The Philadelphia Phillies have experienced a severe decline in production and results on the field over the past 2 seasons, but they still have enough talent to warrant some hope for better results in 2014. Philadelphia replaced head coach Charlie Manuel with rookie Ryne Sandberg and it will be interesting to see how the coaching dynamic of this squad changes as a result. All of the Phillies best players are over 30 years old and there is a lot of cause of concern with declining ability and injury risks with this older roster. If everything goes well for the Phillies this season they can push for a top 2 finish in the NL East division standings and they will be helped by the injuries the Braves have been suffering.
1B: Ryan Howard
2B: Chase Utley
3B: Cody Ashe
SS: Jimmy Rollins
The former home run beast Ryan Howard has had shortened seasons over the past 2 years and he has also experienced a rapid decline in production against left handed pitching. Howard has far from lived up to his monstrous contract and this is just another example where giving an older player a long term contract has backfired on a franchise. In 80 games in 2013 Howard batted .266 with 11 HR and 43 RBI, and the Phillies will hope to get at least 120 games out of their embattled first baseman in 2014.
When healthy Chase Utley is one of the best second basemen in the NL, but he has been dealing with injuries for the better part of the past 4 seasons. 2013 was an encouraging sign however as Utley played 131 games which was his most since 2009 and his numbers can back more towards his career averages. In 2013 Utley hit .284 with 18 HR and 69 RBI, and he will be relied on heavily to produce in this lineup.
The least recognizable name in this infield is without a doubt Cody Ashe. The third basemen will probably start the season in the 8th spot in the batting order and despite some encouraging signs in spring training he will be pushed by Franco for this spot on the team. In a 50 game stint at the Major League level in 2013 Asche hit .235 with 5 HR and 22 RBI.
Jimmy Rollins and Ryne Sandberg have budded heads at times during spring training and I don't see that as an encouraging sign for the Phillies. Despite his declining numbers Rollins is still the veteran leader in the clubhouse and he has to be on the same page as the Skipper if Philadelphia is going to succeed going forward. In 160 games last season Rollins hit .252 with 36 2B, 6 HR, and 65 runs which was well below the 102 runs he had the prior season.
Starting C: Carlos Ruiz
Backup C: Wil Nieves
Carlos Ruiz has quietly been a consistent force in this Philly lineup for the past 4 seasons and he can be a difference maker in the back end at the 7th spot in the batting order. Ruiz saw a dip in production in 2013 as he batted .268 with 5 HR and 37 RBI, but in the season prior to this he was a .325 hitter. Ruiz is a disciplined hitter and that is what you want in the back end of the lineup.
Wil Nieves was brought in from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the offseason to backup Ruiz at the catcher position. Nieves played in 71 games last season as he had pretty good numbers hitting .297 with 1 HR and 22 RBI.
LF: Dominic Brown
CF: Ben Revere
RF: Marlon Byrd
Dominic Brown received major playing time in 2013 and he earned the right to be the starting RF for the foreseeable future. Brown batted .272, with 27 HR, and 83 RBI, and his production was a welcomed sign for a team that saw so many other guys under perform in 2013. Brown is the kind of youth the Phillies organization needs and it will be fun to watch what kind of numbers this kid is able to put up in 2014.
Another interesting young outfield prospect comes in the form of CF Ben Revere. Ben started his career in the Minnesota organization, but he came over to Philadelphia for his 4th MLB season. In an injury shortened season Revere batted .305 with 22 SB in just 88 games played. Revere is the prototypical lead off hitter and if he stays healthy he should have a great 2014.
One of the more under appreciated signings in the offseason was the Phillies picking up the productive Marlon Byrd to help balance their offense with a right handed bat. Byrd has bounced around the majors for much of the past decade, but he got his start with the Philadelphia organization. In 2013 Marlon batted .291 with 24 HR and 88 RBI, and if he can recapture even 85% of this production the Phillies will be very happy with this addition.
1SP: Cliff Lee
2SP: Cole Hamels
3SP: AJ Burnett
4SP: Kyle Kendrick
5SP: Roberto Hernandez
Arguably the most dominant pitcher over the past 5 seasons has been Cliff Lee, but not much was herd about him in 2013 because of how bad a team he was on. Lee didn't see any drop off in his production as he had a 2.87 ERA with 220 SO and 14 wins to 8 losses in 2013. Lee is still a top caliber pitcher and he headlines what is a very top heavy starting pitching rotation.
Cole Hamels has been an ace for the Phillies for the better part of his entire 8 year career and despite a slight decrease in his 2013 numbers there is no reason to think he will take a step back in 2014. Last season Hamels went 8-14 with a 3.60 ERA, 202 SO, and a 1.16 WHIP. With better run support Hamels could have easily been a 15 game winner.
Another under the radar addition for the Phillies comes in the form of AJ Burnett to bolster this starting rotation. Burnett revitalized his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and it will be interesting to see if he can carry his recent production over to the 2014 season. In 2013 Burnett went 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA, 209 SO, and a 1.21 WHIP. Burnett isn't in a pitcher friendly park and that might mess with his psyche if he start to struggle during the season.
I'm sure the Phillies would prefer Kendrick to be the 5th or even 6th pitcher in this starting rotation, but he will have to man the 4th spot going forward. Kendrick had a number of rocky outings during his 30 starts in 2013 as he went 10-13 with a 4.70 ERA, 110 SO, and a 1.40 WHIP. Kyle gave up 207 hits in 182 IP and this is a number that has to be improved upon.
After spending most of his career with the Cleveland organization Roberto Hernandez has bounced around the past couple season to Tampa and now to Philadelphia. Hernandez had 24 starts in 2013 and he compiled a 4.89 ERA with 113 SO and 1.34 WHIP. Hernandez will hope that a move to the NL will help improve his numbers in 2014.
1RP: Antonio Bastardo
2RP: Mike Adams
3RP: Justin De Fratus
4RP: Brad Lincoln
5RP: Jake Diekman
6RP: BJ Rosenberg
CP: Jonathan Papelbon
Papelbon has been a top 5 closer during his career, but he was a bit shaky in 2013 converting on 29 of 36 save opportunities. His strike out numbers also saw a significant dip, but his number was also called less because the Phillies weren't leading as many games in the 9th inning.
The Phillies have a lot of guys that can produce, but will they all be able to stay healthy? You have to figure a few guys in this ageing lineup will deal with injuries during the season, but the struggles Atlanta staying healthy opens up an opportunity for a team like the Phillies. I expect Philadelphia to finish better in 2014 and they have value betting over their win total.