COMMENTARY | Spring training in 2013 for the Philadelphia Phillies has been a mixed bag of optimism, doubts and just plain uncertainty. There were victories and there were defeats. There were a few bright spots and there were some big question marks that will undoubtedly boil over into the regular season, which begins April 1st in Atlanta against the re-vamped Braves.
If nothing else, this season will be a real defining moment for the franchise. With some of their biggest names - Chase Utley, Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz - set to hit free agency next season, this season will determine if there is enough talent in their young-guns to move forward, or if the entire franchise needs to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground-up.
We won't know the answer to that for quite some time, but for now we can use what we saw in Clearwater as an indication to what might come from the key players of your beloved Fightin' Phillies:
A hot topic of debate for the club going into spring training was the question of who would be the leadoff hitter come opening day: Jimmy Rollins or Ben Revere? While Rollins took some time away from Clearwater to play for Team USA in the WBC, Revere put up some promising numbers, finishing second on the team in hits (29) and average (.326) in 27 games (89 AB).
Revere has shown to have great baseball instincts, especially on the base paths. He does the little things that you need on a winning ball club, but he needs to learn a little more patience at the plate to earn more walks and get on base. With a small strike zone, a veteran team like the Phillies should be able to teach him how to be more selective.
Regular Season Predictions: .280-.300 BA -- .340-.380 OBP -- 100-150 Runs -- 50+ Steals
Spring Training Stats: .270 AVG -- .386 OBP -- 8 Runs
Jimmy was once the catalyst of the Phillies' offense from the leadoff spot, but he is now trying to play the part of the savvy old veteran. At least for opening day, he has surrendered his spot at the top of the order to the younger Ben Revere, and only time will tell if he can win it back (or if he even wants to).
In a limited spring (WBC), Rollins posted solid numbers, but he'll need to do more for this team to be successful. While he may not be the catalyst in the lineup anymore, he's still an emotional leader and will need to play with the confidence a charisma that fueled his "predictions" in 2007.
Regular Season Predictions: .260-.290 AVG -- .370-.420 OBP -- 70-90 Runs
Spring Training Stats: .268 AVG -- .875 OPS -- 5 HR -- 17 RBI
The heart of the Phillies' order boasts some of the biggest question marks on the team. Chase Utley's knees held up for an entire spring, which is a victory in and of itself. Now it's time to see if he will return to the Chase Utley of old or if it will be like watching Donovan McNabb play for the Vikings.
Utley's spring numbers weren't what Phillies fans wanted to see, but his production greatly improved after a slow start. Hitting just .167 with 0 home runs and 3 RBI as of March 10th, he turned it around and finished with improved production in 71 at-bats.
Regular Season Predictions (IF HEALTHY): .280-.300 AVG -- .850-.950 OPS -- 18-25 HR -- 70-95 RBI
Spring Training Stats: .322 AVG -- .972 OPS -- 7 HR -- 16 RBI
The Phillies' opening day lineup will feature both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for the first time since 2010, which has to excite fans, at least a little tiny bit. What should excite them even more is the fact that Howard's home run swing (and trot) look to be in old form.
A great deal of his struggles at the plate last season -- from his strikeout numbers to his over all approach -- have been attributed to the enormous amount of pressure he put on himself to carry a struggling ball club after coming back from Achilles surgery. With his old pal Chase back in the lineup along with veteran Michael Young and the surging Domonic Brown, he can take some of that pressure away and just play his game.
Regular Season Predictions: .270-.290 AVG -- .900-1.03 OPS -- 32-40 HR -- 80-120 RBI
Spring Training Stats: .268 AVG -- 21 Hits -- 1 HR -- 16 RBI
After essentially being squeezed out of the Texas Rangers' infield, Michael Young jumped on the opportunity to man third base for the Phillies. The position has primarily been played by defensive specialists since Scott Rolen was traded in 2002. Young was once one of the most complete players in baseball and a perennial all-star, but his production has made a sharp decline in the last few seasons. Still, a change to hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park could help improve those numbers.
The positives for Michael Young are his health (he has never played fewer than 135 games in a season) his baseball instincts and his leadership. He may not be in the MVP running anymore, but he makes enough smart, timely plays to still qualify as someone you want at the plate in a game-changing situation.
Regular Season Predictions: .250-.290 AVG -- 170 Hits -- 16 HR -- 60-80 RBI
Spring Training Stats: .356 AVG -- 32 Hits -- 7 HR -- 17 RBI
Simply put, Domonic Brown was the Phillies' best hitter this spring and looked like the player he was expected to be back in 2009. All he has to do now is continue this production in the regular season. Piece of cake, right?
No one realistically expects Brown to win a batting title, but a great spring gives hope that he can put together a solid year. His approach to hitting is much better now that he looks for a specific pitch in a specific location rather than react. He's more patient and more confident at the plate after showing the Grapefruit League how far his 6'5" frame can hit a baseball.
Regular Season Predictions: .250-.275 AVG -- 100-130 Hits -- 20 HR -- 50-70 RBI
Spring Training Stats: 3-0 -- 0.95 ERA -- 15 K -- 4 BB
Cole Hamels -- sporting a sweet new mustache -- will make his first opening day start in Atlanta, and if his performance this spring (minus the exhibition game against the Dominican Republic all-start team) is any indication, the Phillies spent their money well.
A sub-1.0 ERA is good for three starts and especially promising considering Roy Halladay's roller-coaster of a spring. Hamels seems ready to assume the role of ace on a pitching staff with three Cy Young awards between his two counterparts -- Halladay and Cliff Lee. Lee has looked solid in his own right, but despite Halladay maintaining that he's ready to be dominant again, it will take a lot to convince the league and the fans otherwise.
Regular Season Predictions: 17-20 Wins -- 2.80-3.50 ERA -- 170-200 K -- 40-60 BB
Scott Lentz is an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter from Philadelphia. He is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports and The Gaming Advisory . For more baseball commentary, questions or comments, follow Scott on Twitter: @scottlentz27 .
All stats and figures courtesy of baseball-reference.
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