So this week I had the opportunity to participate in a "Blogger's Round Table" preview of the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies. A few of my answers made it into the final post over on Crashburn Alley. I'll post all the questions, and my answers here.
1. How concerned are you about Cole Hamels going into 2010?
I’m a little concerned about Cole Hamels this season. I would like to believe that last year was a season of unluckiness and distractions for him, but now he really has to come out and prove that last year was a fluke and 2008 wasn’t. He’s looked good in spring training so far, but that doesn’t mean much as far as the regular season goes. However, Happ, Blanton, Kendrick and Halladay have all looked great in spring training as well. If they keep this up into the season, the Phillies won’t have to rely on Hamels to be the stud he was in 2008. Maybe that will help him relax and get comfortable again. One thing’s for sure, if he struggles again this year, he had better not make anymore comments like the ones he made in the World Series this past season.
2. Give the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee mega-trade between the Phillies, Blue Jays, and Mariners a letter grade and explain your grading process.
I can’t give the Phillies an A for this trade for one reason: they gave up essentially seven prospects for one guy. However, I can’t really give them a low grade for this trade either because they brought in the best pitcher in baseball and managed to sign him to a reasonable contract for the next three years. In hindsight, it would have been nice if the Phillies had decided in July that they could part with Drabeck, because then we might still have Lou Marson or Travis D’Arnaud. But I can’t really complain that the Phillies gave up Marson and some lesser prospects for Lee when the Halladay trade originally fell through because that trade sparked us for the second half the season and the playoffs.
They got a fantastic pitcher in Lee, while giving up no great prospects in return. This was a very good deal for them, especially if they can re-sign Lee to a long term deal, and he continues his dominating ways.
Blue Jays: A-
Credit the Blue Jays for holding out on trading Halladay until the Phillies caved and gave up Drabek. It was a risky move on the part of the Blue Jays to not deal Halladay at the deadline last July, but the risk paid off for them. They also plucked prospects Michael Taylor (who they then sent to Oakland for a different prospect) and Travis D’Arnaud. This puts them in a nice position to move forward as Drabek and D’Arnaud can contribute to them for a long time. I have to give them an A- on the deal though because they were unable to build around Halladay and knew that they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him, which ultimately led to them having to deal the best pitcher in baseball.
3. What should the Phillies do about Jayson Werth and his impending free agency?
I would love to see the Phillies re-sign Jayson Werth if it’s feasible. Werth has been a very valuable member of this team for the past two seasons, and it’s great that he had such a solid year in 2009. I would not want to sign him to a big money deal if it means that we can’t re-sign Ryan Howard in a couple of years. Howard is a bigger part of this team than Werth is, and the Phillies have Domonic Brown waiting in the wings. The ideal situation would be to re-sign Werth, and move either him or Brown to left field to replace Ibanez, but my guess is that the Phillies won’t have enough money to make a move like that. So as much as it pains me to say it, it is probably best to let Werth walk in free agency. I’d rather see the Phillies be successful for a long period of time, than to get too attached to some of the more expendable players.
4. Jimmy Rollins says he wants to hit .300, accrue 200 hits, score 150 runs, steal 50 bases, and commit 3 or fewer errors. Give us your AVG, H, R, SB, and E predictions for Rollins in 2010.
Well hopefully Rollins’ goals won’t backfire and make him overthink things this year. The only thing on that list that he’s ever done is reach the 200 hit plateau (and he somehow still didn’t hit .300 that season). At 31, I think it’s possible, but unlikely, that he’ll suddenly throw up career bests in all those categories. Out of all these, I think Rollins is most capable of hitting .300, even though he’s never done it before. I see him returning to the .280-.290 range for sure though. The other goal I think he’s capable of reaching is the three error mark. Rollins has been a great fielder over his career, and last year he had a career low in errors with 6. Realistically, I think Rollins will hit .285, he’ll get about 190 hits, 120 runs, 40 SB and 5 errors. If he does this, it’s possible we’ll see his name in the mix for MVP again.
5. Is the duo of Ryan Madson and Danys Baez reliable back-up for ailing closer Brad Lidge?
Madson is definitely not a viable option as a backup closer to Brad Lidge. When Lidge went down last year, we saw how shaky Madson got in the closer role. Madson is a very very solid setup man, but loses all that confidence when he moves to the 9th inning. I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Danny Baez, so I can’t make a judgment about his ability to take over the closer role if needed. If Lidge does go down, I’d like to see Baez get a crack at the job, and then possibly J.C. Romero.
6. Which team in the NL East worries you the most?
The Braves are the team that worries me the most. The Marlins don’t worry me too much because I don’t think they’re that deep beyond Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Hanley Ramirez. The Mets, despite adding Jason Bay, are a mess (and are possibly without Reyes all year). The Nationals… well they’re the Nationals. The Braves will have their traditionally strong pitching staff, and they will also have a fairly strong lineup. Add in the X-factor that it’s Bobby Cox’s last year as manager and we could have an interesting race on our hands this season.
7. Teams have been approaching Ryan Howard with a steady diet of left-handed pitching and breaking balls and by employing the shift on the right side of the field. Will this trend continue in 2010, or will Howard make the appropriate adjustments?
I think opposing teams will continue to feed lefties and breaking balls to Howard until he proves that he can consistently hurt them when he tries that. The overshift on Howard doesn’t worry me too much because when Howard is hitting the ball well, he can go the opposite way just as easily as he can pull the ball. Hopefully he spent most the offseason working on hitting breaking balls because he’s just looked lost at the plate at times. I will be very disappointed if he doesn’t get better against the breaking ball this year, because he knows what’s coming and it’s up to him to work at it until he hit them consistently.
8. Placido Polanco is making the switch from second base to third base. How good will he be defensively?
I think Polanco will be just fine at third base. There will be an adjustment period for him, but I don’t foresee him being a liability at third base. I doubt he’ll play gold glove defense, and he won’t be as good as some of the other third basemen we’ve had in the past, but I don’t think he’s expected to be a phenomenal third basemen. As long as he’s not booting every ball in sight and produces consistently at the plate, the experiment will be a success.
9. Who should win the #5 spot, Jamie Moyer or Kyle Kendrick?
Kendrick hands down. Moyer may have won 12 games last season, but it was painful watching him deal sometimes. When he wasn’t getting his pitches called, he would have very poor games. I don’t want to rely on a generous ump in order for our #5 guy to have success as a pitcher. Moyer pitched really well in long relief last fall until he got hurt. I wouldn’t mind seeing him return to that role or return as a spot starter. Kendrick has looked very good so far this post season, and I absolutely love the fact that he is working his butt off with Halladay. I think Kendrick realized that it’s time for him to show the Phillies that he still has something if he doesn’t want to be shipped off somewhere else. If he continues to put forth the effort that he has so far, I think that he can be a very reliable 5th starter.
10. The bench was great in 2008 but disappointing last year. Will the additions of Brian Schneider, Ross Gload, and Ramon Castro help?
I think that Brian Schneider is a bit of an upgrade over Paul Bako (and he’ll also give the Phillies a left handed batter at every position :-p). The other two moves were less than inspiring. Castro is basically the same as Bruntlett, and I don’t know too much about Gload. He had decent OBP and SLG numbers last season, so it’s possible that he can be a solid contributor off the bench. I would bet on the Phillies having an average to disappointing bench again this year.
11. Will J.A. Happ come close to his 2.93 ERA from 2009?
Happ will probably regress a little this season. However, I think he does have the stuff to throw up an ERA that’s between 3.00 and 4.00. If the Phillies can get that sort of performance out of him this year I think they will be in a very good spot. Hopefully he won’t have a Kendrick-like regression, and my gut feeling says he won’t
12. The Phillies essentially swapped Chan Ho Park for Jose Contreras. Thumbs up or thumbs down and why?
Thumbs-down, but I can’t fault the Phillies on this one. Once Park moved to the bullpen last year, his stuff got so much better. I had no idea he could throw a 96 mph fastball, yet he did that consistently out of the pen. He was one of the best relievers we had all season last year and I was sad to see him go. He left because he still wanted to start somewhere, but ended up signing on as a long reliever with the Yankees… so I’m a little miffed about that. I’ll be happy if Contreras can come in and show that he’s a similar type of pitcher.
13. Which Phillie(s) is/are we most likely to see dealt by the July 31 trading deadline?
Jayson Werth. His contract is up this season and I’ll be willing to bet that Reuben Amaro Jr. will have decided by then whether or not he wants to re-sign Werth. If the answer to that question is no, then I have a feeling Amaro will want to see if he can get anything for him. This will all be affected by how well Domonic Brown plays when he gets the chance. A darkhorse candidate is Ryan Howard. I know Amaro has said that the reports of the talks about swapping Howard for Pujols aren’t true, but just seeing the report makes me wonder if trading Howard is something the Phillies are mulling over. I seriously doubt they would deal him this year though.
14. The Phillies have had one of baseball's best defenses for several years running according to most metrics. Does this trend continue?
I don’t see why this trend wouldn’t continue. The only change in the everyday lineup is Polanco at third instead of Feliz. While his defense won’t be as good as Feliz’s was, I don’t think it will be that much worse that it will majorly affect the team defense. But who knows, maybe Utley will get the yips again, and Ibanez will remember that he’s 37 and he’ll start playing defense like that.
15. What will the team get from Domonic Brown this season?
I can’t say for sure. I would hope that he plays well enough in spot starts and off the bench that the Phillies will be able to confidently trade away Jayson Werth by the deadline and not regret the move. But he has yet to play an inning in the major leagues. So it’s more than possible that he struggles throughout the year like other highly touted outfielding prospects such as the Reds’ Jay Bruce.
Phillies W-L, place in division: 98-64 (1st place)
Playoffs: Yes, they reach the playoffs as the 1 seed. I think they will make it back to the World Series again, the team hasn’t changed too drastically over the past two years, so as long as our bullpen holds up in the post season, there’s no reason to believe we can’t make it back again.
Team MVP: Chase Utley. His numbers have slid a bit over the past two years, but I think he’ll rebound and have a monster year this year, especially hitting behind Polanco.
Team Cy Young: Halladay. No question about this one.
Biggest Rookie Contributor: Domonic Brown. Hopefully he lives up to his hype.
Breakout player (Batter): Jayson Werth. I suppose last year was technically his breakout year, but I feel like he’s the only current starter that can reach new heights this year. We know what Victorino, Ibanez, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Polanco and Ruiz are capable of. Werth kind of surprised everybody last year when he put up the numbers that he did. I’m willing to bet he can do more this year.
Breakout Player (Pitcher): Kendrick. I think he will win the #5 spot in the rotation and will have a year closer to his rookie year rather than his disappointing sophomore year.
Under-the-radar: Do the Phillies really have one of these? The Phillies lineup is loaded with stars and it would really be hard to say that any of them are really under the radar. I guess I’ll go with Joe Blanton who has been our most consistent starter since he came to Philly. The Phillies win a lot when he’s on the mound, and you know he’s going to go out and give it his best when it’s his turn to start. I was a little upset when I saw so many Phillies fans get outraged that we gave him a $5 million contract. He earned it in my opinion.
4 years ago