One of the things that the Philadelphia Phillies have been lacking the past few seasons is a strong bench. A bench that used to feature the likes of Gregg Dobbs and Matt Stairs has lately featured Ty Wigginton, as well as Michael Martinez and his .187 batting average. However, heading into the 2014 season the Phillies’ bench looks to once again be a team strength, as it was during the team’s successful years. This is in-part to players such as Darin Ruf and Kevin Frandsen, who help to provide some offense off the bench.
While Ruf is a natural first basemen, he has often been a reserve outfielder for the team. This provides some versatility for the Phillies, who have Ruf to fill in at first should Ryan Howard struggle with injuries again this upcoming season. Besides his ability to play first base as well as the outfield, Ruf provides a right-handed power bat off of the bench. Ruf has the highest potential out of the team’s bench players, as many have pinned him as Ryan Howard’s successor at first base. However, Ruf lacks the major league experience possessed by the other possible bench players.
Ruf’s biggest competition for a roster spot will be John Mayberry Jr., who has been a bench mainstay the past few years. Mayberry can play all three outfield positions, as well as first base, but lacks the offense Ruf provides. That is not to say that Mayberry is a liability on offense, as he does provide some power off the bench. However, he most likely is able to stick around due to his defensive versatility. This could give Mayberry the edge over Ruf, but Ruf may be kept around due to his better power and providing depth behind Howard.
On the other side of the infield is Kevin Frandsen. The third baseman can also play first and second base, giving the Phillies’ depth at multiple positions. During his time with the Phillies he has been a key role player, hitting .280 in two years with the team. He has been very important to the team in filling in at first, second, and third base the past few years with injuries to Howard, Chase Utley, and Placido Polanco. Frandsen is also a good backup to have behind the young Cody Asche at third.
Freddy Galvis is the other key backup of the infield, more for defensive reasons than offensive. Galvis mainly has played shortstop and third for the Phillies but can also play second base. He has struggled to hit well during his time in the majors and last season served a 50-game suspension after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. However, Galvis is possibly the best defensive player on the team and has provided quite a few offensive sparks in his career.
Bobby Abreu will have to earn a spot on the opening day roster, but what helps him is that he fills a big need on the team. That need is a left-handed power bat off of the bench. The Phillies attempted to fill this need last season with Jim Thome, but it did not work as planned. They are taking less of a risk with Abreu, who could turn into a big reward for the team. The hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park would no doubt aid Abreu in becoming the left-handed power bat the team needs off of the bench.
There are other possible role players that could find their way on the team’s opening day roster, such as Tony Gwynn Jr. or Ronny Cedeño. However, the previously discussed players will be the main contributors off of the Phillies bench this season, a definite step up from the previous few years.