The Phillies have a bunch of holes - outfield, starting pitching, catching. It's going to be great to fill in those holes with competent Major League Baseball players who are cost-controlled rather than having to dive into the free agent market.
Let's start in the outfield, where the Phillies could use all sorts of production.
1. Domonic Brown:This guy has a HOSE. And he's got a sweet, lefty swing like Daryl Strawberry. On the eye test, I saw him pop some dingers in spring training against the Yankees that went a mile, but expecting more than 30 - 35 is probably a reach. Really, all you need to know is that the Phillies love him so much, they won't even give him up to get ROY FRICKIN' HALLADAY! DomOnic Brown is a name you'd better learn how to spell, fans, because he'll be the heart of the Phillies batting order for years. CAN'T WAIT!!!!
2. Wes Chamberlain: Have you seen how this dude is built? It's like a cross between Kirby Puckett and a green Bruce Banner. He can't play center because of limited range, but he can be adequate in a corner slot. I honestly see him as a left fielder long-term because Brown's arm is better. Chamberlain's bat is the thing, though: pencil him in for 25-30 homers for the next decade. BANK IT.
3. Lonnie Smith: This dude can flat out FLY. Park him in center in between Brown and Chamberlain, and you have a guy who can take some of the pressure off his less-fleet outfield mates. Smith has little power, so he won't be hitting homers, but balls to the gap and down the line will be triples as much as they will be doubles. No matter how he gets on base, it is extra bases with that speed, either from turning a single to a double or stealing bases. An exciting, fast player who will fit well in this outfield for a long time. I am very high on Smith.
4. Ricky Jordan: A first baseman, Jordan has the skills to be solid in all aspects of the game - a .290 hitter, perhaps, with 15-25 homers and solid defense. Should fill in well for the team for the next 5 - 10 years after the Krukker packs up his hot dogs and moves on.
5. Pat Combs: You can never have too much pitching, and Combs profiles as a solid starter, likely with a 3 ceiling, but has a floor no worse than a 4/5. Should be a dependable innings-eater for the team. A big lefty (6 - 3, 200), his pinpoint control in a late year call up as a 22 year old (BB/9 of 1.4 to go with 7.0 K/9) bodes well for the future! We'll enjoy watching him for years, though others will headline the rotation. Teams need guys like Combs.
6. Tyler Green: A lanky righthander (6-5, 180) who features a knee-buckling knuckle curve. Should be Philadelphia's answer to Mike Mussina down in Baltimore. Green had a cup of coffee with the Phillies during an exciting pennant race last year, and he looks to taste a little more this year. Since being drafted 10th overall out of Wichita State, he's progressed quickly through the minor league ranks. After some adjustment to MLB hitters, I expect him to slot in as a 2 or 3, behind our staff ace.
7. Marty Bystrom: I hesistated to put Bystrom on this list because of his fabulous run last fall, going 5 - 0 in the regular season and pitching well in the playoffs. Still, he has not exceeded his rookie limits. Bystrom, a 6-5, 200 righty, showed tremendous maturity during his debut in the thick of a pennant race as a 22 year old. That make up, and his size and projectability, are what electrified all of us as much as his stuff. A gamer but not an ace, he should be among the many rotation pieces the Phillies will utilize to extend the dynasty.
8. Trey McCall: McCall is a long way off (what high school catcher isn't?) but there is a lot to be excited about in last year's number 1 pick. At 6-3, 205, he's likely a little big to stick at catcher, and first base may be his ultimate destination. The Phillies are lucky he fell to the 16th slot in the draft. Maybe McCall dislodges Jordan in a few years at first, if things break well. The dude just RAKED in a taste of rookie ball after the draft. SO. EXCITED.
9. Anthony Hewitt: Taken in the first round at #24 from prep school in baseball-crazy Connecticut, Hewitt's raw athleticism and huge tool set gives all of us a lot to fantasize about. At short or third, he'll provide flashes of a great arm, though the fielding is still raw, as you might expect from a prep player. When he gets hold of a ball, it just *sounds* different than the other guys on the field. The hit tool needs work, though, but based on the Phillies success in developing such players, there's reason to believe Hewitt could be a 15-20 homer, athletic shortstop or thirdbaseman in a few years. That's plenty to dream on.
10. Jeff Stone: Put this guy in the outfield with Lonnie Smith, and we could keep Luzinski in left forever. Hell, he could make sandwiches in the outfield or something, because we won't need him to catch balls. Speed and defense will play on our Astroturf surface for years. He hits enough to avoid being a liability, but with the OK hit tool, his ability to walk enough, and the speed, he profiles as a prototypical leadoff hitter. It may even make sense to consider flipping Smith and keeping Stone, given the wealth of outfield prospects the Phillies have with Smith being somewhat more advanced right now and Stone knocking on the door.
On the outside looking in:
Chase Utley: I'm leaving Utley off this list this year. I was high on him when he was drafted, but as a college player, he has to show me something more and a little faster, especially for a player drafted 15th overall. He tore it up in rookie ball, but began to struggle last year in Clearwater, with his average dropping 50 points to .257. He does hit, but it seems like he has to sell out some to get the power he flashes. As he advances, particularly to AAA where he'll see some crafty AAAA and former MLB pitchers who can get him out on his front foot, he'll have to show that he can hold off on the junk. As an infielder (if he can stick, maybe at second base), he would be really useful. If his defense doesn't play, his bat will be much more ordinary in the outfield where he profiles as a 4th outfielder, partly because his arm is a glaring weakness in the outfield. That would be hard to justify as the short half of a platoon, though. Also, someone needs to tell this kid to stop running - his success rate on minor league catchers is barely at a break-even level.
So, that is it - it looks like the Phillies are set for the future, with some great players in the pipeline for catcher, the outfield, the infield, and the rotation. It will be awesome to see these guys develop and help keep the Phillies dynasty going into another decade!
Pitchers and catchers report in just 41 days!