Saturday, January 10, 2009
The bench of a National League team typically has 5 spots, usually consisting of a backup catcher, utility infielder, left-handed pinch hitter, extra outfielder, and/or speed guy. Some of these roles can be filled by the same player. For example, Eric Bruntlett can pinch run and play most positions. The Phillies have a very crowded roster heading into the 2009 season, and it's rumored that they're looking to sign a right-handed batter, with focus on Gabe Kapler and Nomar Garciaparra. If either were to sign a cheap 1 year deal, they'd get my stamp of approval as bench additions. If I had my choice of the two, I'd select Kapler as I see a stronger need for a RH option in the outfield.
Here's a list of players battling for the 25 man active roster come spring training.
Competitors- Chris Coste, Ronny Paulino, Lou Marson, and Paul Hoover. If you have a soul you root for Coste, but he showed signs of rapid decline over the waning months of '08 (.107/.429 Sept/Oct), and at his age (will be 36) that trend may continue. As second catcher, he's been one of the best in MLB over the past 3 seasons (.288/.787), but how much longer can he continue that success? Hence the addition of Paulino, who still has upside, and mashes lefties (.355/.915). Then there's the young stud Marson, but he'd be best served to continue maturation in Triple A. Hoover is a non-roster invitee that is likely to help mentor Lou at Lehigh Valley. He has had MLB experience (.230/.493), albeit brief stints in 5 seasons. Winner- Paulino with Coste being dealt. Reminisce- Sal's Pals.
Competitors- Eric Bruntlett, Greg Dobbs, Marcus Giles, Jason Donald, Mike Cervenak, Andy Tracy, JJ Furmaniak, and Terry Tiffee. The Bearded Brunt is an automatic, because he plays 3rd, SS, 2nd, and OF and has decent speed. Dobbs is a pinch hitting extraordinaire (22 h, .355/.920 in '08 as PH) that plays corner infield and outfield, and gets semi-regular playing time at 3rd, especially against tough righties. Giles has been out of baseball for a year and is only being given a chance because of Utley's injury. If he shows the ability to hit again, he may actually make the roster, but don't count on it. Donald is a prospect and probably needs more time in the minors, but could also be used in Chase's absence. Cervenak, Tracy, Furmaniak, and Tiffee have all seen MLB time, but they're destined to be Iron Pigs. Winner- Bruntlett, Dobbs, and depending on Utley's status, Giles or Donald. If Garciaparra were signed, he, Brunt, and Dobbs would be the backup infielders, with all others heading to the minors. Feliz's health may also come into play here. Reminisce- Alex Arias.
Competitors- Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs, Eric Bruntlett, Greg Dobbs, and Jason Ellison. Jenkins and Stairs at this stage in their careers are essentially the same player, but Jenkins is set to make substantially more money next season. Each is left-handed and has some pop. As mentioned above, both Bruntlett and Dobbs play outfield as well (it pays to be multi-positional when a bench player). Ellison has spent parts of the last 6 seasons in the majors (.251/.650), but hasn't flashed brilliance that suggests he's anything more than minor league insurance. Winners- Jenkins and Stairs; Brunt and Dobbs already had their gloves raised in victory above. If Kapler were to sign, Stairs would be the likely trade candidate. Reminisce- Kevin Sefcik (played RF, CF, LF, 2nd, SS, and 3rd).