Monday, September 15, 2014
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After two trades, Phillies still lacking power

He filled two holes in a lineup with many, so naturally, the question for Ruben Amaro Jr. was, "What else?"

After two trades, Phillies still lacking power

Nick Swisher, 31, is a good rightfielder who also can play first<br />base. (Kathy Kmonicek/AP)
Nick Swisher, 31, is a good rightfielder who also can play first base. (Kathy Kmonicek/AP)

He filled two holes in a lineup with many, so naturally, the question for Ruben Amaro Jr. was, "What else?"

Ben Revere and Michael Young certainly fill needs. How well, no one is sure. But that duo combined for eight home runs in 2012 and did not regularly hit for extra bases.

"We'd love to add more home runs," Amaro said. "But for me, again, it's about production. If we can produce runs – and I know that Ben can and I know that Michael can – and we have to get production out of the middle of our lineup. The guys we've paid to produce those runs. If we can get complementary [production] from Ben and Michael and get the kind of production we expect out of Ryan [Howard] and Chase [Utley], I think we're going to be fine."

Still, the overwhelming feeling is the Phillies are far from done. Not with the myriad questions in their outfield and a bounty of money to be spent.

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Given the Phillies' moves so far this offseason, how do you feel about their prospects in 2013?
More optimistic.
Same.
More pessimistic.

Here is the 2012 Phillies' power production broken down by position with National League ranks in parentheses:

POS HR SLG
C 24 (3d) .497 (1st)
1B 27 (4th) .415 (11th)
2B 17 (5th) .411 (2d)
3B 5 (16th) .357 (15th)
SS 23 (3d) .413 (6th)
LF 13 (11th) .420 (10th)
CF 16 (7th) .412 (8th)
RF 23 (7th) .411 (11th)

What is most interesting are the low ranks in slugging percentage at first base, third base, left field and right field. The corners are where power hitters traditionally reside. Up the middle, the Phillies were about as strong as possible.

The Phillies subtract this:

Shane Victorino: 9 HR, .401 SLG (431 PA)
Hunter Pence: 17 HR, .447 SLG (440 PA)
Placido Polanco: 2 HR, .327 SLG (328 PA)
Ty Wigginton: 11 HR, .375 SLG (360 PA)
Juan Pierre: 1 HR, .371 SLG (439 PA)
Jim Thome: 5 HR, .516 SLG (71 PA)

And what they've added, so far:

Ben Revere: 0 HR, .342 SLG (553 PA)
Michael Young: 8 HR, .370 SLG (651 PA)

The numbers from Carlos Ruiz and Erik Kratz were among the league's best. And, again, it's difficult to assume a repeat performance. Ruiz will miss the first 25 games due to suspension. He produced career-high figures in nearly every offensive category. Kratz wore down late in the season and still has plenty to prove.

Yes, there should be better production from first base in 2013. Remember, though, Howard's slugging percentage has declined in each of the last four seasons. There were red flags before the Achilles injury. Still, he did not play at 100 percent strength last season and the dip in slugging was was 65 points from 2011. There should be some normalization there.

Second base is a crapshoot, and that needs no further explanation.

It's difficult to do worse offensively at third base than the Phillies did in 2012. But notice that Young's numbers from 2012 do not represent a massive upgrade there. That is, unless Young recaptures his power stroke from seasons before.

Jimmy Rollins was one of the most productive shortstops in terms of power last season. He hit his most home runs (23) since 2009 and posted his highest slugging percentage since 2008. The Phillies will need a repeat performance.

The outfield was already in the bottom half of the league in slugging percentage even with four months of Victorino and Pence. Revere has never hit a major-league home run and has a career .323 slugging percentage. So assume centerfield will be near the bottom of the league in both categories for 2013.

And that leaves us with the holes in left and right field. They are the only positions where Amaro can seek an upgrade, and are traditionally power spots in a lineup. Take three available free agents for example:

THREE-YEAR AVERAGES (2010-12)
Josh Hamilton: 33 HR, .583 SLG (582 PA)
Nick Swisher: 25 HR, .478 SLG (631 PA)
Cody Ross: 17 HR, .434 SLG (519 PA)

The Phillies figure to sign one of the aforementioned. They have approximately $20 million (in average annual value) of payroll to spend. They have already traded away four chips from a deep pitching stable. Now it's time to spend money.

They have long been connected to Ross, the demon from October 2010. (Remember that time the Giants barely won a waiver claim?) They are not said to fancy Swisher, perhaps because of his price. That could change.

Hamilton is the white whale. He is seeking a long-term deal out of the Phillies range, but those demands could lower given the lack of a market for the enigmatic slugger. Amaro briefly showed what he thinks of Hamilton last week. With their payroll flexibility, the Phillies could offer Hamilton a short-term, high-value contract.

It fits Amaro's penchant for a big splash. Hamilton's agent, Michael Moye, is among the most private in the business. His client may not be the ideal target, but there is most definitely a fit.

No, the Phillies do not need home runs to win. They need production, as Amaro terms it, and even after two trades it is still lacking.


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