certain
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Extending Carlos Ruiz' contract past this season isn't a foregone conclusion. While Ruben Amaro, Jr. may opt to keep him for a few more seasons, it's also reasonable to believe that this is the final year 'Chooch' positions himself behind the plate.

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