The Philadelphia Phillies are coming off a strong year that led them to the playoffs, falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series. Unfortunately, Ryan Howard was injured on the last play of the year and won’t be around for the first part of this year’s slate. The Phillies hope they have enough offense to support their loaded pitching staff, bolstered by a major offseason move and a few under-the-radar acquisitions.
The best of the best: Roy Halladay. Halladay is the best pitcher in the major leagues, leading a rotation filled with great pitchers like Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. The former Toronto Blue Jay has had a lot of success since coming over to the National League and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. The Phillies were lucky to grab the ace when they had the chance and they haven’t looked back since. The Phillies have one of, if not the best three man rotations in baseball, setting them up for a deep run in the playoffs should they get there.
The new guy: Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon benefited from signing early this offseason, signing a huge contract to replace the departed Ryan Madson in Philly. Papelbon slots in as the new closer for the Phillies and brings a live arm and a temper to a bullpen that was very good last year. The Phillies should have no problem shutting down the end of the game this season.
The fatal flaw: Injuries. Ryan Howard won’t be playing in a game anytime soon. Chase Utley won’t start the season with the big league club. Jimmy Rollins continues to recover from a series of injuries the past few years, and Placido Polanco is a proven veteran, but there’s no way he plays close to 162 games. Basically, the entire Phillies infield is already injured or on the verge of it. Philly fans will likely see a lot of Ty Wigginton, Freddy Galvis, Jim Thome, and Michael Martinez. The Phillies have options, but there isn’t a major move to be made. This is what the roster will look like for a while.
Down on the farm: Trevor May. May was a high-school pitcher drafted out of Washington in the 2008 draft, touted as a pitcher with upside and control issues. Philadelphia brought him in when they traded Cliff Lee to the Mariners and still think he has the potential to become a factor in the rotation in a few years. Thanks to the depth at the major league level, May has plenty of time to work out any problems he might encounter, giving the Phillies a youngster worth waiting on.
Final verdict: The National League East is suddenly a four team race, giving the Phillies multiple targets in their rearview mirror. The amount of pressure on the team to compete, even with so many injuries could be a major problem, and the team probably won’t be able to mirror the results of last season. The bad news? The injury bug could creep up and deplete this team even further during the year. The good news? You don’t have to score many runs when you’ve got such a wonderful pitching staff. The Phillies should win the division this year, but it’s going to be a lot closer than before.