Philadelphia Phillies: 2013 Phils Will Put ‘Contract Year’ Effect to Stern Test

February 28, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

"Of course he's playing hard; he's in a contract year."

This is the sort of thing you hear every season when a young player about to hit free agency for the first time, or a veteran player on the last year of his current deal, raises his game noticeably.

For the 2013 Phillies, the "contract year" effect could pay huge dividends.

Chase Utley is in the final year of a seven-year, $85 million contract.

From 2007-2010 (the first four years of the contract), Utley made the All-Star team every season. 

When Utley missed 47 games in 2010, it was the team's first real indication that injuries were going to be a problem for their cornerstone second baseman.

Utley missed 59 more games in 2011; in concert with the end of the the Phillies' five-year playoff run in 2012, Utley played only four more games (83) than he missed (79).

Along with all the missed games came declines in Utley's production. From 2005 through 2008, Utley drove in more than 100 runs every year, hit no fewer than 22 home runs, hit no worse than .291 and scored more than 100 runs three times, including a league-leading 131 runs scored in 2006.

But in the past two seasons, Utley has 44 and 45 runs batted in and batting averages of .259 and .256, respectively. These are not the sorts of numbers that will inspire the Phillies or anyone else to give Utley one final "big" contract.

Utley's motivation for 2013 is evident in his mere presence on the field in Clearwater—2013 marks the first time Utley has played a spring training game since 2010.

The 2013 Phillies could benefit from Utley's desire to re-establish his value in advance of free agency.

Roy Halladay is in the final year of the three-year contract extension he signed in December of 2009. He will make $20 million this season.

If he pitches 258.2 innings in 2013, his $20 million option for 2014 will vest. Because his career high in innings pitched is 266 (in 2003), it seems patently unlikely that Halladay can make that happen.

So Halladay is essentially pitching for another contract. Halladay has to prove that his 2012 drop-off (11-8, 4.49 ERA) was a one-off and that he can still pitch at or near the top of a rotation to bolster his value in free agency.

To lesser extents, the "contract year" effect will be tested in other areas of the Phillies' projected lineup.

Carlos Ruiz is in the last year of his current contract, which calls for him to make $5 million this season. Coming off a 2012 campaign that saw him post career bests in the Triple Crown categories, Ruiz figured to be setting himself up for a windfall in free agency.

Then he was hit with a 25-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's performance-enhancing drug policy. When he comes back, then, Ruiz will be playing to prove not only that he can produce while clean, but that time (he recently turned 34 years of age) has not caught up to him.

Michael Young will make just over $16 million this season and, at age 36, is unsigned thereafter. He hit .277 last year. Michael Young also needs to put up numbers to earn another deal; by "numbers," read that as home runs and runs batted in, as he will play a power position (third base) in a hitter-friendly environment.

Delmon Young signed a one-year contract for $750,000. Coming off ankle surgery, he must get fully healthy and demonstrate that he can play right field without seeing his hitting suffer to boost his value next offseason.

That makes five players who figure to be prominently involved in the success or failure of the 2013 Phillies who are, to varying degrees, playing for their professional lives.

Is the "contract year" phenomenon reality or myth?

The 2013 Phillies hope it's the real thing.

 

All contract data in this article per www.baseball-reference.com.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Full Scouting Reports for Each Philadelphia Phillies Prospect at Spring Training

February 28, 2013 by Matt Boczar  
Filed under Fan News

Spring training this year is providing the Philadelphia Phillies with an opportunity to view the young prospects hoping to become a part of the team, and the veterans looking to put 2012 in their rearview mirror.

However, this year’s camp doesn't just include prospects who are still a few years away from the major leagues. 

Instead, several are currently in camp who could potentially end up on the Opening Day roster, earn a call-up during the season or make their case for a chance to replace an impending free agent next season.

Regardless of the situation for each prospect in camp, now is their opportunity to prove that they can hold their own with and against major league talent.

This list features 15 players who have always been considered prospects, or who used tremendous 2012 campaigns to earn the label.

Here are scouting reports for each of these Phillies’ prospects at spring training.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

25 Predictions for the Philadelphia Phillies in the Month of March

February 27, 2013 by Greg Pinto  
Filed under Fan News

Spring training is in full swing and the Philadelphia Phillies have enough storylines to make your eyes spin. There's everything from a simple position battle to whether potential starters can actually field their designated positions.

But, hey, that's the glory of spring training.

As the Phillies try to sort through their problems, it's time to offer up some predictions for what this month of March will contain for a team desperately trying to claw its way back to the top of the mountain.

It's not going to be easy. The Phillies' division is tough with powerhouse teams such as the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves. Their league is tough, as they'll square off with the Los Angeles Dodgers and defending champion San Francisco Giants, among others.

If this Phillies team wants to play in October, a lot of things will have to break right for them.

It all starts in spring training.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Domonic Brown’s Fast Start Could Help Him Earn Starting Job with Phillies Soon

February 26, 2013 by Matt Boczar  
Filed under Fan News

Remember last month when the possibility existed that the Philadelphia Phillies could use a double-platoon for their corner outfield spots, rather than naming a starter at each position heading into spring training?

Although the eventual signing of Delmon Young made it appear as if the Phillies had their candidate for an everyday right fielder, left field was still a mystery.  And following news from Jim Salisbury on CSNPhilly.com that Young could not only miss Opening Day, but also much of April, it appeared as if both corner outfield spots were back up for grabs.

That is, unless Domonic Brown continues with his strong early showing.

The Phillies have only played four spring training games, but manager Charlie Manuel recently spoke on the outfield situation in an article by David Murphy on Philly.com, and made sure he mentioned Brown’s name when it came to which players could claim spots early.

We’ve got 10 outfielders, and somewhere along the line, probably about two-thirds of the way through spring training, we’re going to have to make decisions on at least four of them, Manuel said.  We’re going to try to get them all some playing time where we can see them enough.  If somebody jumps out and really gets going, like Brown right now, the last three days he’s really swung good.  He’s played good in the outfield, things like that.  We could settle on a guy or something.

 

Again, it’s still very early in camp.  But another week of strong performances, similar to the one he had today, could allow Brown to see his name officially penciled into a starting corner outfield spot.

Brown hit his second home run in four spring training games against the New York Yankees today, and now has three hits in seven at-bats this spring. 

Manuel is not the only member of the Phillies who has been encouraged by Brown so far.  In another article by David Murphy on Philly.com, it is noted that both Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard believe in Brown’s ability this season, and may already think it’s time to give him an everyday starting job.

Brown may not have many opportunities left with the Phillies.  In 147 career games over the last three seasons, Brown has a career average of .236 to go with 12 home runs and 58 RBI.  However, his two home runs already this spring are nearly half his total from a year ago in the major leagues.

With Ben Revere already locked into the starting center field job and John Mayberry, Jr. and Laynce Nix serving as better options off the bench rather than starters, Brown and Darin Ruf give the Phillies two young players with the potential to win starting outfield jobs. 

Once Young returns, both players could also be candidates for being sent down to the minor leagues depending on how they have performed up until that point. 

Throw in Rule 5 draft pick Ender Inciarte, and the Phillies have an even more interesting situation in their outfield.

However, this situation could also mean that the team is hoping at least one player will step up early and earn a starting job, regardless of whether Young is on the roster.

Following his monster home run today, Brown has certainly gotten off to the type of start that the team was hoping for early.  

If Brown is able to keep this fast start going, he could soon earn a starting job for Opening Day, something he has never received.

Since debuting in 2010, Brown has experienced two vastly different situations with the Phillies.  In 2011, Brown had an opportunity to remain as the Phils' everyday right fielder, before a .165 batting average in June led to the Phillies acquiring Hunter Pence a month later.  Last season, Brown was not called-up until Pence was traded to the San Francisco Giants in late July.  Following his promotion, Brown batted .235 while playing in an outfield that looked much different after the trade deadline.

In 2011, Brown played on a Phillies team that was on pace to win a franchise record number of games, and win the National League East by 13 games.  Last season he played on a Phillies team that finished 17 games back of first place. 

Playing in these situations allowed Brown to play on a team with little pressure on it during the regular season due to a strong lead in the standings, and on a team that, except for a late season charge at the second wild card spot, was hardly in playoff contention.  Two very different situations, yet two situations that were not as high pressured as some the Phillies have seen in recent seasons. 

However, despite the lack of pressure, Brown was unable to earn and maintain an everyday starter’s job in the outfield.

This year, with an open competition for the corner outfield spots, Brown has a third chance to claim a starting outfield job.

Although the returns are still very early, it appears as if the third time might be the charm.

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Top 10 Prospects Rankings, Spring Forecasts

February 26, 2013 by Mike Rosenbaum  
Filed under Fan News

Headed into the 2012 season, nobody expected the Phillies to be anything less than a playoff contender, let alone struggle mightily as they did.

By the all-star break, the team’s postseason aspirations had faded, and a few weeks later they began clearing house by moving both Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino at the trade deadline.

However, while their overall season was a disappointment, they did add a few nice pieces to their severely depleted farm system in Ethan Martin and Tommy Joseph. Furthermore, pitching prospects such as Jesse Biddle, Adam Morgan and Jonathan Pettibone all took steps forward in terms of individual development, while Maikel Franco and Roman Quinn established themselves as young, high-ceiling talent.

As you will see, their top 10 has a much different look than it did a year ago.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Latest Predictions for the Winner of Each Philadelphia Phillies Position Battle

February 26, 2013 by Alec Snyder  
Filed under Fan News

Baseball is back.

The Philadelphia Phillies have played in just three games thus far in spring training, but already the scheme of things is starting to shape the roster for Opening Day. Pitchers and players galore have had a handful of opportunities already, whether on offense or on defense, to make their mark. And for those who have to do so to win a job, it's especially important.

Manager Charlie Manuel's lineup for Opening Day is already set in some places. In place of the suspended Carlos Ruiz, Erik Kratz is bound to start at catcher. The infield of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Michael Young is set. And Ben Revere is entrenched as the Phils' center fielder.

Pitching-wise, the rotation looks good. Not too long ago, the order of the rotation was in flux, but after pitching coach Rich Dubee gave Cole Hamels the first start of spring training, it looks as though he's in line to make his first Opening Day start. Hamels precedes Roy Halladay, who is followed by Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan.

As for the bullpen, things aren't as set there. Seven spots are likely to be open for the season, but four are already filled.

Middle reliever Chad Durbin was brought back to Philadelphia this past offseason. Left-hander Antonio Bastardo returns as the Phillies' primary southpaw relief option. And newly-signed setup man Mike Adams will join closer Jonathan Papelbon who, should he not have had his expensive contract, might have been cut after his dismal performance yesterday when he surrendered six runs in just two thirds of an inning to the Detroit Tigers.

All joking aside, there do remain some positions where the Phillies aren't set just yet. The bullpen remains as one of them, and the outfield is still an unknown commodity. Fortunately, that's where this comes in. Yes, it's a little early to base projections off of previous play so far with such a small sample size, but it will have to do for today.

In the outfield, Revere is a lock for center field despite an error in the first game against the Houston Astros. However, Darin Ruf's potential defensive liabilities were displayed when he improperly fielded a ground ball in the outfield that ricocheted off his glove into the back corner. Will that be an issue, or will Ruf still get the nod?

What Ruf has in his favor is that he's a good hitter, though he has yet to get a hit so far in spring training games. He's also got the fact that Delmon Young will be hurt to start the year, but a big factor is that the Phillies plan on only using Young in right field, meaning that left field is up for grabs. Does that mean that Ruf, who can only play left field in the outfield, has the edge to win the job?

The Phillies outfielder who has really shone so far is Domonic Brown. After three seasons ushering Brown back and forth between the majors and minors, hope for Brown had dissipated over time.

However, so far in spring training, he has hit very well, hitting 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBI. In three games, that's not half bad. He also registered two hits in the Phillies' intrasquad game last Friday. Defensively, Brown been adequate so far and has impressed Manuel (per Phillies.com).

Nevertheless, Brown and Ruf should have the edge as of now, as there really isn't anybody else to fill those roles internally. Laynce Nix and John Mayberry Jr., along with Ender Inciarte, could be options down the road, but none will start on a regular basis, if at all.

In the bullpen, the three spots open will likely go to some trio of Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, Michael Stutes and Raul Valdes. With three righties and three lefties in that mix, who will get the nod?

If I had to guess, I'd say that the Phillies will select two righties out of that bunch and one southpaw. The lefty with the edge, in my opinion, is Jeremy Horst. In his debut against the Astros, Horst wasn't the sharpest he's been, surrendering one run on three hits in two innings. However, neither Valdes nor Diekman has been better, so due to his success last year, Horst is the front-runner.

As for the remaining two spots, Aumont absolutely is on the fast track. After the Phillies traded Michael Schwimer to the Toronto Blue Jays, it meant that one fewer right-handed reliever was fighting for a job. It benefits nobody but Aumont, who has struggled with control yet has been the best of the bunch so far.

I'll give the final job to Justin De Fratus despite him surrendering two runs in two innings on Saturday against Houston. Stutes may work his way back to get the job, but considering that his first time on a pitching mound since April 2012 was yesterday, he may need more seasoning in the minors before he's ready for a full majors workload.

So there you have it. Brown and Ruf in the outfield, and Horst, Aumont and De Fratus taking up the final bullpen spots. Remember, this is just the beginning of spring training, so nothing is imminent nor is it fully predictable. Will these trends continue? We'll have to wait and see.

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8 Keys to Phillies Second Baseman Chase Utley Staying Healthy This Season

February 25, 2013 by Greg Pinto  
Filed under Fan News

Playing a grueling game like baseball at the professional level is no walk in the park. Playing baseball on a pair of chronically degenerating knees is something that would not be feasible for most athletes, but Chase Utley isn't like most athletes. 

For the last decade, the former first-round pick out of UCLA has been one of most integral parts of this Philadelphia Phillies team, captivating fans and players alike. When he isn't in the lineup, this is a different team, and they're certainly not better without him. 

Utley, who has suffered from numerous injuries throughout his career, has had the most trouble with his knees, suffering from a wide array of conditions including cartilage damage, bone inflammation, patellar tendinitis and chondromalacia

For the first time since 2010, the Phillies second baseman is participating in the Grapefruit League, a good sign that he'll be prepared for the regular season, and this is a club that definitely needs him in the lineup. 

But how does a guy like Utley, who has had a smorgasbord of knee injuries, stay on the field for an entire season? The following slideshow will try to answer that question by taking a look at all of the possibilities. 

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Prospects Destined to Have a Great Spring

February 25, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

For an established (sounds better than "old and expensive") team like the Philadelphia Phillies, there is no time to think about tomorrow.

If the Phillies start slow, or if the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves are just too good to be caught, wholesale changes in the team are very likely.

Actually, the only way most of the Phillies' youngest prospects will find their way to Philadelphia in 2013 would be if the Phillies are once again out of playoff contention in June.

Because at that point, the Phillies will start selling off veterans like Roy Halladay and Chase Utley for whatever they can get in return via trade, and someone will have to finish the season out.

Still, the Phillies do have some young players who can seize the opportunity that spring training presents to cement themselves as key players on the Phillies' 2013 major league squad.

For many reasons, the analysis begins with Darin Ruf.

The Phillies have a desperate need for a right-handed, power-hitting left fielder. Ruf, the reigning Eastern League (AA) Most Valuable Player, is no one's idea of a polished defensive outfielder.

But the Phillies will live with substandard defense from Ruf if he can hit. In spring training, Ruf figures to see much the same caliber of pitching he saw at AA in 2012 and during his September call-upfringe major leaguers and middle relievers.

Ruf should be able to drive some mistakes against that level of pitching and solidify his spot on the 25-man roster. 

Domonic Brown has been wearing the "prospect" tag for what seems like half a decade. He is 25 years old now, and this spring training is shaping up to be his last real chance to show that he is more than the .236 career hitter he has been at the major league level.

Brown will get plenty of spring at-bats as Delmon Young continues to rehabilitate from ankle surgery, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. Plainly, with Young not projected to be ready anytime soon, the starting right-field job is Brown's to lose.

Brown's mammoth game-tying home run against the Detroit Tigers Sunday is certainly not going to hurt his cause.

Then, there is the bizarre case of Freddy Galvis, who unexpectedly served as the starting second baseman for an injured Utley only to sustain a brutal injury of his own.

Galvis' injury was coupled with insult when he was hit with a 50-game drug suspension by MLB in June while he was already on the disabled list, per ESPN.com (via The AP).

So how do you classify Galvis? But for Utley's injury, Galvis would probably never have seen any major-league time in 2012. He hit .226 in the 58 games he played. Is he still a "prospect?"

Did he do enough to deserve a look in 2013, or is he better served finding a competent offensive game at AAA Lehigh Valley? 

Working in Galvis' favor will be the time Jimmy Rollins will spend away from Phillies' camp at the World Baseball Classic. Galvis should get valuable spring training playing time in Rollins' absence, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Again, prospects are not the focus of the 2013 Phillies. If Halladay, Utley, Ryan Howard and the other big-money veterans play poorly, the team is going nowhere.

But the action at Clearwater is still worth a watch where Ruf, Brown and Galvis are concerned.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Spring Training Debut Suggests Past Ills Not Behind Phils

February 23, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

Straight up front, please save your "it's only one game!" remonstrations. Of course it's only one game, and of course it's only the preseason.

Know how you know that preseason results are meaningless? The Philadelphia Eagles went 4-0 in the preseason in 2012. And you know how that turned out.

So, yeah, right, it's ridiculous to take anything away from a preseason game in February (even one against the terrible Houston Astros) where Jimmy Rollins sat and Cole Hamels left after two strong innings. You're right.

Yeah, but still.

If you wanted to look for concerns following the ugly 8-3 loss to the Astros, the box score is rife with them.

Consider:

—Golden boy prospect Darin Ruf went 0-for-3, but his error on a routine single that put runners on second and third (rather than first and second) was more troubling than his inability to get a hit.

The double play was no longer in order, two runners were in scoring position, and perhaps predictably the chorus of concerned citizens who think Ruf might not be able to play left field in the major leagues now have an early warning sign to point to.

—The Phillies had eight hits, and only two were for extra bases. Pete Orr's home run was nice, but like so many Phillie home runs in 2012, it was a solo shot. Ruf, Michael Young and Ryan Howard went 0-for-9. Howard, in midseason form, struck out twice.

So, um, about that power surge in 2013...

—The Phillies had four errors. Michael Martinez's gaffe is a non-concern since he has little-to-no shot to make the team. But Ruf's error is not an encouraging development.

And the other two errors were made by Ben Revere, a supposed defensive upgrade in center field, and Erik Kratz, who is supposed to be the starter at catcher for most of April while Carlos Ruiz serves out his 25-game suspension.

—The Phillies' middle relievers got slapped around again. B.J. Rosenberg, Jeremy Horst and Justin De Fratus surrendered five earned runs on 10 hits and three walks in five innings against a pretty lousy offensive team.

Mike Adams had better be really good.

Again, right, it's just one game. The Phillies have over a month in Florida to sort it all out.

From the looks of things, though, they'll need to use all of it.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Key Factors That Will Determine Winners of Phillies’ Outfield Position Battles

February 22, 2013 by Greg Pinto  
Filed under Fan News

For the first time in quite a while, the Philadelphia Phillies will begin Grapefruit League play with both corner outfield positions up for grabs.

Just who wins those jobs, and what they'll entail, is one of a number of variables this spring. 

In a lot of ways, these position battles will come down to which players the Phillies can trust the most. Can they trust Domonic Brown to perform? Can they trust Darin Ruf to continue his extraordinary development? Can they trust Delmon Young to change? 

And that's just a small taste of what the outfield position battles will entail this spring. The Phillies will have to determine whether those are full-time or part-time roles. They'll have to determine what their bench looks like behind those regulars. 

This is a mammoth battle. In a lot of ways it is a giant free-for-all with at least four positions up for grabs.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on this spring as we follow the Phillies' outfield position battle.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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