Key Additions—Cliff Lee
Key Losses—Jayson Werth, Jaime Moyer, Pedro Feliz
Lineup—Everyone wants to point to how good this rotation is going to be, but the signing of Lee took anyway any budget that was needed to improve this lineup. The loss of Werth, who provided a very good right handed bat in the middle of this lineup, will prove to be a very big loss. Not only was he a bat they needed, but was also a very good defender. Yes, they are solid at 3-4 with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, but no one knows how healthy Utley is going to be. And although he posts great home runs numbers, Howard is not an all around great hitter. A big concern has to be Jimmy Rollins, who is aging and has posted 2 straight subpar years. His OBP last year was .320, which for a leadoff hitter just isn’t very good. I still like Shane Victorino, but his other 2 outfield mates in Raul Ibanez and Domonic Brown are either aging or unproven. Actually, Brown really struggled last year when he got the chance, so you have no idea what to expect from him. The more I look at this lineup, the more I just don’t like it. Good pitchers will be able to shut them down, and late in games good left handed relievers will be able to get it done. As much excitement that was built up with the signing of Lee, I think we are going to find out quickly that this lineup will cause this team to lose games.
Rotation—Flat out, this rotation is the best in baseball. I am actually going to start on the back end, where you have a guy like Joe Blanton (if they keep him) as your #5. While other teams are throwing out young guys or trying to find magic in a veteran, they have a guy who will get you 10-13 wins. Not bad. Now to the top of this rotation. Roy Halladay, though aging, will likely be a CY Young contender again. He has filthy stuff and will lead this rotation. Signing Cliff Lee gives them another lefty and another pitcher who will pitch deep in games. Roy Oswalt will give you innings and put up a nice year. Cole Hamels, I believe, will be the biggest benefit of Lee. He will learn from him, and I expect a huge year from Hamels. Just think, in the past if you went into a 3 game series where one of the games was against any of their first 4, you never expected to win that game. Now in a 3 game series you are going to have to face at least 2 of these guys. That is going to be tough.
Bullpen—This is another area I am concerned about with this team, but with that rotation I just don’t think they will need to be used as much as other bullpens. Any of their 5 guys could go deep into games, but you almost expect the first 4 to give you 7-8 each time out. The big question is what Brad Lidge are you going to get? He was pretty good after the all-star break last year, but he hasn’t been all that consistent for the past 2 years. If he could return to good form, he should rack up a lot of saves, as I think the Phils will be playing a lot of 3-2 or 2-1 ball games. They do have setup guys who have gotten it done in the past, so I am not too worried about them, but I don’t see them being used much. I really think, more than any other team, this bullpen will be judged by the closer position.
Impact Rookie—Domonic Brown, RF. Brown is currently shut down with a broken hamate bone but the dynamic right fielder will still have a significant impact on this team. When he returns from this injury, expect his power numbers to take a dive for the entire season but perhaps it can make him a more patient hitter. When healthy, Brown has true 5-tool potential, but he is years away from filling Werth’s shoes.
Outlook—It is going to be hard to pick against the Phillies this year, but I don’t think the conversations about them winning 110 games are warranted. Sure, their staff is outstanding and capable of winning plenty of games, but the signing of Lee was done while hurting the lineup. At times last year they went through long stretches of mediocrity, and I expect more of the same this year. Despite how much I dislike this lineup, this team is still the team to beat in the National League East. I am just not sure anyone can overcome that starting staff.
Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent
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