Predicting the Philadelphia Phillies’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup
Predicting the 2014 Philadelphia Phillies Lineup
The Philadelphia Phillies were an old team in 2013. Somehow, in the offseason, the team managed to make a series of moves to actually get older. Basically, the front office thinks that the key to winning with a team that is already too old is to get older. If that doesn't make sense to you, it is probably because it just doesn't make any sense.
The Phillies won only 73 games in 2013 with an injury-plagued roster that had nowhere to go when said injuries occurred. Due to their mostly terrible farm system, the Phils rely way too heavily on their ability to spend money in free agency and via trades. When injuries occur, they simply have no options if other teams aren't willing to deal at the moment.
Until the Phillies are able to get their farm system to at least be somewhat respectable, they are not going to return to elite status as an organization. Sure, they may have a year here and there that they can compete for a postseason berth, but without a reliable farm system to fall back on, sustaining success is almost impossible.
Anyway, back to the offseason the Phillies had. The team had been rumored to be shopping closer Jonathan Papelbon and his terrible contract and Domonic Brown all winter, but they failed to get a deal done. The deals the Phillies were able to complete, however, were more towards winning now as opposed to shedding salary and getting young players back in return.
The Phillies two biggest moves were signing 36 year old outfielder Marlon Byrd and 37 year old A.J. Burnett. Coincidentally, both were members of the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, with Byrd spending the final month with the Bucs and Burnett spending the previous two seasons with them.
Along with Byrd and Burnett, the Phillies brought back 35 year old catcher Carlos Ruiz. Starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez was signed to pitch in the back-end of the rotation. The Phils don't just have problems that stem from this past offseason though. They surely regret the five-year, $125 million extension they gave to Ryan Howard a few seasons ago. They gave Chase Utley an extension that could possibly keep him in the City of Brotherly Love until after his age-39 season.
The Phillies clearly express too much loyalty in their veteran players. In some businesses, loyalty is admirable. In MLB, loyalty is foolish, especially in the Utley situation. Despite all the negativity surrounding the Phillies' organization, they do still have a season to play starting in about a month. How that seasons ends will depend a lot on how healthy the team can stay and if some of their veterans can return to the way they were in their dominant seasons a few years ago. Can the Phillies be good in 2014? Sure. Will they be good? I'm leaning towards no.
1. Center Fielder Ben Revere
Other than speed, people shouldn't expect much out of Ben Revere. Defensively, other than flashy plays that he makes -- usually because he took a bad route to the ball -- he is below average. In 1,400 plate appearances, Revere has yet to hit a home run. He has a career .285/.324/.330 triple-slash line with a 81 wRC+. Revere spent a lot of the 2013 season injured, but the Phillies' offense was much better with him at the top of the lineup. Revere staying healthy in 2014 will be huge for the Phillies' chances of staying competitive.
2. Right Fielder Marlon Byrd
Anyone that claims to truly know what to expect from Byrd in 2014 is probably lying. Byrd experienced a breakout season in 2013. In 2012, Byrd was suspended for violating the league's drug policy. The chances of him repeating his .291/.336/.511 triple-slash line and his 136 wRC+ in 2014 are slim, but if he can, the Phillies will gladly pay him his $8 million.
3. Second Baseman Chase Utley
The longtime second baseman for the Phillies has had injury problems for quite some time now. The last time Utley played more than 131 games was in 2009. When he is healthy, Utley is still a productive player. In 2013, he hit .284/.348/.475 with a 126 wRC+. Along with being a great offensive player, Utley also brings plus-defense at second base.
4. First Baseman Ryan Howard
Much like Utley, the key for Howard is to stay on the field. In his last healthy season, 2011, Howard hit .253/.346/.488 with 31 home runs. Being a bad defensive player, Howard's value comes solely from his ability to launch balls out of Citizens Bank Park.
5. Left Fielder Domonic Brown
After many seasons as a top prospect with the Phillies, Brown finally got an extended look at the MLB level in 2013. He received a few chances in previous seasons, but his leash seemed to be a bit too short, putting way too much pressure on him to succeed early on. When given the chance to play without the pressures of being replaced, Brown put up big power numbers, hitting 27 home runs and slugging .494 in 2013.
6. Catcher Carlos Ruiz
The Phillies' catcher was suspended for the beginning of 2013 after violating the league's drug policy, so when he struggled in 2013, hitting .268/.320/.368 with a 89 wRC+, people questioned if his past few successful seasons were because of his prescription drugs he was taking without permission. It appears those questions will be answered in 2014, however, as he now has permission to take the prescription during the season to help him focus.
7. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins
A former MVP winner, Jimmy Rollins had a non-MVP season in 2013. At 35 years old, decline in his performance is expected. However, his slugging percentage dropped from .427 to .348 from 2012 to 2013; that is quite a drastic decline. The Phillies will need Rollins to regain at least some of his previous power in 2014.
8. Third Baseman Cody Asche
It seems, right now at least, that Cody Asche is the best option at third base for the Phils. While his defense at the hot corner isn't great, the Phillies' only other legitimate option, Maikel Franco, is in Double-A. Asche received just 179 plate appearances in 2013, hitting .235/.302/.389 in his rookie campaign.
9. Left-Handed Pitcher Cliff Lee
Despite being a pitcher, Cliff Lee is actually a decent hitter. Well, he's actually terrible at swinging the lumber, but for a pitcher, he is decent. Last season, Lee hit .183/.210/.233 in 72 plate appearances.