Pitchers and Catchers Report, and So Do Predictions

So, I was a little bit late with the rest of my Phillies predictions; and so is Ryan Howard when it comes to a fastball, but you let him slide. So, readers, please give me the same courtesy when it comes to lateness. That was my attempt at humor by the way. Anyway, back to business.

The Phillies have officially started their Spring Training with the reporting of Pitchers and Catchers to Clearwater, Florida. Last week, I brought you my predictions for the Phillies rotation, some guy named Joe Blanton (yeah, I know, that was mean), and Carlos Ruiz. Today, I offer you the rest of my predictions for the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies. Lets go:

1. CF Shane Victorino 2011 Predictions

.288 AVG., 16 HR, 54 RBI’s, 31 SB

The Flyin’ Hawaiian had a bit of a disappointing 2011 campaign, having his worst season as a starter batting average-wise, batting .259. Many people believe that Victorino, 30, is on the decline, but I for one think last season was a fluke. He can obviously still hit, smashing 18 homers last season. He also is still a threat on the base paths, stealing 34 bases last season. I think its safe to say that with a little fine tuning on the skills that are already there, and more plate patience, that Victorino will have a fine season out of the leadoff spot, where more than likely he will start the season

2. 3B Placido Polanco/ 3B Michael Young 2011 Predictions

Polanco: .313 AVG., 7 HR, 61 RBI’s

Young: .290 AVG., 24 HR, 83 RBI’s

First off, the Phillies do not have Michael Young….yet. If you haven’t heard, the disgruntled Rangers’ third baseman wants out of Texas, and the Phillies have indeed made a call down South, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Talks of a trade are currently dead, but I think they will resurface once all players are expected to report to camp. But, why the Phillies. It really is quite simple: the Phillies lack a solidified right-handed power bat after the departure of Jayson Werth. With the acquisition of Young, the Phillies fix that problem. To get him, it will more than likely take a package of the Polanco and Blanton for Young’s services. This seems to make the most sense for the Rangers, because it gives them a solidified number-2 hitter behind shortstop Elvis Andrus, and also gives the inning-eater that they have been seeking due to the departure of Cliff Lee. From the Phillies aspect, it makes sense because basically, you are upgrading your line-up big time for a very little cost; the Phillies payroll would only go up $2 million by taking on Young’s contract, and getting rid of Polanco’s and Blanton’s. Anyway, back to the current third baseman, Placido Polanco

Polanco, 35, has hit well throughout the course of his career. A career .303 hitter, Polly is likely to have another solid season behind the plate. One concern is an elbow injury that limited him to 132 games last season. It is uncertain if he will again feel the effects of  injury, which he had surgery on this past off-season. All things considered, he did play great through the injury-played 2010 season, so just imagine how he will perform if healthy the entire year.

3. 2B Chase Utley 2011 Predictions

.295 AVG., 31 HR, 107 RBI’s

Chase Utley still is the man. Period. Do not read into his 2010 season, where he had only 16 homeruns and 65 RBI’s. He was injured and limited to only 115 games. A healthy Chase Utley is what I think we are going to see this year, and his numbers will reflect it. Want proof?

Before last season, Utley had 21 or more homeruns and 90 or more RBI’s in a given season. He also batted .280 or higher in previous seasons. The 5-time All-star and 4-time Silver Slugger award winner achieved these feats for a reason; because he is the best second baseman in the National League. Don’t let last season fool you.

4. 1B Ryan Howard 2011 Predictions

.268 AVG., 37 HR, 122 RBI’s

Fastball high and inside, fastball low and outside, slider away; that is the formula for striking-out Ryan Howard, and has been a problem that he has yet to fix. Still, Howard remains one of the best power-hitters in baseball. But, he has seen his power numbers diminish. If you look at his last 5 seasons, you will see that his yearly-homerun total declines. It may be due to his inability to adapt to pitching, or the ability of the pitcher to adapt to Ryan Howard. But, if you really look at what is happening, nothing has changed. The formula stays the same, and you get outcomes such as this:

Nevertheless, I think Ryan will get back into the swing of things just a bit, hopefully making some plate-adjustments in his positioning. But, Ryan Howard is still Ryan Howard.

5. SS Jimmy Rollins 2011 Predictions

.281 AVG., 15 HR, 77 RBI’s, 37 SB

Hopefully I have as much success with predictions as Jimmy Rollins. Last season, he was flat-out terrible, but wasn’t healthy at all last season with an ankle injury that limited him to 88 games. But, even when healthy, Rollins hasn’t been able to replicate his MVP season. But, he is entering the final year of his contract, and you gotta think its on his mind.

Rollins, 32, has always been the trend-setter for the Phillies; as he goes, the Phillies go. In 2010, wasn’t the same and neither was the Phillies. In fact, last season was one of the poorest-seasons offensively for the Phillies, as it was for Rollins. I think because of this, that Rollins likely will not be the lead-off man for a team with such high expectations. He will need to earn that, and earn the contract that he wants at the end of the season. With all kinds of things motivating him, I believe Rollins will get his career back on track.

6. LF Raul Ibanez 2011 Predictions

.283 AVG., 26 HR, 83 RBI’s

Raul Ibanez had a fine season considering his age, but it was nowhere near as good as the 2009 season, when he belted 34 homeruns. But, he comes into this season with a high-level of excitement and a ton of motivation to exceed expectations. In a recent interview with Comcast Sportsnet, Raul is seen working out hard in preparation for this year. When asked if he feels pressure, he said, “pressure is a single mom, trying to work to jobs trying to feed a family.” He has a good attitude coming into this season, and I think he will exceed our expectations and be one of the surprise players of the year.

7. RF Ben Fransisco 2011 Predictions

.277 AVG., 23 HR, 79 RBI’s, 22 SB

Note above that I said Raul would be one of the surprises. Ben Fransisco will be the other.

Personally, I don’t believe that super-prospect Dominic Brown will make the team, considering his poor winter ball play and his 1st season with the Phillies. I don’t think he is ready, and I don’t think they want a Francisco-Gload platoon. So, I see Big Ben getting the start for the most part, and I think in the Phillies ballpark, he will excel as a starter. Remember, during the 2009 season with the club, he had a combined 15 homeruns between the Clevland Indians and the Phillies. Two years later, I think he is a much more matured player, and that he could make us forget about Werth relatively quickly.

There you have it. Stay tuned for more Spring Training updates.

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