The next leader of the Philadelphia Phillies after the current shortstop is Domonic Brown, who will probably return to right field. Brown’s team is coming into focus, but where does Maikel Franco fit in?
This article represents the thinking of a baseball man in my opinion. Most fans do not consider the budget, prospects on the radar, the organization’s weaknesses, the track record, the competition and the other intangibles.
There will be a published storyline or two per week.
The red pinstripes are despite few changes not going to be the same squad currently on the diamond.
The opportunity to bounce back from two injury-riddled campaigns is the direction this month for 2014. September does not offer the same level of competition existing now due to call-ups. Brown and Ben Revere are locks for next summer, while Darin Ruf and Cody Asche are in various stages of acceptance for that 25-man roster. That’s four regulars who were not starters on the team last year.
Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins will again set the tone on the field. Baring an unexpected acquisition, Carlos Ruiz (34) will return behind the plate. Catching is a precious commodity and he is one of the available backstops. There are three others who will also draw serious interest.
Brian McCann (29), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (28) and AJ Pierzynski (37) are possible replacements. However, only one swings from the right side, which is problematic for the left-heavy bats in Philly. Saltalamacchia, Boston’s receiver, will probably require a long and expensive contract, which would block Tommy Joseph or another minor leaguer. The Phils, on the other hand, could re-sign Chooch for two seasons with a club option for a third tour.
According to Cory Seidman of CSNPhilly.com, Kyle Kendrick and Jonathan Papelbon will not return for 2014. However, his predictions don’t include a better fifth starter or a new closer.
Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Miguel Gonzalez and Kendrick will be the rotation if Gonzalez is sound. Management will probably not be so quick to give up on Kendrick, considering the extended period of success he had from late 2012 to early 2013. Papelbon, Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo will fill three of the seven bullpen slots.
Players have career years, excellent and poor, but only the best enjoy an extraordinary consistency. Those stars and their accomplishments are on display in Cooperstown. Basing your expectations for personnel on one summer, good or bad, is not a reasonable approach.
Depending on his 5-6 turns for the Phils, Halladay will re-ink a one-season deal mixing guaranteed money with incentives in proportion to those results. Papelbon is becoming a three-pitch hammer and should benefit from his refined arsenal next year. However, a healthy Adams will be the biggest difference-maker for this franchise. Also, while Kendrick hones his craft, Bastardo will, at least, slightly improve.
Regarding Gonzalez, anything past 10 days is relevant because that signals both sides are still at the table. Usually, if an agreement is near termination, reports surface between 1-2 weeks. His signing hit a snag on August 7 but the hurler is not looking elsewhere. Apparently, a workable solution must still be possible.
Projections for 2014:
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Ryne Sandberg needs his three right-handed sticks to divide his other five regulars. Ruf would separate Revere, Utley, Howard and Brown, while Rollins would be between Howard, Brown and Asche.
Revere ignites the offense and disrupts the opposing hurler, while Utley and Ruf work the count. The corner outfielder gets on base in most games, is a legit power threat, and will see better pitches with Howard and Brown to protect him. Rollins or Ruiz can bat sixth in front of Asche, who has .300 potential, but he struggles at each new level before excelling. He averaged .349 at Single-A Clearwater and .300 for Double-A Reading last summer before hitting .295 at Triple-A Lehigh Valley during this campaign.
Many will think the red pinstripes have the same anemic lineup from 2013, but that is a colored opinion. Firstly, Revere and Howard change the dynamic at the top and the middle of the order, which impacts the other regulars as well. Also, it’s a 50-50 mix of veterans and youngsters. An interesting element to the lineup is the alternating of the old and the new.
On August 26, Franco will be 21, and next April he will take his right-side swing to Lehigh Valley.
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