After failing to go the World Series last year with their vaunted starting rotation, the Philadelphia Phillies enter 2012 with the same expectations but with many more questions hanging over them.
Make no mistake; the Phillies will only go as far as their pitching takes them. With major injuries to offensive stars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley the Phillies will be leaning heavily on guys like Hunter Pence, Jimmy Rollins (who is never a sure thing to stay off the DL) and Shane Victorino to carry the offense.
Will that be enough offense for the Phillies to claim their sixth straight NL East crown? Maybe.
So, with that said, let’s assess the five most burning questions facing the Philadelphia Phillies this season.
5. How serious is Chase Utley’s knee injury?
Utley’s lingering knee issues will likely put him on the disabled list when the season starts. To make matters worse, Utley has yet to suit up in a game this spring. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted that Utley’s knee injuries are comparable to those of Sandy Koufax in the grimmest of senses.
You should be very wary of drafting Utley this year. Injuries are one thing, but also realize that Utley’s batting average and OPS have declined in each of the last five years.
Utley has bust written all over him. For a good primer check out our bust watch column on Utley. I would stay far away as possible from Utley on Draft Day.
4. What can we reasonably expect out of Ryan Howard this year?
If Utley’s injury concerns weren’t enough doom and gloom for the Phillies, the potentially extended absence of Howard sure is.
Howard ruptured his Achilles tendon in the last season’s playoff-clinching loss to the Cardinals, and is expected to miss roughly two months. However, just recently, Howard has begun to work out without a walking boot though.
This is another serious injury worth monitoring very closely. If Howard can show he is healthy in his rehab, then he can give fantasy owners a significant boost in the second half.
If Howard can play roughly 80 games and hit 20 + home runs and 65+ RBI’s, he should worthy of a late round selection. Mock Draft Central has Howard being drafted on average of 172 overall. As long as you temper your expectations, Howard could provide enough bang for your buck.
3. Can Vance Worley build on his impressive rookie campaign or will he have a sophomore slump?
After surprising many folks last year in which he went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in his rookie season, many are asking what can Worley do for an encore.
While Worley doesn’t own the pedigree and press clippings of other young pitchers in his class, his strikeout to walk rate is impressive and after making 21 starts last year it’s not too small of a sample size.
With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels already on the staff, there will hardly be any pressure on Worley. The bottom line, expect roughly 10-13 wins with a 3.50-4.00 era with a good amount of K’s thrown into the mix.
2. Can John Mayberry step up and have a breakout year?
A lot of savvy fantasy owners are hitching their rides to Mayberry’s bandwagon. Well, you can throw me into the mix too.
In only 104 games last season, Mayberry hit 15 dingers with 49 RBI’s to go along with a respectable .273 batting average. Both GM Ruben Amaro and Manager Charlie Manuel say that Mayberry can have a Jayson Werth-type impact if given a full time role.
Well, now that Raul Ibanez is officially gone and with the Phillies likely to have Domonic Brown start in the minors again, it opens the door for Mayberry to earn some time. Mayberry should flourish this year and 20-25 home runs is not out of the realm of possibility.
1. How will Jonathan Papelbon transition from the AL to the NL?
After pitching in the highly competitive AL East for years, Papelbon moves from one pressure-cooker city (Boston) to another (Philadelphia) as he tries to transition from the AL to the NL.
Papelbon should have little trouble in Philadelphia, even though the NL East is hardly the respite Papelbon may be looking for.
After a remarkable run in his first five years in the league, Papelbon has tailed off in the last two years. However, Papelbon’s strikeout rate (12.2 per nine innings) is still stellar and now that he has a new address, the chances for him to be among the top five closers in the game is solid.
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