A new year is upon us and a new Phillies season is almost here, with Spring Training to begin in just over a month. A few off-season signings have solidified some areas, where other areas may still be of concern. Here is my list of Phillies looming questions by position:
The Starting Rotation – The projected starters and order are Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Vance Worley. Halladay and Lee are no brainers. Hamels is recovering from elbow surgery but reports are that he is throwing and feeling fine.
This means the two questions remaining are Blanton and Worley. Blanton sat out most of 2011 with a bum elbow and chose not to have surgery this offseason. How he will respond in 2012 is a mystery. However, Kyle Kendrick will be waiting in the wings to fill in should Big Joe go down.
And the question for Worley is simply, will he suffer the sophomore slump or pick up where he left off in 2011. Either way, the Vanimal will be fascinating to watch.
Catcher – Carlos Ruiz returns as Batman with Brian Schneider backing him up as Robin. Choooooch! No questions here.
1st Base – The sight of Ryan Howard tumbling to the ground in agony to end the Phillies 2011 season still burns in our collective memories. Beat-writer Todd Zolecki reports that Howard is recovering well from Achilles surgery and is now beginning a light exercise program.
Still, Howard will miss some time. Experts predict that John Mayberry Jr. will pick up most of the time at 1st with an occasional appearance from Jim Thome. This seems like a terrible shame for Mayberry who should simply be handed left field and allowed to get comfortable there for the long haul. Instead, the Phillies will probably platoon Laynce Nix in left with someone like Scott Podsednik.
My suggestion? Give Nix a shot at 1st base and leave Mayberry in left. Nix has played 1st before and with some work in Spring Training, he could work his way into the role easily. Of course, I have no real say in the matter.
2nd Base – Can Chase Utley start and end a whole season at 2nd with his health intact? We shall see…
Shortstop – Jimmy Rollins returns with a fresh 3-year deal. The question here is that same as that of the other Phillies aging players…can he stay healthy?
3rd Base – I hate to beat a dead horse, but can Placido Polanco stay healthy at 36 years of age, coming off sports hernia surgery? We hope so. Polly’s contract is up after 2012, so who will be our 3rd baseman in 2013?
My suggestion? Glad you asked. Have minor league prospect Freddy Galvis spend the year working on a move from SS to 3rd. Galvis is almost major league ready but out of options with J-Roll resigned at SS for 3 years. Either Galvis becomes trade bait or he finds another way to be useful to the Phils.
Outfield – As I mentioned before, Mayberry should be the left fielder but it may wind up being Nix until Howard gets healthy. At least center and right are set: Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence will both be back and ready to play.
The Bullpen – Once again, the Phillies pen is a huge question mark. The Phils saw rookies and younger, less experienced players, like Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo, rise and fall throughout 2011. The status of veteran Jose Contreras is mostly unknown since having elbow surgery. Other veterans, like Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson are gone (for now). However, neither Lidge or Madson have found homes. Could they return? It’s a long shot….but not impossible.
Spring Training is going to be huge in determining the make-up of this bullpen. There will be a lot of opportunities for younger guys to step up and steal a spot. It will also be interesting to see if Dontrelle Willis can conjure up some of his early career magic or if he will slide back into oblivion.
And of course, the closer question was answered with the signing of Jonathan Papelbon. The only question here is will Papelbon play up to his huge salary?
The Bench – Both Thome and Wilson Valdez are set. The rest of the bench could consist of any number of new signings or guys like Michael Martinez and Pete Orr. Again, Spring Training should be very interesting.
FYI – Totally off topic, if anyone has noticed some of my photos and albums mysteriously gone missing, this is due to an unexpected issue with the site I was using to store them. I am in the process of getting it all loaded to a new site and will be working on updating older blogs as I am able to. For now, all 2011 albums are back up and can be found under my 2007 – 2011 Photo Archives. Thank you for your patience while I get everything back up and running :O)
I would like to thank all of my loyal readers for stopping by and helping to make Phillies Phollowers the #1 Phillies Fan MLBlog for the 4th straight year. Among all team MLBlogs, I ranked #10 in 2011.
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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography