The club was one of the premiere franchises from 2007 – 2011, with 5 straight NL East Titles, 2 World Series Appearances, and taking home the big prize in 2008. The Phightins have been battling old age, the injury bug, plus the management not knowing whether to pull the plug on the core talent of this squad – or to give it one more go at it. Charlie Manuel was finally the fall guy last month when he was let go from his managerial duties. Ryne Sandberg had the team playing better to end the year, but has had issues already with Veteran players. Will it be enough for the organization to back him beyond this season. Will the franchise play good enough for another kick at the can in 2014? .

By Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst/Website Owner): Follow @chuckbooth3024

Follow MLB Reports On Twitter Follow @mlbreports

Last year was the 1st losing campaign for the Fightins in over a decade.  It was a mediocre season to be sure, and followed the 3rd straight year of regression.

Since Ryan Howard went down in a heap of pain during the 2011 playoffs, it has ravaged through the fans perception of the club.

2013 wasn’t going to end nicely, however the aging veteran Chase Utley gave the brass and fanbase a nice exiting thought by inking a 2 YR deal.

Ryan Howard has not recovered to his former status, and now makes $25 MIL year.

With signing Marlon Byrd and bringing back Veteran Catcher Ruiz along with inking Burnett and Gonzalez for the rotation as his primary winter deals is Amaro done with the team to compete in 2014? If he is then he better hope these guys all miss the injury bug in 2014 The Phillies kept their aging nucleus together in hopes of putting up one more run at the World Series – and keep attendance/TV ratings in the Philly area.

Cole Hamels starts the year on the DL, and Jimmy Rollins spent more time deflecting questions about not starting at Shortstop, than he did working on his game.

Losing Darin Ruf 1B/OF for 4 – 6 weeks with a strained oblique will hurt this team more than anyone will give credit towards.

Domonic Brown must continue to improve as a hitter with consistency and Howard must stay on the field. Brown had 27 HRs in 2013, but 85% of them came before the ALL – Star Break. Howard has only played half of the games in the last 2 years. If both men can hit between 25 – 30 HRs, it would help a power struggling team.

Domonic Brown is the best value of the team, coming off of an ALL – Star campaign, where he hit 27 HRs, but is he the guy who hit 23 HRs before the game at Citi Field, or is he the 4 HRs man he hit post ALL – Star?

I think he will see a small regression in 2014, although he should hit near 25 HRs in a full season’s worth of AB.  He must also work on his walk rate.

This baseball team still hits like they are on a 24 second clock in basketball.

Jimmy Rollins led the team with 59 walks, and he was still only able to muster a .318 OBP.

Chase Utley led the squad with a .348 OBP.

On some positives, Ben Revere is back to reclaim his leadoff position.

The 2013 campaign looked bleak for the 1st years Philly player – with a .200 BA, but then he followed up with BA’s of .312-.354-.388 in subsequent months until his season ending injury in July.

Revere should help the OF defense, and hit .295/.335/.350 – with 40 + SB for the year.  The team dropped off the map severely once he left the team.

Darin Ruf has 17 HRs and 40 RBI in just 284 Career AB heading into 2014. If he can double those numbers for 568 AB when he comes back near May, you may be looking at a guy who cracks 25 HRs and adds about 75 RBI this campaign. Ruf will back up Ryan Howard – with potentially also playing RF or LF in 2014.

Darin Ruf was fully capable of breaking out this year, and I still think he could bomb 25 – 30 HRs even if he comes back in early May.

Marlon Byrd had a career renaissance in 2013, with 24 HRs and 88 RBI, but I am projecting a slight progression in 2014.

I would think he can hit in the high teens for HRs, possibly add 60+ RBI, but should carry a decent .275 – .285 BA.

He is 36, and I hate the team becoming older when you already have Rollins, Utley and Howard already in the lineup.

Having Carlos Ruiz back behind the plate for a full year has to be an upgrade from the entire 2013 Catching production.

“Chooch’ is 35 Years old, and should hit to near his 3 slash for his career at .274/.358/.412.

The veteran from Panama should also aid the Pitching Staff ERA’s being around for the full season in 2014.

The club will have Wil Nieves back him up.

These are the many reasons why Phillies fans have the privilege of watching Chase Utley play in Philadelphia for the rest of his career. ‘ He is the man’, a World Series hero, and when he  is hitting on all cylinders, this team is better.

Chase Utley, now 35,  played his most games in 2013 (131) since his heyday back in 2009.

The longtime Phillies 2B plunked 49 baseball for Extra Base Hits in his 476 AB.  If he can remain healthy, he is still an above average player for his position.

I am not sure of his AB, but he should go .280/.345/.460 in 2014.

The team losing Freddy Galvis to a staff infection hurts the early season depth chart for the club.

Young Cesar Hernandez may be pressed into action faster than he is ready for it.

Cody Ashe will be manning the hot corner, and his backup Infielder was Kevin Frandsen, before he was granted Free Agency – and signed with the Nationals.

Before we go any further, I am also surprised the franchise didn’t give Bobby Abreu more of a shot, considering he held a .404 OBP during Spring Training.

The brass gave the 40 Year Old his walking papers yesterday.  Why not hold onto him as a PH/OF type person for a few weeks until Ruf came back?

John Mayberry Jr. will be the 4th OF and main PH versus LHP.  He will also back Ryan Howard at 1B.

In 420 Career AB versus LHP, he has 25 HRs, 63 RBI and a .847 OPS.  Against RHP, the second generation Mayberry, has a .668 OPS, 21 HRs and 85 RBI in 710 AB.

This guy could be trade bait one Darin Ruf returns.

Ryan Howard’s health is the #1 wildcard for the team this year.

This guy has to be closer to his Career 3 Slash of .271/.361/.545 for this team to contend.

The power is still there, with him clocking 25 HRs and adding 99 RBI in his 546 AB since the gruesome 2011 broken ankle.

Howard has struggled with his Walk Rate, while his Strikeouts have been as high as ever.

With a full season worth of work, I think the 34 Year Old could hit 25 – 30 HRs, and drive in north of 90 RBI.

An acceptable 3 slash could be .260/.330/.470 to go along with that.

If Howard has problems at the plate, and in particular against Lefties, Ryne Sandberg must rotate in with Ruf or Mayberry Jr.

Jimmy Rollins had had better days than what he put forth in Spring Training. With him fighting with Sandberg, one wonders if he will play long enough in a Philadelphia uniform to run down Mike Schmidt for the ALL – Time franchise leader.

Jimmy Rollins is a hard case to figure out.

He has stated he would welcome a trade later in the year, but he would prefer to be the ALL – Time Phillies hits leader before he exits.

I am not sure how long the 2007 NL MVP plays for the franchise, but he has a 3 Slash for his career of .269/.327/.426.  These numbers sound about right.

Ruben Amaro JR. would be wise to deal him before the deadline.

Rollins, 35, only needs 434 Plate Appearances from nailing down his 2015 Vesting Option for a contract of $11 MIL.

The SS must not be on the Disabled List to end the year either.  Teams like New York or Detroit may be possible suitors for his suitors late in the campaign.

Cody Asche will take over the hot corner in 2014.  The 23 Year old had a nice showing in 2013, bashing 5 HRs and adding 22 RBI in just 162 AB.

The key is to extrapolate that success over the course of a full season.

This 3B is a lot like the rest of the team, he strikes out a lot.  Still if he could hit .250/.325/.400 – with 20 HRs and 80 RBI, you would take that in heartbeat – even if fans 150+ times this year.

The lineup should score some runs -with the power the infield may possess if healthy, and the nice BA the OF may carry with Byrd and Revere.

Brown, Asche and Ruf all taking it to the next level on offense could really go along way to help out.

Cliff Lee is had a typical year of his in 2013, with a 14 – 6 record, a 2.87 ERA and leads the NL in SO ratio with a 6.94/1 mark. The recently turned 35 Year Old,. Lee has thrown like a #1 Ace during his time with Philly, and the squad will need him to lead the charge in the next few campaigns – if they have any thoughts about making it back to the playoffs. If they don’t compete in 2014, he could help the cause for a rebuild by being a trade chip.

Starting Pitching

The team will probably live and die as long as Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels can pitch to their capabilities.

With Hamels on the shelf early, Lee will be under even more pressure early.

The 35 Year Old LHP has been a top 5 pitcher over the last 6 years, and will be able to raise his stock value via a trade if he can throw well in 2014 for the 1st half.

The Phillies always have a punchers chance in the National League if Lee can pitch like his usual self.

He is 44 – 29 (.603) with a microscopic 2.86 ERA in his 4 years with Philadelphia.

The salary at $25 MIL for both 2014 and 2015 is a lot, but if he performs well, he is worth the money.

Lee needs to throw 200 IP in 2015, or have 400 IP between 2014 and 2015 for a $27.5 MIL Vesting Option to kick in.

Considering the dollar amounts being floated out for ace pitchers in Free Agency, a good team should be vying for his services near the trade deadline.

I predicted the Phillies to trade a bunch of players, and have a rough record wise season.  So Lee to a contender would seem a great prospect.

Texas, Boston and the Los Angeles Angels might be teams that need another playoff assassin like this man.

I project Lee to have another top 10 CY young finish, and wield an ERA hovering around 3.

A.J. Burnett authored a 26 – 21, with a 3.41 ERA in the last 2 years for Pittsburgh – and gave the Bucs a veteran presence. His price point was simply too much for what the Pirates could spend. The Phillies will pay the 37 Year Old RHP $15 MIL for 2014, with a $1 MIL Buyout for a 2015 Team Option of $15 MIL.

The Starting Pitching will not have Roy Halladay this year, so they replaced him with his former teammate A.J. Burnett.

This deal may be a boom or a bust.  1 Year, with a $16 MIL pricetag was worth it.

I worry about Burnett not throwing well in his home park, just like he ended with New York at Yankee Stadium.

The 37 Year old had a great stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates, working over 400 IP in the last 2 years, and fashioning a great SO/BB rate at 9.8 Per 9 IP K’s/3.2 walks per 9 IP.

Burnett led the NL starters for Strikeouts per 9.  I am predicting a 12 – 12 record, and a 4.50 ERA in 2014.

Kendrick is a Free Agent in 2015. He could reel in 11 – 13 Wins during this year for the club. He is great insurance for At $7.68 Million this year, he might end up being traded near the deadline as well.

Kyle Kendrick is in the 3rd position in the rotation.  He has a career record of 64 – 55, with a 4.38 ERA, and is a great back end Starter.

Roberto Hernandez (don’t call me Fausto Carmona) should not be in the Major Leagues.

This website called the Rays insertion of him into their staff as a main reason they didn’t win the AL East last year.

If you take out the 33 Year Old RHP great 2007 year, when he went 19 – 8. with a 3.06 ERA, he is 40 – 74, with an ERA over 5 for the rest of his career.

What exactly screams he will perform well in 2014?

Only the fact he faces the Marlins and Mets offenses 38 times this year, may salvage his year.

Sandberg should start him against these teams the majority of his games starts.

The 5th slot is a scary proposition for the club.

They wanted to use their International Pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzlaez, but he hasn’t had a full Spring, has been hurt, and will probably start in the Minors

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez was the main Free Agent signing, that will be in the Phils clubhouse past this year.

Pitchers David Buchanan, Jeff Manship, Sean O’Sullivan and Mario Hollands maybe other guys that receive a shot to Start this season.

Perhaps the guy will come via trade, Free Agent Signing or waiver claim in the next few weeks.

The Bullpen will be anchored by Jonathan Papelbon.  But if things go south for the club, or he acts up, look for a trade to be maneuvered by Amaro Jr.

Mike Adams is still on sick bay, and only appeared in 28 games during last season.

The team navigated a trade with the Jays for Brad Lincoln, who will join a bevy of other RHP in the relief core.

The Phils will hope Lincoln can improve on his 3.98 ERA in Canada last year.

Antonio Bastardo and Jake Diekman (the club’s only listed LHP on the squad) were able to hove in the mid 2 ERA’s despite having high Bullpen WHIP’s.

B.J. Rosenburg, Justin De Fratus and Jeff Manship may round out the late inning guys, although Manship may be the swing man for the starting staff.

With the #5 starter not isolated, and Hernandez lined up, couple with Burnett’s odd bad game, the Relievers may be called upon a great deal in 2014.

When it is all said and done, this could be a long and brutal season, with veterans being traded…or fighting with Sandberg, and injuries could pile up.

I think at best this team could win 81 games, but are more likely to win between 74 – 77 contests.

Jonathan Papelbon led a rockstyle life while being the closer in Boston. It is one of the hardest pressured gigs in all of baseball. In Philadelphia, Papelbon was brought in (prior to 2012) to eradicate the horrific job that previous World Series Closer Brad Lidge did. Instead, he had his worst statistical year since 2010 in 2013 – and  continuously spouted off at the mouth throughout the whole process.  If the team doesn’t contend. this guy may also find himself on the trade block, but he has to perform more like he did in 2012.

 *** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

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