The Phillies championship window has officially closed. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins may be playing their last season together. They should be busy at the trade deadline this season, because they need to get younger.
Manager Ryne Sandberg took over after Charlie Manuel mid-season. He’s great with younger talent, which leads me to believe they are about to blow up this team. I doubt Ryan Howard is going anywhere with his bloated contract on the books through 2016.
Can Rollins and Sandberg squash their beef and get along this season?
Here is the 2014 MLB season preview for the Philadelphia Phillies.
2013 Win/Loss Record: 73-89
Key Additions: SP A.J. Burnett, SP Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, SP Roberto Hernandez, C Wil Nieves, RP Brad Lincoln, SS Reid Brignac, RP Shawn Camp, SS Ronny Cedeno, RP Chad Gaudin, OF Dave Sappelt & OF Clete Thomas
Key Losses: SP Roy Halladay, C Erik Kratz, OF Laynce Nix, RP Joe Savery, RP Raul Valdes & RP Zach Miner
Interleague Schedule: AL West + Toronto Blue Jays
Projected Starters: Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cody Ashce, Jimmy Rollins, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere & Marlon Byrd
Projected Starting Rotation: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick & Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
Deep Fantasy Sleeper: 1B/OF Darin Ruf – Ruf currently doesn’t have a spot in the lineup, but his power is hard to ignore. If they can trade John Mayberry Jr., he’s more valuable. He can also spell Ryan Howard at first base. He has options left, so he’s a candidate to start the year in Triple-A.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: 3B Maikel Franco – The Phillies have Cody Asche keeping the seat warm at third base until Franco is ready. In Double-A, he batted .339 and hit 15 homers in only 277 at-bats. If you combine his High-A and Double-A numbers last season, he hit 31 homers, batted .320, 103 RBI in 541 at-bats. Franco could be brought up right now and contribute on a bad Phillies team, but they are being patient.
Team Analysis: Other than the Yankees, the Phillies might have the most starters on the wrong side of 30. The core of this team has been in the lineup for a long time and this could be their last year together. Manager Ryne Sandberg has already caused some friction by playing Freddy Galvis at shortstop instead of Jimmy Rollins. He didn’t comment why he benched Rollins, but many think it’s due to his lack of hustle and being late to the park. If you’re having these issues in the Spring, it could be a very long Summer in Philly. I expect this team to look quite different by the end of the season. They need to get younger and trading some of their veterans to contender at the trade deadline is very likely. Sandberg was successful with young talent in the minors. He’s the sort of manager a team needs while rebuilding. The Phillies will begin that process this year and will finish the season near the bottom of the National League. If they end up trading Domonic Brown, which was rumored for most of last season, it would be the biggest mistake they could make.
2014 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 76.5 (Prediction: UNDER)
2014 Projected Win/Loss Record: 74-88 (3rd NL East)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.