Platoon could be the word of the spring. Platoon in right field. Platoon in left. I read an article today talking about Wilson Valdez playing the outfield and John Mayberry playing first base. Maybe the Phillies will just draw positions out of a hat, or rotate every inning like an intramural volleyball team. There are some names floating around: Francisco, Ibanez, Brown, Mayberry, Gload and only two open spots in the outfield. Platoon seems to be everyone’s favorite solution. Mayberry/Ibanez and Brown/Francisco. Never will a left-handed hitter face a left-handed pitcher again. This makes a certain bit of sense, until you remember how much Charlie loves his regulars.
One of the criticisms of Manuel is that he has a hard time finding days off for his starting eight. In the face of this criticism, he hasn’t shown much willingness to change. Stubborn? Probably a bit, but for me the platoon is always an idea that sounds better on paper. Wouldn’t you rather have a guy that is good enough to play every day and a true bench player/4th outfielder type? The two platoons I remember in recent years were Werth/Jenkins and then a tiny little bit of Ben Francisco spelling Raul Ibanez last season. The Werth/Jenkins platoon started because there were questions about playing Werth every day and it started about as you’d expect, but as soon as Werth proved capable of the job, Jenkins was quickly put into a reserve role. He’d end up with 200 less at-bats than the 120-million dollar man that year. Not exactly a typical platoon. Last season Raul Ibanez couldn’t have started any slower, but Charlie seemed to forget about Francisco on his bench for weeks at a time.
In Spring Training, everyone is going to be playing all over the place. You’ll see the young outfielders at all three defensive spots, and there will be plenty of at-bats to go around. When the team breaks camp there very well could be a plan for a platoon in place, but don’t get too comfortable with the idea. I think Charlie will be looking for a go-to guy sooner rather than later. I also have a feeling that the Phillies want Francisco to be that guy. They’d be thrilled if he could play every day. It would at the very least take a lot of pressure off Dom Brown. Brown, by the way, I think will have to have a heroic spring to come north with a starting job.
If I could script the Phillies outfield scenario, this is what I’d prefer, assuming Victorino is your written in stone every day center fielder.
Ben Francisco: Starting right fielder. I think we’re going to have a tight race (on paper) for these outfield jobs. In Spring Training you see a lot of young arms and a lot of fastballs. There is no shortage of Phillies outfielders who can hit the fastball. If Francisco can emerge as a .275/15/75 guy, that would be perfect. He could get 140 starts in right, and the Phillies would be suffering a negligible fall off from Jayson Werth. Chances of that happening? Maybe 55%.
Raul Ibanez: I am not writing off Ibanez. He had a decent 2nd half, and to assume that he’s going to be terrible like the beginning of last season I think would be a mistake. Raul teased everyone with the MVP first half in ’09 and then the nightmare last year was the opposite. His whole career, he’s been somewhere in the middle. He’s always in great shape, and I don’t think the age issue a reason to panic. I think Ibanez can start 120+ games in left and be productive. Chances of that happening? 75%.
Mayberry: I don’t love Mayberry. He’s almost too old to be a prospect at this point, and I think he’s had unrealistic expectations put on him. This was never a guy who was going to be a stud, everyday outfielder. That said, he does have very good numbers against left-handed pitching. He has some power. If he can become a little less inept at hitting breaking pitches, and adjust to the bench role, he could be an ideal 4th outfielder type. I think ideally he gets about 35-40 starts, a couple hundred at-bats and an OPS in the .800 range, which wouldn’t be too out of line with his minor league stats. Chances of that happening? Call it an even 50/50.
Dom Brown: I’d love to see Dom Brown play the majority of the year in Lehigh Valley. First, because it would mean the other guys are doing the job, but also because he needs those at-bats. People forget how little Brown has played above AA, and the end of last year was a setback. That’s the truth, and while he’ll have the spring to rebuild his momentum, the best spot for him to be might be AAA. There’d be nothing wrong with getting Brown completely prepared for 2011 if the rest of the outfielders do the job. It will be tough, because the fans got a taste, there is an expectation, but fans rarely know what is good for them. I’d love for Brown to prove me wrong, turn into Jason Heyward, but those guys don’t come along very often. For as skilled as Brown is, he’s not in that class offensively. Chances of that happening? A meager 35%.
There you go. Phillies outfield situation in 800 words. Don’t hold onto that platoon stock much later than opening day. Just a feeling.
Quiz of the Day: Board Games by their Board. Category: Games and Whatnot. My Score: 22/24
This one is fun for the whole family. Examine the pictures closely. I know I’m going to hear some complaints. It’s not my quiz! Very beatable score for game nerds after my domination yesterday. Don’t be afraid to guess.