Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NL East Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies: 2nd place finish

Strengths: The Phillies line-up may be the best in the National League. They are led by a pair of former MVP winners, first baseman Ryan Howard and shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Second baseman Chase Utley is a perennial all-star and probably the best second baseman in the league. Though not as heralded as the three big stars, left fielder Raul Ibanez and center fielder Shane Victorino are top offensive producers as well. The top four starters in the Phillies rotation are all pretty good, with 25 year old Cole Hamels the ace of the group. The 8th and 9th innings are pretty set for the Phillies as well, with Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge being lights out in close situations.

Weaknesses: Philadelphia is set up the middle defensively with Rollins, Utley and Victorino but is pretty below average across the rest of the diamond. The Phillies also need consistent offensive production out of their third base and catcher positions in their line-up. The 5th starter spot is another weak area for the Phillies and will likely need to be upgraded during the season.

Farm Aid: The Phillies farm system is pretty talented top to bottom and should offer some reinforcements to the big league club throughout the season. Shortstop Jason Donald, could slide over and be the Phillies answer at third base or could headline a trade package. Catcher Lou Marson should be an offensive upgrade at the position and will likely take over as a starter at some point this season. The answer to the Phillies 5th starter might be in the minors as well, in right hander Carlos Carrasco. Though he will start the year in the minors Carrasco should be in the majors by mid-season.

Outlook: The World Series champs should be in a tough fight with the Mets for the Division title. Look for Philadelphia to come up just short but to return to the playoffs with a Wild Card berth.

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