Continuing from our season preview of the Phillies earlier today…
Does this core group still have another World Series run left in them?
That's a very relevant question in regards to this Phillies team. It's a much older bunch of players, especially in comparison to the rest of the NL East. Of their five starters, the youngest are Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan, who are each 28. The youngest member of their starting infield is 33-year old Ryan Howard. The Phillies outfield is actually pretty young, as the only one of the six players in the mix for playing time in their 30s is 32-year old Laynce Nix.
But despite the relative old age of the team's roster, injuries and production might end up being more important this year to the team. Roy Halladay missed six weeks with a strained lat. Cliff Lee missed three weeks with a strained oblique. Mike Adams had offseason shoulder surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome. Delmon Young had offseason ankle surgery, and his status for Opening Day is up in the air. Howard missed half of 2012 recovering from a torn Achilles, and Utley missed the first three months of the season after dealing with knee problems for the second straight spring. Carlos Ruiz missed a month with plantar fasciitis. Freddy Galvis broke his back and missed the final three months of the season. Now, a lot of these injuries aren't really recurring and are more of the freakish nature, but that doesn't take away from the fact that they happened, and there's a risk of further injury in fhe future.
If the Phillies are able to stay healthy in 2013, they can definitely put a championship run together. However, there's a definite possibility that the team simply doesn't stay healthy yet again. Utley's plate appearances have declined in every season since 2009, bottoming out at 362 last season. Howard was awful in his half season of play last season, and has been an absolute drain against left-handed pitchers over the last two seasons, so much so that he probably needs a platoon partner at first base. Hell, the team is playing three players (both Youngs and Howard) who should probably be full-time DHs because of how awful they are in the field.
Can the Phillies win the division? Of course they can. When you're sending out Halladay, Lee, and Cole Hamels for 90 starts, you've got a great shot at dominating. But for every positive note about the Phillies, there seems to be an equally as damaging negative. Philadelphia's defense is what is standing out to me as their biggest demerit. While the team will probably be excellent up the middle with Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Ben Revere, the corners will likely be a horror show with Howard, a double dose of Young, and Darin Ruf/Domonic Brown/John Mayberry Jr. Of those six, the only one that will likely be replacement level on defense is Mayberry, with Ruf as a question mark (but a likely disaster) due to his lack of familiarity with the outfield.
This really does seem like the beginning of the last stand for this core of Phillies players. I'm sure they'd love to add another championship trophy to the case at Citizens Bank Park, and finally get Halladay and Lee rings. But there's a lot of potential for things to spiral out of control very quickly for the Phillies in 2013, and turn this season into a disaster.