This is the fifth of a series of posts previewing the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies prior to the start of Spring Training.
The Phillies infield is a collection of highly decorated All-Stars with a collective mantelpiece housing 6 Silver Sluggers, 5 Gold Gloves, 2 MVPs, a Batting Title and a Rookie of the Year Award. They’ve combined for 18 All-Star appearances, led the league in hits twice, runs twice, home runs twice and RBI three times.
They will also be among the league leaders in age in 2013, at a combined 137 years old, and the right side of the infield missed the first half of 2012 with significant lower-body injuries.
So what does that mean for 2013?
Well, it really depends on their health. According to Ruben Amaro, Jr., Chase Utley is doing “very, very well.” What exactly that means—well, no one really knows for sure. The good news is, he’s expected to be able to get some game action in during Spring Training. As far as Ryan Howard goes, there’s been no news over the offseason, so we’ll have to assume that’s good news.Assuming Howard & Utley are healthy, what kind of production can we anticipate this year from the middle infield?
Let’s start with a look at last year. In a half-season (83 games), Utley hit .256/.365/.429 tallying 11 HR, 45 RBI, 48 R and 11 SB and a 1/1 BB/K ratio (43 each). Over a full season, that’s 22 HR, 90 RBI, 96 R, 22 SB, 86 BB and 86 K with the same triple-slash line. That’s not too far off from the average of his “prime” (2005-09) of 29 HR, 101 RBI, 111 R, 15 SB and a BB/K ratio closer to 1/2.
Howard had a little less than a half-season (71 games), and put up 14 HR and 56 RBI, but a weak triple-slash line of .219/.295/.423. The counting stats are pretty on par with his last couple of seasons, but the AVG/OBP/SLG are very concerning. If the 2nd half of 2012 was any indication, The Big Piece looks more like a 6-hole hitter than a power cleanup bat.
Jimmy Rollins put together another solid campaign in 2012, and there’s no indication 2013 will be any different. The only cause for concern is that JRoll will be the SS for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. When Rollins played in the 2008 World Baseball Classic, he hit just .250 and posted the lowest OBP of his career—the only time he was under .300.
The big difference in 2013 will be new 3B Michael Young. Long a player the Phillies coveted, Young had a bit of a step down in 2012, but also got yanked around the field by the Rangers. Young comes to Philadelphia with a guaranteed position (3B) and a fresh start. Not to mention, he’s one year removed from a season where he tallied 213 hits, 41 doubles and 106 RBI and finished 3rd in the AL in AVG.The starters should be solid at worst, with potential to tack a couple more All-Star games on their collective resume. The backups—namely Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen—are two solid and versatile players who saw a good amount of time in the starting lineup last season. Either could slide into the lineup without hurting the team, though neither have the All-Star potential of the starters.
To protect against injury—as we noted, a cause for concern with this aging group—the Phillies will bring a second full infield worth of non-roster invitees to Clearwater. Michael Martinez and Pete Orr return for their 3rd seasons in the organization, Andres Blanco (who played for the Iron Pigs in 2012) is back for his second Spring Training with the Phillies, and Josh Fields, who had an excellent year in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League last year will take his first crack at donning the red pinstripes. All could see time with the big club this year, though if they do, that doesn’t mean good things for the Phillies.
As you’ll see tomorrow, the infield provides a stark contrast to the outfield. The infield is experienced and proven, but aging and injury-prone. The outfield is young and talented, but raw and unproven. How well the young outfielders perform will determine how much leeway the Phillies infield will have with their health.