This series will evaluate one team per day, starting on January 23, 2013 and ending on February 22, 2013 (the first game of spring training). It is based on last season's performance, offseason changes since and the author's outlook for the team in 2013. Please keep in mind that rosters can, and will, change before Opening Day. We started in the AL East and now go to the NL side, starting in the East and going in alphabetical order. Next up, the Philadelphia Phillies.
2012 finish: 81-81 (3rd place, NL East)
LHP John Lannan, RHP Chad Durbin, RHP Rodrigo Lopez, RHP Mike Adams, RHP Juan Cruz, RHP Aaron Cook, OF Ben Revere, OF Delmon Young, 3B Michael Young
RHP Josh Lindblom, RHP Jose Contreras, RHP Vance Worley, OF Juan Pierre, OF Nate Schierholtz, 1B Ty Wigginton, 3B Placido Polanco, C Brian Schneider
Why they will improve this year
It's hard to even call the 2012 Phillies a disappointment, given the ridiculous list of injuries they had to endure. The pitching staff was banged up, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard missed time and Carlos Ruiz was out for the stretch run.
And this is exactly why the Phillies are primed for a rebound in 2013. Not only are Utley and Howard due for some good luck on the health front, but the Phillies should have the big three pitchers back for a lot longer than they are used to.
General Manager Ruben Amaro made a few very shrewd moves in the offseason to upgrade third base and the outfield. Instead of the punchless trio of outfielders they had after the trade deadline last season, they can now rely on the powerful bat of Young in right field and the combination of speed and defense of Revere in center.
Young, the former Texas Ranger, had been "declining" in Arlington last year, but he's only one season removed from hitting .338 and still boasts well over 2,000 career hits. Young gives a professional at-bat every time up and plays fundamentally sound at multiple positions. I think this will turn out to be a key pick-up for Philly, and there are a few teams that will regret having not made a viable offer to Texas.
With the most important veteran players back healthy in 2013, plus a few smart additions to the fold (lest we forget about the John Lannan, a very good player buried behind All-Star talent in Washington), I would not be surprised to see Philadelphia approach 90 wins again.
Why they will regress this year
The only way that the Phillies regress is if they get bitten by the injury bug again. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are both getting on in years, so while it would be surprising to see them get hurt, it's always possible. And we've seen Howard and Utley both struggle with various ailments in recent years.
Add in the fact that Delmon Young, Michael Young and Jimmy Rollins are getting on in years and Philadelphia is really relying on a largely aging roster. The flip side is even more suspect—how will Domonic Brown, John Mayberry, Jr. and Freddy Galvis perform, especially if more responsibility falls to them in the case of injury?
How will Delmon and Michael Young, Revere and Lannan fit in on a team that's been a powerful unit weighed down by expectations for years now? While I don't necessarily foresee team chemistry as an issue, I do expect the catcher's position to be suspect.
With Carlos Ruiz suspended for the first month or so of 2013, the Phils shouldn't expect much offensive production from that position for a while. And when Ruiz does return, can he repeat last year's performance?
Even if he comes remotely close, the Phillies will be in business.
The outlook for 2013
Honestly, I'm hard pressed to believe the Phillies will dip below .500 this season. I'm more inclined to see a major improvement in wins. Approaching 90 wins is a legitimate possibility with the healthy return of all three ace pitchers and the big bats of Utley and Howard.
Adding Michael Young, Delmon Young, Revere and Lannan were all fantastic moves by Amaro. I would be shocked to see Michael Young's numbers not go back up, and Delmon Young will be a good pick-up even if he has an average year. Anything is an upgrade over Schierholtz.
Lannan gives the rotation a little added punch, and Revere will flawlessly replace Shane Victorino in the outfield. You have to like the pitching in Philly, and the potential prowess of the lineup. A lot of the power will hinge on whether Delmon Young can recover from an ankle injury and get used to playing right field again after a six-year hiatus.
The main worry for me aside from health is whether or not the veteran hitters who have thrived for so long will continue to do so. Time is running out for one of the older teams in the league, but it's the opinion of this writer that the Phillies get right back into the wild-card hunt in 2013 and reach the high 80s in wins.
I don't think they overtake Atlanta or Washington, but they will be surprisingly close.
Possible changes before Opening Day
For a while there, it looked like Amaro would go after Vernon Wells and Scott Hairston to upgrade the outfield. Luckily for Phillie fans, they scored with Revere and Young instead. I don't expect the Phillies to make any other moves before the season begins.
If they were to look into bolstering any position, I'd hope it would be the bullpen, as Phillie relievers ranked in the lower half of the National League in 2012. Adding Durbin, Adams and Cook to that squad will help somewhat, but they could use another lefty arm or two.
Biggest surprise: John Lannan
Biggest disappointment: Carlos Ruiz
Bold prediction: Ryan Howard finishes with 35 home runs, 120 RBI
Projected lineup (after Ruiz returns)
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Ben Revere, CF
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Delmon Young, RF
6. Michael Young, 3B
7. Carlos Ruiz, C
8. Domonic Brown, LF
1. Cole Hamels, LHP
2. Roy Halladay, RHP
3. Cliff Lee, LHP
4. Kyle Kendrick, RHP
5. John Lannan, LHP
Projected finish: 89-73 (3rd place, NL East)
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You can follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jamblinman.