Do The Philadelphia Phillies Have One Last Run With Current Core?

Ryan Howard

Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Given the lack of movement overall this winter for the Philadelphia Phillies, it’s been made pretty clear that Ruben Amaro, Jr. is banking on one last run from this current, aging roster before making any significant changes. While the Phillies have been rumored to be in on a few notable names, they haven’t done anything this offseason that would suggest otherwise.

The Phillies finished fourth in the National League East last season. They lost 89 games, which is reflected in the way they finished in relation to the rest of the league in terms of their production, both at the plate and on the mound. They were 27th in runs scored and 27th in team ERA. While there are plenty of other factors to consider, one doesn’t need to look too far past that in order to determine that the Phillies were just not very good in 2013.

Of course, there are some reasons for that, including the fact that they were not healthy. They were relying on a strong year from Roy Halladay, who was able to do very little due to health before calling it a career earlier this offseason. Ryan Howard was injured for much of the year, and as impressive as Chase Utley was, it was the same old story for him.

However, that doesn’t mean that the Phillies are throwing in the towel in 2014. If things aren’t going well, sure they may sell off some of these assets at the trade deadline. But if things fall as they could for the Phils, which is something they needed to happen prior to 2013, they could make some noise in 2014. As of right now, this is what their starting lineup is expected to look like heading into the new campaign (according to the team website):

Even on paper, that doesn’t look like a championship lineup. Overpaying Ruiz was another questionable move by Ruben Amaro, and you’re putting a lot of eggs into the Howard/Utley basket by expecting them to remain healthy. If they can, though, Howard has already stated his goal of reaching 30/100 again, while Utley is coming off of a season in which he appeared in 131 games after starting the season late and actually posted very good numbers. It’s also important to note the presence of prospect Maikel Franco, who could supplant Asche there at the hot corner. There are also whispers of a potential Rollins trade at some point this winter as well.

Nonetheless, this is the lineup we’re rolling with right now to examine. According to Fangraphs, Steamer projections have Howard at a slash line of .266/.319/.464/.784, 22 home runs, and 144 strikeouts across 494 plate appearances. For Utley, there are very similar projections to what he did last year, with a projection of 543 plate appearances and 16 home runs, but a decline of nearly 20 points in his batting average, down to .263, although his projected .342 on-base percentage is similar to his career numbers. Rollins is looking at a continued decline, while even after a strong year, Dom Brown remains something of a wild card.

Then there’s the pitching. The Philadelphia Phillies have yet to add the impact arm to their rotation that they were hoping to, and unless something changes, they’ll feature a starting five that includes Cliff LeeCole HamelsMiguel GonzalezKyle Kendrick, and Jonathan Pettibone. Lee and Hamels are established, and Lee is coming off of another fantastic year. Gonzalez, a top Cuban prospect signed by the Phillies last year, is also a wild card. Kendrick’s production varies from start to start, and Pettibone is a fringe starter. They’d be much better served to go out and add another arm, as there are a few intriguing ones left on the market.

Overall, this is a team with more question marks than anything. They made a solid addition in Byrd, but their lineup is ultimately going to need to be healthy in order to remain a consistent threat. Their rotation has high upside, but it remains to be seen how much production they’ll get, especially if they don’t add another arm. And that’s not even taking the bullpen into consideration. The Phillies would need everything to come together perfectly in order to be even a wild card contender. While there is some logic in pursuing one final run with this current group, they don’t appear to have it, at least at this point.

Topics: Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies, Ryan Howard

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