Friday, March 4, 2011

Spring Training Spotlight: Philadelphia

As the Philadelphia Phillies watched star right fielder Jayson Werth sign an immensely ridiculous 7-year, $126-million contract with the Nationals, a large hole opened up in the middle of the Fightin's lineup. Werth served not only as an athletic power-hitter with base-stealing potential, he also served as a righty to break up the Utley-Howard-Ibanez block in the middle of the lineup. As Spring Training neared, it became clear the Phillies were going to resolve the issue from within, using some combination of rookie Domonic Brown  (left) and vets Ben Francisco and Ross Gload. Looking at the early returns from Bright House Networks Field (the Phillies spring home in Clearwater, FL), however, it's clear that one candidate has already started to separate himself from the field.

Find out who after the break...

Brown, at 23 years old, is no longer a young rookie anymore--it's quickly approaching put-up-or-shut-up time for the athletic lefty. Unfortunately, the strong spring Phils fans were looking for has thus far eluded Brown, as he's only got 3 walks to show for 15 at-bats. That's right folks, Domonic hasn't gotten one hit through five games, striking out in 9/15 (60%) of his at-bats. If that pace continues, he'd be lucky to be fighting for a spot on the team, much  less a spot with any playing time. Baseball America ranked Brown very high on their list of top prospects earlier this year, but the sand is quickly falling for the outfielder.

Ben Francisco enters his second spring with the Phillies
Luckily for those in the Delaware Valley and beyond, there is still hope in Florida. Ben Francisco, a 29-year-old outfielder originally obtained in the Cliff Lee deal of 2009, leads the Phillies in hits (6) and RBIs (5) early on in spring ball. Francisco (right) is batting .375 with a 1.19 OPS (don't expect that to stay THAT high), plus 2 walks and 2 strikeouts. Gload's not off to a bad start either, with 3 hits in his first 10 at-bats, all singles, with an RBI and 0 strikeouts as well. Now, I know this is early on. I know that not much can be read from this situation, and I know that a week from now this could be totally different, but having good reaction times and coordination this early in March bodes well. Some people will say that hitters have an advantage as pitchers are just trying to get their form back, so I will say this: Cole Hamels has thrown 6 innings of 0.00 ERA ball thus far in the spring. So, if those hitters have an advantage, is Cole primed for the biggest season of his career? Probably not either, but it's always fun to throw around numbers with not enough data yet behind them. We'll check back in a few days to see how these two are doing.

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