Believe it or not, Nix will be key Phillie in '13

Believe it or not, Nix will be key Phillie in '13

March 7, 2013, 9:00 am
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Excluding Ben Revere and the injured Delmon Young, the Phillies have five outfielders fighting for, at most, four spots: Domonic Brown, John Mayberry, Darin Ruf, Laynce Nix and Rule 5 pick Ender Inciarte.

Brown is a lock to make the team out of spring training and will start in one outfield corner. Revere will start in center. But with every quick out made or fly ball missed by Ruf, his spot on the Phillies’ active roster becomes more and more tenuous.

Against lefthanded pitchers the easy answer for the vacant corner outfield spot is Mayberry, who had 479 plate appearances last season and owns a .284/.328/.547 career line against southpaws. Bat Mayberry exclusively against lefties and you’ll get 2012 Albert Pujols-like production. (Pujols hit .285/.343/.516 last year.)

Unfortunately, only about 30 percent of plate appearances in a given year come against lefthanded pitchers, meaning the Phillies will likely need to play Laynce Nix ... a lot.

Before you scoff at that, consider that Nix has a .447 career slugging percentage against righthanded pitchers. For reference, B.J. Upton, Torii Hunter, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Montero, Dustin Pedroia and Jose Reyes slugged in the .440s last season against righties.

No, Nix is not the ideal starting option in left field. But his weaknesses are at least somewhat muffled against righties, and there is no denying he is more defensively sound than Ruf.

With Young on the shelf until at least mid-to-late April and Ruf not producing, there simply aren’t many better options. Inciarte could make the team by default just so the Phillies don’t have to offer him back to the Diamondbacks, but he isn’t the answer to start -- he is more of a pinch-runner or defensive replacement.

Know who would have had a chance to make an impact on this team? Nate Schierholtz, who was non-tendered before signing for a mere $2.25 million with the Cubs. Schierholtz and Nix have similar career numbers against righties, but Schierholtz is a far better fielder, thrower and runner.

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