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Position by Position Look at the 2011 Phillies
- Updated: February 15, 2011
The Philadelphia Phillies are the favorite to win the World Series this season, with Vegas giving them 3-1 odds.
They have certainly been a top 5 team since 2008, but the addition of our beloved Cliff Lee this off-season propelled the Fightin’ Phils into the team to beat in Major League Baseball. Obviously most of the focus has been on the star studded rotation, but let’s not forget about the 8 other starters on the field day in and day out. After all, the Phillies had a very good rotation last year, but fell to the scrappy Giants in the NLCS because of a lack of offense. The Phils started spring training this week, and are prepared to begin another quest for a World Series ring.
Here is a look at the 2011 Phillies projected starters, excluding the aces and Blanton:
Catcher: Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz
The most underrated catcher in the league. Chooch batted .302 with 8 home runs and 53 RBI, and he caught Roy Halladay’s no-hitter and perfect game last season. Ruiz is 32 years old, but Charlie Manuel always rests him when there is a day game after a night game, and Chooch is known to step up his game later in the season. Many have looked past the Panama native, but that doesn’t stop him from being a top catcher in the National League.
First Base: Ryan Howard
Howard is obviously one of the faces of this storied franchise, so he doesn’t quite need the intro as much as Ruiz does. Critics around the league and even the city talked about how the Phillies overpaid Howard ($125 million) and believed he had a down season in 2010. He batted .276 with 31 home runs and 108 RBI, and that’s with missing a whole month in the middle of the summer, when he usually starts to heat up. Of course, the lasting impression of the 2010 version of Ryan Howard is him standing in the batter’s box with the bat in a deep sleep on his shoulder. Look for Howard to get back to his normal 40 HR/130 RBI numbers this season, and hopefully he won’t be paid $25 million this year just to leave the season resting on his shoulder.
Second Base: Chase Utley
This is by far the most annoyingly debated position on the 2011 Phillies roster. Chase tore a ligament in his hand sliding into 2nd base early in the season and missed a good amount of time. His swing never really got back to normal, as he hit .275 with 16 hr and 65 RBI. Critics also brought up the amount of errors committed by Utley, who totaled 11 on the season. However, in the 3 season before 2010, he had totals of 12, 13, and 10. Sports talk radio hosts and non-informed fans have argued that age is starting to take a toll on Chase, but don’t look too far into that. I believe that the 2011 Chase will silence many of the critics and old age theorists, and he’ll be standing at the podium screaming World Fuckin’ Champions once again.
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins
J-Roll has long been a leader (vocally and on the field) of the Phillies. He made his Phillies debut in 2000, and has been entertaining, energetic, and an MVP for this club since. Last season, J-Roll was bugged by a nagging hamstring injury that limited his playing time and ultimately made it very hard for him to find a groove. He is another one of the victims of the “he’s getting older” theorists, and his age may start to show a little in his speed. However, Jimmy showed up to camp earlier than usual, and he knows that he has to pay more attention to his body this season. If he remains healthy, he can definitely put up some numbers and be a top NL shortstop. Afterall, he is still a great defensive player with a strong arm that can always make the play in the field or at the plate when you need it most (see: “Rollins, Broxton 2009 playoffs”).
Third Base: Placido Polanco
The walking bobble-head was welcomed back to Philly with wide open arms, and for good reason. Polanco batted .298 with 165 hits, and had just 5 errors at the hot corner all season. He has the ability to place the ball basically anywhere he wants on the field, and fits perfectly as a right-handed bat near the top of the lineup. Not much negative to say about Polly in 2011, except his age (35) may make him more injury prone, which we witnessed last season.
Left Field: Raul Ibanez
Rauuuuuuuuuuuul has been solid since becoming a Phillie before the 2009 season, and batted .275 with 16 home runs and 83 RBI. He has been overlooked as a solid bat, but his numbers probably don’t add up to the more than $10 million he will make this season. However, just being able to scream Raul at the top of our lungs for 5 seconds every time he makes a play or steps up to the plate. He may share some playing time with right-handed batting Ben Francisco again this season, and we certainly don’t have a problem with that.
Center Field: Shane “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” Victorino
Victorino is certainly a fan favorite, and also a spark in the clubhouse. He is quick, a great fielder, and is strong for his size (5’9″, 190 pounds). Shane had kind of a down year in 2010, batting just .259. His power numbers went up (18 home runs), but I would take the 2009 Victorino’s numbers instead any day, when he hit .292, had 13 more doubles, and scored almost 20 more runs.
Right Field: Dom Brown/Ben Francisco
I guess it’s almost mandatory to put these two players together for the starting right field spot for now. Dom Brown has all the potential in the world (he’s the #4 ranked prospect in all of baseball), but started to struggle in the bigs last season when Victorino returned from injury and didn’t see much playing time. Most people believe that all of the struggles were due to his lack of at-bats, and can easily be fixed. We subscribe to that theory as well, so the starting right fielder spot will basically be decided when Brown can get his swing on track. Hopefully, he finds his swagger in spring training. If not, there is actually the possibility of him starting the season in AAA Lehigh Valley until he is ready for a call-up.
The Phillies offense was undoubtedly the reason they were bounced from the 2010 playoffs earlier than they hoped. They have all spring to work on their individual mechanics and get on track before the season gets underway, and the Aces + Blanton are hoping to get enough run support to win some games. They shouldn’t need much.