This is the sixth of a series of posts previewing the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies prior to the start of Spring Training.
In the past, the Phillies haven’t headed north with a deep, talented bench to rely on—a necessity if you want to be successful in the National League. In 2013, they have a chance to do just that.
At least three players who will head to Clearwater targeted for a spot on the Phillies bench on Opening Day spent a significant amount of time in the starting lineup in 2012. For Charlie Manuel and the Phillies, that’s a good thing for a number of reasons.
The first two of those players are Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis. Frandsen spent the last third of the season receiving the bulk of the time at third base for the Phillies and Galvis broke camp as the teams starting second baseman with Chase Utley on the disabled list. Both are capable of starting on a team in October, but are best situated for a bench role at this stage—which, assuming a healthy team, is exactly where they’ll be on April 1st.Frandsen can man third or second for the Phillies, but most importantly provides a solid right-handed bat off the bench. Galvis has experience at second and short, but its widely assumed he could handle third with no problem. The 23-year-old is known as a light-hitting , slick-fielding infielder—which is exactly what he showed in 58 major league games in 2012. However, the switch-hitter also showed a knack for coming up big when the Phillies needed him, knocking in 24 runs during a time when Manuel’s lineup sorely lacked the ability to do just that.
The last of the three is outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. Mayberry—banished to the bench with the signing of Delmon Young—is the perfect fourth outfielder. Capable of providing quality defense at all three spots, Mayberry also brings good speed and power potential to the bench.
One spot will be reserved for the backup catcher—likely either Humberto Quintero or Sebastian Valle during April, and ultimately Erik Kratz once Carlos Ruiz returns from suspension in May. Quintero & Valle are primarily defense-first backstops, while Kratz bring a right-handed power bat to the equation. However, as I noted last week, Kratz had great success last year throwing out would-be base-stealers.
That leaves on more spot on the bench, which will go to one of three outfielders: Darrin Ruf, Domonic Brown or Laynce Nix. Conventional thinking is that Ruf and Brown will compete for the starting leftfield spot and that Nix will get the bench spot. There is, however, a number of ways that could play out differently. One is that Young starts the season on the DL, allowing all three to make the Opening Day roster and delaying a decision on the odd-man-out. The other is that the Phillies could opt to trade one of the three outfielders to obtain another piece (possibly another catcher, which Ruben Amaro hinted at desiring). Lastly, but least likely, they could opt for a true platoon between Brown & Ruf in left, and cut Nix loose.There are a number of other candidates that could compete for a bench spot when the team heads north, but only one stands out as having a real shot in my opinion, and that is Pete Orr. Its possible the organization would prefer Galvis to play everyday at AAA Lehigh Valley and work on his hitting, rather than spend the season as a backup in Philadelphia. In that situation, either the Phillies keep Orr (as they have the past two seasons) or they keep all three outfielders. Michael Martinez would give the Phillies a backup shortstop if they don’t keep Galvis, but his bat is so weak, he’s more of a long shot (though the Phils have seemed to love the former Rule V pick for some reason). There also wouldn’t be a dire need to have a backup shortstop on the roster, since Galvis could return at a moment’s notice and Orr could finish a game in the instance of an injury to Jimmy Rollins. And since Rollins rarely sits, that’s really the only instance in which another shortstop would be needed.
Regardless of how the Phillies makeup their bench, they’ll have lots of options with significant experience in a major league starting lineup. They should have lots of defensive flexibility, a fair balance of right- and left-handed hitters, and a little bit of speed and pop, giving Manuel an option for all situations late in ballgames. The question then becomes can he use them the right way. We’ll tackle that in the last article in the season preview series.