As always, time keeps a tickin’ and the baseball season will continue to creep closer. A little over a month from now, the smell of fresh cut grass and roasted peanuts will begin to fill baseball parks in Arizona and Florida for spring training games. It has seemed that at the start of Grapefruit League play for the Phillies, the outfield will still have just as many questions on the corners as it did last week and the week before. I have been thinking for weeks now that it was unlikely that Amaro would pull the trigger on any of the “iffy” options (Scott Hairston, Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells) that are still available on the market in the “eleventh hour” of the offseason. Confirmation of that train of thought came Monday.
“We’re likely going with what we’ve got,” Amaro admitted.
What “we’ve got” is a group of young and/or unproven outfielders to fill the two corner outfield positions that were left vacant with the trades of Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino last July. Darin Ruf, Laynce Nix, Dominic Brown, and John Mayberry Jr. will either enter the season as a double platoon or be competing against each other for the every day jobs in the corner positions. Amaro does acknowledge the questions that baseball pundits around the country have brought up about the Phils outfield.
“There’s some risk in going with a possible double platoon or letting the guys we have battle it out for playing time,” Amaro said. “There are some advantages to that, as well. The best-man-wins type of scenario can be created and likely will be created in spring training. At the same time, a lot of these guys are not proven everyday major-league players. But that doesn’t mean they cannot become them.”
Centerfield will also be filled with a relative newcomer to the majors, with former Twins’ outfielder Ben Revere being just 24 years old and having only two years of regular playing time with the big boys under his belt. One thing this kid has in spades, replacing his lack of experience, is natural speed and a glove comparable to that of Michael Bourn. Chances are the Phillies will need his defense and ability to cover a lot of ground in an outfield manned by guys that have been pegged by some as defensive liabilities.
Darin Ruf has a ton of power and a decent approach at the plate, but he was a first baseman the majority of his career and looks the part. His 6′ 3″ frame may be thrown into the category of “athletic” if you’re talking in terms of a Division 3 Defensive End, but nobody will ever say he is the prototypical outfielder in the major leagues. His body type lends to his power in the batter’s box, but does nothing for tracking down fly balls in the alleys at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Dominic Brown is more of what you would expect in an outfielder by appearence alone, but has been rated as a below average defender by most analysts. He may have a rocket for an arm, but has had trouble in the past with his routes getting to the ball. He showed some progress last year, but still must prove that he belongs in rightfield every day.
Laynce Nix has never been heralded for his defense, and although that isn’t what the Phillies signed him for, the National League doesn’t employ a designated hitter. So, in order to get a decent number of at-bats he will be forced to roam the outfield from time to time. This may leave the phils a bit exposed at times.
John Mayberry Jr. may be the best of the group defensively in the corners, but he also won’t be receiving any gold gloves in the near future, barring a miracle. He has decent speed and a decent arm, but nothing that strikes me as above average. The real problem with Mayberry, however, is in the batters box. He does smoke the ball off lefties, posting a triple slash of .284/.328/.547 for his major league career. Conversely, you just can’t trust him to give you any kind of consistent production against same-handed righties, posting a line of .232/.302/.379. Unfortunately for him, right handed pitchers are much more prevelant, therefore he becomes much less effective when playing on a daily basis.
So looking at the options both on the Phils 40 man roster and out on the market, it was prudent of Amaro to get a centerfielder that would not only hold his own in the field, but excel in the role. After watching some video on Revere, this guy can flat out play the outfield. He may not have the strongest arm in the majors, drawing comparisons to Juan Pierre, but there isn’t much in his general vicinity that he can’t get to in a hurry.
It is pretty certain that no matter what happens the rest of the offseason, a lot will be expected out of the youngster defensively. Do I see a gold glove for him in 2013? Maybe, maybe not. Do I see one in his future (barring a serious injury)? Absolutely.
One thing is certain about the 2013 baseball season for the Phillies, it will be a wild ride. I, for one, can’t wait to see how things play out.