Countdown to Clearwater: New faces in camp

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Countdown to Clearwater: New faces in camp

The Phillies open spring training Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla. In advance of the first workout and the countdown to opening day, we take a daily look at the top storylines facing this club in camp.

Part 1: Health
Today: New faces

Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are still here. Fan favorite Carlos Ruiz will serve a 25-game suspension at the outset of the season, but he’ll be in uniform, eligible to play, during camp and the exhibition season.

You might not need a scorecard to tell the players in Camp Clearwater, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t new faces. In today’s installment of the Countdown to Clearwater, we take a quick look at some of the newcomers.

Starting pitchers
John Lannan: The 28-year-old lefty from Long Island spent the first six years of his big-league career with Washington so he’s quite familiar with the Phillies. Painfully familiar, in fact. In 19 starts against the Phils, Lannan went 3-13 with a 5.53 ERA. Against everybody else, Lannan was 39-39 with a 3.80 ERA in 115 starts. In Washington, he reached 30 starts and had a sub-4.00 ERA three times. At $2.5 million, he seems to fit well as this club’s No. 5 starter.

Rodrigo Lopez: The veteran righthander will be in camp on a minor-league deal. He is expected to provide organizational depth, much as he did in 2009 when he made five starts for the club.

Aaron Cook: A longtime major leaguer trying to hang on will be in camp on a minor-league deal.

Relief pitchers
Mike Adams: One of the best setup men in the game, he comes in on a two-year, $12 million deal (with an option for a third year) and should waterproof the leaky eighth inning. He could be the team’s most impactful newcomer.

Chad Durbin: He could be another key piece in the makeover of what was a shaky bullpen in 2012. The veteran righthander can be used for an important out against a right-handed hitter in the middle innings, can work multiple innings and late in the game. He can also be a mentor to some of the talented young relief arms the Phils have on the way. For $1.1 million, a solid addition.

Juan Cruz: The veteran righthander has lots of experience but often has trouble throwing strikes. He gets a look as a non-roster invitee.

Zach Miner: The veteran righthander with big-league experience will be in camp on a minor-league deal. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2009 and had Tommy John surgery in 2010.

Infielders
Michael Young: This guy hit .300 seven times, made seven all-star teams and won a batting title during a 12-year run with Texas. He became a spare part with the Rangers, and the Phillies were happy to acquire him for a pair of relievers -- with the Rangers picking up $10 million of his $16 million salary. At 36, Young will try to prove he still has a potent bat after struggling at the plate in 2012. He’s one year removed from leading the American League with 218 hits and hitting .338 with 106 RBIs, so he’s a good gamble. The big question is can the range-challenged Young succeed at third base, a position he hasn’t played regularly since 2010.

Yuniesky Betancourt: The veteran big-league shortstop signed a minor-league deal late in the offseason. He will get some looks as Jimmy Rollins plays in the World Baseball Classic but is likely to provide Triple A depth.

Josh Fields: A former top third base prospect with the White Sox, he will be in camp on a minor-league deal. He hit .322 with Triple A Albuquerque last season and is expected to provide depth at Lehigh Valley this season.

Catcher
Humberto Quintero: A nonroster invitee, he has made 353 starts behind the plate in the majors. He will push for a big-league job as the Phils look for early-season help while Ruiz serves his suspension for testing positive for a banned stimulant.

Outfielders
Ben Revere: He wasn’t the Phils’ first choice to play center field (he was more like their fourth or fifth), but he’s the guy that comes over from Minnesota for pitchers Vance Worley and Trevor May. Revere, 24, can chase down balls with the best of them, but he doesn’t throw well, doesn’t walk a lot and doesn’t hit for power. At least he’s smart enough to try to keep the ball out of the air and use his speed. “Even my mom gets mad at me when I hit pop flies,” he said shortly after joining the Phils.

Delmon Young: He’s had trouble staying in shape and out of trouble, but at 27, he says he’s ready to maximize the potential that made him the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft. The Phils have just $750,000 invested in him, so he’s a solid gamble. Young had offseason ankle surgery and might not play in exhibition games until mid-March. His opening day status is iffy, but the Phils hope he can play right field and drive in some runs in the middle of the order shortly after.

Jermaine Mitchell: Formerly one of the A’s top prospects, he will get a look on a minor-league deal and should provide depth at Triple A.

Joe Mather: The Versatile outfielder can also play some at the corner infield spots. He appeared in 103 games for the Cubs last season and hit just .209. He comes to camp on a minor-league deal and is expected to provide Triple A depth.

Ender Inciarte: The Phillies love to take chances on Rule 5 players (witness Shane Victorino, Michael Martinez, David Herndon). The speedy Inciarte is this year’s guy, plucked from the Arizona system.

Coaches
Ryne Sandberg: The team’s new third base coach, a Hall of Fame second baseman, may also be the club’s next manager.

Steve Henderson: Former Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach moves up from the Phils’ minor-league system to become the team’s new hitting coach.

Wally Joyner: Assistant hitting coaches are all the rage in the majors and the Phils now have one in the former sweet-swinging first baseman. Joyner, 50, graduated from the same Atlanta-area high school as Domonic Brown.

Rod Nichols: The new bullpen coach groomed many Phillies pitchers in the minors and will be a valuable addition as a crop of homegrown relievers ascends to the majors.

 

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to baseball's Hall of Fame

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to baseball's Hall of Fame

NEW YORK -- Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday, earning the honor as Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero fell just short.

Steroids-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were passed over for the fifth straight year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. But they received a majority of votes for the first time and could be in position to gain election in coming years.

Bagwell , on the ballot for the seventh time after falling 15 votes short last year, received 381 of 442 votes for 86.2 percent. Players needed 75 percent, which came to 332 votes this year.

"Anxiety was very, very high," Bagwell said. "I wrote it on a ball tonight. It was kind of cool."

In his 10th and final year of eligibility, Raines was on 380 ballots (86 percent). Rodriguez received 336 votes (76 percent) to join Johnny Bench in 1989 as the only catchers elected on the first ballot.

Hoffman was five votes shy and Guerrero 15 short.

Edgar Martinez was next at 58.6 percent, followed by Clemens at 54.1 percent, Bonds at 53.8 percent, Mike Mussina at 51.8 percent, Curt Schilling at 45 percent, Lee Smith at 34.2 percent and Manny Ramirez at 23.8 percent.

Players will be inducted July 30 during ceremonies at Cooperstown along with former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, both elected last month by a veterans committee.

Bagwell was a four-time All-Star who spent his entire career with Houston, finishing with a .297 batting average, 401 homers and 1,401 RBIs.

Raines, fifth in career stolen bases, was a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion. He spent 13 of 23 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos, who left Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, and joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players to enter the Hall representing the Expos.

Raines hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage, playing during a time when Rickey Henderson was the sport's dominant speedster.

Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs, was never disciplined for PEDs but former Texas teammate Jose Canseco alleged in a 2005 book that he injected the catcher with steroids. Asked whether he was on the list of players who allegedly tested positive for steroids during baseball's 2003 survey, Rodriguez said in 2009: "Only God knows."

Bonds, a seven-time MVP who holds the season and career home run records, received 36.2 percent in his initial appearance, in 2013, and jumped from 44.3 percent last year. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, rose from 45.2 percent last year.

Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer. The conviction was overturned appeal in 2015.

Clemens was acquitted on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use.

A 12-time All-Star on the ballot for the first time, Ramirez was twice suspended for violating baseball's drug agreement. He helped the Boston Red Sox win World Series titles in 2004 and `07, the first for the franchise since 1918, and hit .312 with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBIs in 19 big league seasons.

Several notable players will join them in the competition for votes in upcoming years: Chipper Jones and Jim Thome in 2018, Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay in 2019, and Derek Jeter in 2020.

Lee Smith, who had 478 saves, got 34 percent in his final time on the ballot. Jorge Posada, Tim Wakefield and Magglio Ordonez were among the players who got under 5 percent and fell off future ballots.

No splashes, but Phillies significantly upgraded lineup this offseason

No splashes, but Phillies significantly upgraded lineup this offseason

The addition of outfielder Michael Saunders doesn't suddenly make the Phillies an NL contender, but coupled with the trade for Howie Kendrick, the Phils' projected lineup is much deeper and more well-rounded than it was at this time last year.

By adding two capable corner outfield bats, the lineup has been lengthened, and it's unlikely you'll see someone like Freddy Galvis in the five-hole much in 2017.

The Saunders signing is not yet official, but assuming it goes through, the Phils' lineup could look like this on opening day:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B (S)
2. Howie Kendrick, LF 
3. Odubel Herrera, CF (L)
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, RF (L)
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS (S)

Considering the Phillies started Cedric Hunter and Peter Bourjos in the outfield corners last opening day, this is a huge upgrade even if Kendrick and Saunders are not huge names. 

Phillies leftfielders hit .212/.284/.332 last season. Unless Kendrick forgets how to hit overnight, he won't come close to those numbers. Phillies rightfielders had eight home runs in 637 plate appearances last season. Give Saunders that many PAs and you're likely looking at 27 to 30 homers.

Before last season, Kendrick hit between .279 and .322 every year from 2006 to 2015. Having a guy who can hit .290 with a .330-plus on-base percentage in the two-hole is a big deal, especially if he's hitting between Hernandez (.371 OBP last season) and Herrera (.361 OBP). You can foresee plenty of scenarios where, if that's the 1-2-3, Herrera comes up with runners on the corners in the first inning.

Saunders is another 20-plus home run bat. When you look through the Phillies' lineup, there are potentially five of those. Plus, don't sleep on the improvement Herrera made in that department last season, almost doubling his HR total from eight to 15.

The balance of left-handed and right-handed bats will make the Phillies more difficult to pitch to. It was important that the outfield bat they added was left-handed, because if not you'd be looking at an extremely right-handed heavy middle of the order.

Also, don't underestimate the impact of adding two veteran hitters who have had success in the majors. Franco could use all the additional advice he can get. Herrera, too, is at an impressionable age. Might Franco be less likely to give away an at-bat, as he did so many times in 2016, with someone like Kendrick there to greet him at the top step of the dugout? That question may sound silly, but the entire environment changes when you add a respected veteran leader to a clubhouse filled with kids.

This is not to say the Phillies will have a top-five offense in 2017. They'll still likely be toward the bottom-half or bottom-third of the National League, but as of right now this isn't the NL's worst lineup like it was for the majority of last season. The Reds and Padres have worse lineups, and you could add the Brewers and Pirates to that list if Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen are traded.

Pete Mackanin has called for more offense and more lineup flexibility and he's gotten it, even though it doesn't involve real star power. Kendrick's ability to also play first base and second base could allow Aaron Altherr to get some playing time in an outfield corner when Hernandez or Joseph sits. 

The only real casualty of the Saunders signing is Roman Quinn, who Mackanin confirmed Tuesday night would likely spend the year at Triple A. Quinn showed some flashes late last season and is an exciting player, but it would have been risky to rely on him as a starting outfielder in 2017 given he's never even reached 400 plate appearances in a season.