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Four Phillies Who Need Strong Showings in Spring Training

The Phillies Went with Smaller Trades and Signings This Offseason, but Will Need Those Players to Start Strong

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COMMENTARY | Spring training is only weeks away and soon Philadelphia will get a chance to see their brand new Phillies in action at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL. After a disappointing 2012, fans are hoping some of the newly acquired talent can fill the monstrous gaps that resulted in an 81-81 finish last season.

This offseason, the Phillies have gotten younger in some spots and older in others. They combine one of the oldest infields - an average age of 31 - with one of the youngest outfields - an average age of 26. That mixture of experience and youth could bode well for a team in transition, but fans in Philadelphia are hoping for much better.

If those hopes are to be kept alive, a few players will need to have strong showings in Clearwater.

Ben Revere

The Phillies traded two top pitching prospects, Vance Worley and Trevor May, to the Minnesota Twins for what they hope to be their center fielder and leadoff hitter for years to come. He is a young Juan Pierre they hope will blossom into Michael Bourn.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel likes to keep things consistent, and Jimmy Rollins has been his go-to leadoff hitter for a long time. If Revere is going to eventually take over the leadoff spot, he is going to need to show further growth in a few areas.

He has a career .278 batting average with a .319 on-base percentage and will need to consistently hit his 2012 averages of .294/.333 for Manuel to trust him. Otherwise he can still hit second where the Phillies can take advantage of his speed and protect Rollins.

His affinity for bunting for a base hit would create some interesting hit-and-run scenarios if Rollins gets on base.

If Revere can concentrate his skills into getting on base and wreak havoc on the base-paths - 40 stolen bases in 124 games in 2012 - he can earn himself a permanent spot at the top of the order.

Darin Ruf

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has done his due diligence on several different trade and free agent fronts in an effort to acquire a right-handed power-hitting outfielder, but sometimes it's better to do nothing than to make the wrong move.

Here it stands on January 15th and no moves have been made, and the closer we get to spring training the more it looks like the outfield is set at least until midseason.

As a result, the Phillies are hoping Darin Ruf develops into the right-handed power bat they failed to acquire this winter. In limited playing time at the end of last year, Ruf showed some flashes of promise. He hit .333 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI in 37 plate appearances for a 1.079 OPS.

Ruf will need to show that same kind of production in Clearwater in order to make the opening day lineup in left field. If he struggles, he will likely open the season in AAA-Lehigh Valley and try to earn another midseason call up.

The Phillies generally like to bring their prospects along slowly, but at 26, Ruf needs to make an impact now or spend his prime years in the minors.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard

Everyone knows Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are capable of putting up MVP caliber numbers. But for fans to have any confidence in their 2013 Phillies at all, both of them will have to prove they are healthy and back to form this spring.

The absence of Utley and Howard is what really doomed the Phillies in 2012. Without them, Manuel scrambled all through April, May and June to find a lineup that could provide some form of run support for the starting rotation. The lack of production hurt the starters, especially Roy Halladay who pressed harder than usual which may have caused or at least worsened his shoulder injury.

With both back in the lineup in the second half, the Phils had a .587 win percentage but were too deep in the hole of a 37-50 start, far behind the 49-34 Washington Nationals and the 46-39 Atlanta Braves.

The Nationals look poised to repeat as one of the best teams in baseball, and seeing how much the Braves miss Chipper Jones will be one of the top storylines of the NL East. The Phillies could be looking up at these two teams all season, but if Howard and Utley can return to relative form, they are right in the mix to compete for a wildcard spot.

Scott Lentz is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker from Philadelphia. He is a freelance writer for Yahoo! Sports and For more baseball commentary, questions or general comments follow Scott on Twitter: @scottlentz27.

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