Breaking down Phillies' many lineup options

Breaking down Phillies' many lineup options
January 30, 2013, 1:00 pm
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All of the Phillies’ offseason additions and offensive question marks should make filling out a lineup card in April interesting for Charlie Manuel. Who leads off? Who bats fifth? Is splitting up lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard necessary? Will there be a double corner outfield platoon after all?

It’s a fluid situation. The middle of the order will be dictated by which corner outfielders perform well in spring training. If Delmon Young and Domonic Brown win jobs, that will affect the positioning of other hitters based on right-handedness or left-handedness. If they don't, it could create a double platoon that, at this point, probably best serves the Phillies.

Ben Revere will have a chance to show what he can do as a leadoff batter in spring training when Jimmy Rollins is playing shortstop for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. If the United States keeps advancing, Rollins could be gone through March 19. The Phillies have 25 exhibition games up to that point.

Revere and Rollins are the only two realistic options for the leadoff role. If Revere leads off, it would create flexibility for Manuel in drawing up the rest of the lineup. Rollins could bat third or fifth in addition to leadoff, while Revere could only be second or eighth. And if he’s second, that means there will only be one player with speed between fourth and ninth (Brown or Mayberry), which isn’t ideal for a team that doesn’t have a ton of home run power.

Let’s take a look at a few potential lineups. First, against a right-handed starter.

Revere (L)
Michael Young (R)
Utley (L)
Howard (L)
Rollins (S)
Laynce Nix (L)
Brown (L)
Erik Kratz (R)
Pitcher

Michael Young hit .257 with a .643 OPS last season against righties, so he’s not exactly an ideal fit at the top of the lineup. But it’s hard to imagine Manuel batting him sixth or seventh. ... Young batting second or third just feels like a Manuel move. If he doesn’t commit to Young at the top of the order, Utley could bat second, Rollins third and Young sixth or seventh. Here’s a look at that lineup:

Revere (L)
Utley (L)
Rollins (S)
Howard (L)
Nix (L)
Brown (L)
Michael Young (R)
Kratz (R)
Pitcher

Nix, Delmon Young and Brown will fight for the two corner outfield jobs against a right-handed starter. Young really has no business playing against righties; he has a .295 OBP against them the last three seasons with 4.4 times as many strikeouts as walks. Conversely, Young has a .347 OBP and just 3.0 times as many K's as BBs against lefties over that span. His slugging percentage is also 93 points higher.

The above lineups would make the Phillies’ bench -- Delmon Young, Mayberry, the backup catcher, and two from the group of Darin Ruf, Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis -- predominantly right-handed.

Now against a southpaw, still with Revere leading off:

Revere (L)
Utley (L)
Michael Young (R)
Howard (L)
Rollins (S)
Delmon Young (R)
John Mayberry (R)
Kratz (R)
Pitcher

Against lefties the last three seasons, Delmon Young has hit .307 with an appealing .347 OBP and .500 slugging percentage. He can do some damage against opposite-handed pitching.

Mayberry can, too. He has a .547 career slugging percentage vs. southpaws and a .875 OPS. When he faces lefties, Mayberry is basically Giancarlo Stanton, who has a .553 SLG and .903 OPS overall since 2009.

If Rollins does lead off, all of this changes, as Revere would likely be pushed to the two-hole and Utley and Howard would have to bat back-to-back. The only way that could realistically happen, though, is if Revere simply can’t hit in spring training. The Phillies didn’t trade their two top young pitchers to bat Revere eighth and have him worry about turning the lineup over.

How the batting order unfolds will be fascinating, and even more so when Carlos Ruiz returns from his season-opening 25-game suspension. If Ruf can make an imprint in Clearwater, the picture will get even blurrier.