Greetings! To the always-hated Phillies...
Projected Starters - Carlos Ruiz* (suspended)/Erik Kratz (C), Ryan Howard (1B), Chase Utley (2B), Jimmy Rollins (SS), Michael Young (3B), Dominic Brown/John Mayberry Jr. (LF), Ben Revere (CF), Delmon Young (RF)
The Phillies had a confounding off-season. They went 81-81 in 2012, and responded by... signing Michael Young and Delmon Young! We'll come back to that, but I thought it was hilarious. The Philly offense is (still) led by the Rollins/Utley/Howard trio. Jimmy Rollins was the only one of the three who had a good year in 2012, but he was pretty darn good from the shortstop spot, hitting 23 homers, stealing 30 bags, and producing a 4.9 WAR with the help of good defense. As a 34-year-old shortstop, there is a decline coming so he's not "safe", but he was certainly just fine in 2012. Utley and Howard, however, were not so fortunate. In fairness to Utley, he produced when he was in the lineup (.365 OBP, 11 homers, 11 steals in 362 PAs), but he seems to be always injured at this point, and since they can't stash him in the DH spot, it's going to be a concern in 2013 as well. Howard was an abject disaster after returning from that brutal achilles tear, and he hit just .219 (with a sub-.300 OBP) in 292 PAs. There is a lot of optimism around Philly's camp that he's "back", but back probably means 30-35 homers with a .240-.255 average and bad defense... for $25 million. Nice deal, Ruben! After the big three, there are some serious questions (as if there weren't enough there). Carlos Ruiz was absolutely outstanding in 2012 (.325 average, .394 OBP, 16 HR, 5.5 WAR), but he's suspended for 25 games for Adderal use, and at 34 years old, it's not clear that it wasn't a one-year aberration anyway. Ben Revere is a guy that I really, really like in CF, and that was a quietly good acquisition. He's going to steal 40 bases, hit in the .280-.300 range and play high-level CF for this team, and they desperately needed that. Now, let's talk about the Youngs. Michael Young is running around with a giant fork sticking out of his back at this point in his career, and after being one of the least valuable players in all of MLB last year (-1.4 WAR, horrible defense), he's given the starting 3B job in Philly. What could go wrong? Delmon Young is starting in right field, and while he actually still hits (18 homers, OPS over .700 last year) a little, his defense in right field is going to be an absolute joke. There's not even a debate about it. Dominic Brown provides a little light at the end of the tunnel in left field, but it's also a make-or-break season for the former uber-prospect.
Projected - Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Kyle Kendrick, John Lannan
With all of the issues last season, two of the three high-level starters had nice years, and the third (Halladay) has about as long of a track record of success as anyone. Translation? I expect big things from the top 3/5 of this rotation. Cliff Lee is one of my favorite pitchers in the league, and while he only "won" 6 games last year (I hate pitcher wins), he led the team in WAR (4.9) while being a top-10 guy in the league in ERA, FIP, WHIP, and walk rate. He's a monster. Cole Hamels got paid, and deservedly so, after a 215-inning season with a 3.05 ERA and a K/9 over 9 (by a starter!). There's no worries there. Halladay has the most questions simply because he struggled last season, but "struggling" for Halladay still landed him with a 3.69 FIP and it was clear that he was a little bit unlucky in the peripherals. If he's healthy, he's still a monster, but keep an eye on that situation in a big way. The back-end is unsettled after the departure of Vance Worley, but Kendrick and Lannan have been around the block. Kendrick is a guy I've made fun of a lot for being bad (lol) but he did put up a sub-4.00 ERA last year in about 160 innings, and if he can duplicate that, he's a solid #4. Philly grabbed Lannan for virtually nothing in free agency, and he'll be solid. He won't strike out anyone (career K/9 of 4.71), but he'll likely land around his career ERA of 4.01, and a lot of teams don't have that kind of safety from the 5th spot.
Projected - Jonathan Papelbon (closer), Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes, Chad Durbin, Jeremy Horst
Closers are overrated as an institution (lol), but Papelbon is just about as rock-solid as it gets from that spot. He saved 38 games with 11.83 K/9 and an ERA of 2.44 last season, and he's one of the best five guys in the league at that position. Philly spent considerably too much money to bring in Mike Adams, but the bright side of that move is that they are absolutely set in the 7th/8th innings with Adams and Bastardo (who had a crazy 14.02 K/9 last year). Oh, and they have Chad Durbin. Again, what could go wrong!?
I've seen wildly fluctuating projections on Philly this season, and I think I'm somewhere in the middle. I trust their trio of starters more than just about any team's top 3 in the league, but they really, really need all of them to be good to have a chance to compete in the NL East. Keeping Utley healthy is a huge key for the lineup, but they also need to grab some sort of value out of the Young brothers (who aren't brothers), and I just don't see that happening. They are abjectly average on paper, and that's where they stand.
82-80, 3rd in NL East