This is the fourth of a series of posts previewing the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies prior to the start of Spring Training.
This might be the most complex and intriguing position on the Phillies roster. Only one of the three spots—centerfield—is locked-up heading to Clearwater, with Ben Revere’s name as written in Sharpie. The corners will fall to some combination of Darin Ruf, Domonic Brown, Laynce Nix and John Mayberry, Jr—or possibly a so-far-unsigned free agent.Revere will be patrolling the middle (and parts of the corners) of the outfield on a daily basis, barring something unforeseen, after the Phillies traded SP Vance Worley and highly-touted pitching prospect Trevor May to the Twins to acquire the speedy lefthander. Profiling as a young Juan Pierre (the similarities are actually quite striking), the Phillies are banking on a big season from the young slap-hitter.
The rest of the outfield currently looks like a platoon, which is how Charlie Manuel will likely build his lineups through at least April. All four are unique players with a different skill-set, but none quite complete enough (or proven enough) to take a corner job outright.Brown is arguably the most exciting of the four, and certainly the most capable of changing his name from pencil to Sharpie. A former top-prospect, Brown is a 5-tool athlete who’s still turning those tools into skills. Yanked around between the Phillies, Iron Pigs and the Disabled List in 2011 and 2012, Brown is looking to prove to the Phillies he is capable of being the player they thought he could when they made him untouchable in trade negotiations for players like a pair of Roys (Halladay & Oswalt). Brown’s instincts and technical skills in the outfield leave a little to be desired, but his speed allows him to get to balls that a lot of other corner outfielders can’t. His bat—full of potential, but inconsistent—may just need routine at-bats to work out the kinks. I personally think Brown is poised for a breakout year.
If Brown isn’t the one with the breakout year, than Ruf will be. Ruf is only slightly less intriguing and capable of breaking out than Brown because he lacks Brown’s athleticism. But what Ruf lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in pure power and drive. Ruf is a big, strong power hitter who’s got questionable ability in the outfield, but is blocked at 1B. His bat will get him into the lineup, and if he performs the way he’s showcased, he’ll stay there. Ruf reminds me of former Phillies LF Pat Burrell and Angels OF Mark Trumbo as a righthanded power hitter who doesn’t really belong in the outfield, but manages to hold his own enough to be a valuable player. Sabermetrics loyalists won’t look too kindly on him, but defensive statistics are among the most flawed (but that’s a discussion for another day).Mayberry is the other right-hander, and a favorite of manager Charlie Manuel. Mayberry had a mini-breakout in 2011, earning a quasi-starting gig in 2012. The problem with Mayberry was that pitchers had begun to figure him out, and he struggled to make adjustments. Mayberry’s raw tools are there, and his defensive and baserunning skills are very good, but he struggles at times to make contact. If Mayberry’s contact is improved, he’ll see a lot of ABs. If not, he’ll still see significant playing time because of his defensive ability, versatility (can play all 3 OF positions and 1B), and speed.
Nix is a guy who’s kind of forgotten at times, but could be a decent contributor if healthy and used appropriately. Nix struggled in 2012 with his power (he hit just 3 HRs), which is his greatest asset. His defense is limited, and his batting average will never be great, but he’s a decent platoon bat when he’s playing his game. That said, Nix will see the least playing time of the four, and is best utilized as a left-handed pinch-hitter.
Ruben Amaro, Jr. has made it clear he’s not thrilled with entering Spring Training with this group, and hopes to add another outfielder to the mix. Some that are available include free agents Delmon Young, Ryan Sweeney and Scott Hairston, and trade candidates Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano. If Amaro were to add an OF, it likely would be at a low cost, as none will be significant improvements over the current group.
Keep an eye on this one—it will be the Phillies greatest question mark in Clearwater. It does, however, also have the potential to become a position of strength if all players perform up-to-potential.