The Philadelphia Phillies had a season to forget last year. With injuries, increasing age and lack of performance, the Phillies finished last season in 4th place in the NL East. If there are a few words the media would use to describe the Phillies, it would be “old” and “worn down.” While one cannot deny the fact that their core players are getting up in age, I would disagree with the worn down aspect.
This is the first time in a long time where the hot topic of spring training isn’t Chase Utley’s knees or Ryan Howard’s Achilles. The biggest topic is Cole Hamels’ sore shoulder, which may only cost him a few starts. What I like about the Phillies this year is that they are coming in healthy (for the most part). The question is, if the Phillies can remain healthy could they be successful?
Strength: Just like Ruben Amaro Jr. has planned, the Phillies are built on pitching and defense. Their starting pitching is still elite and it’ll be what carries them through the season. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are some of the most elite pitchers in the game. Now with the addition of A.J. Burnett, it greatly solidifies the starting rotation.
Weakness: A weakness of the Phillies over the past few years is their offense. Their core talent has not been able to stay healthy enough to be able to produce. I’m not just talking about Howard and Utley, but Ben Revere and Domonic Brown also spent time on the DL. Besides injuries, there have been times when the Phillies offense has been ice cold and their starting pitching has been red hot. With no offense, the Phillies lost, even with quality starting pitching efforts. If the Phillies want to get back in the playoffs, they have to swing the bats like they use to.
Difference maker: Ryan Howard. The guy who has been the thumper in the heart of the Phillies lineup has not been able to put up the same offensive numbers he has in the past. This year will mark almost two year since his Achilles injury. Now that he has had time to build complete strength back in his Achilles, he spent more of his time working on his swing and total body strength. Howard has the potential to put up 30+ homeruns and 100+ RBIs, the question is will he stay healthy? One thing is for sure, if the Phillies are going to be successful this year Howard needs to be productive and healthy.
Prediction: This may come as a surprise, but I say the Phillies sneak into the playoffs this year as the last spot in the NL Wild Card. I see the offense producing an average amount of runs and their starting pitching being one of the best in the league. They get the last spot in the NL Wild Card only a few games in front of the Atlanta Braves.