Phillies Season Preview with Bill Baer of Crashburn AlleyBy
It sure is tough to believe that the season is less than four days away. Well, all that means is that with time running out, we’ve got just a few days to preview the NL East and Marlins competition this year. Let’s start with the blogger whose team was crowned division champs last year, Bill Baer. Bill runs Crashburn Alley, the Phillies blog on the Sweetspot Network and was kind enough to stop by and answer some questions.
Can you talk about the Phillies’ off-season as a whole and how it’ll either benefit or hurt their chances of making the post-season this year?
The Phillies had a pretty lousy off-season, relatively speaking. Laynce Nix was inexplicably handed a two-year contract, Jim Thome was signed to play one game a week in the field and the rest as a pinch-hitter, and the Phillies learned they will be without megastar Chase Utley to start the season. In fact, the entire infield is a giant question mark, as Placido Polanco has dealt with a plethora of injury problems (sports hernia, finger, back), Jimmy Rollins is less limber than he used to be thanks to three leg injuries in 2010, and Ryan Howard‘s torn Achilles. The Phillies aren’t well-prepared to deal with any of the injuries, including Utley’s as they will be using Freddy Galvis, who has taken a whopping 126 PA in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, at second base on Opening Day. They’re still the clear favorites in the NL East, but the Marlins, Braves, and Nationals can see light at the end of the tunnel.
Regarding the Phils, are there any stories in particular that we should keep an eye on?
The Cole Hamels contract situation is the biggest story right now. Hamels is one of the three best lefties in the league, along with Cliff Lee and Clayton Kershaw, and will be eligible for free agency after the year. Both the Phillies and Hamels have publicly mentioned a desire to stay together, but an extension has yet to be reached. Such an extension would likely be at least five years in length totaling over $100 million. Hamels will be 29 in 2013, so there are still a few prime years left in the tank. The competitiveness of the Phillies between 2013 and the end of Ryan Howard‘s ridiculous contract (potentially 2017) will depend on the presence of Hamels.
Which potential 25-man roster players should we be keeping an extra on this year and why?
John Mayberry, Jr. He broke out in 267 PA last year, posting a .854 OPS with 15 HR. The Phillies’ left field situation is abysmal, with Laynce Nix and Juan Pierre behind Mayberry, neither of which portends to be productive with the bat. Mayberry’s continued success can turn a black hole position — one that could conceivably be worse than with Raul Ibanez — into an overall net gain. His previous problems included hitting against right-handed pitching and breaking pitches, but he looked comfortable against both last year. He can also steal the occasional base and play average to slightly above-average defense.
What kind of success do you see the Phils having this year? What can get them over the top?
I still see the Phillies as the NL East champions with a win total in the mid-90′s. I’m not impressed by the rest of the NL East. They can easily be undone by injuries, though, so the door is definitely open for three of the other four teams (sorry, Mets). Don’t forget, the Phillies will have the ability to trade either Joe Blanton or Kyle Kendrick to clear salary and add a player to fix a pressing need by the July 31 trading deadline.
Lastly, where do you see the Phillies finishing in the NL East this season?
Thanks again to Bill for stopping by. Be sure to check out Crashburn Alley as often as you can this year for regular Phillies news and analysis and also, follow Bill on Twitter @CrashburnAlley.