Spring training for the Phillies this season has a completely different feel than years past. For the first time in the Citizens Bank Park era, the Phillies are not expected to contend. However, there are a number of high priced pieces Ruben Amaro would like to move and there are questions at a number of positions. It will be a fascinating spring, even with Freddy Galvis at shortstop.
Here’s a brief look at the 10 storylines most interesting to us here at Metro:
1. Will Cole Hamels remain with the Phillies?
It’s no secret how Hamels or Amaro feels. Each would like a trade. The former revealed that when he let loose with USA Today when he noted how grim this season will be for Ryne Sandberg’s club. Since then Hamels has taken a quick media relations class and said all of the right things. The Phillies ace, who is at the peak of his career, will be watched carefully by fans and scouts during the Grapefruit League run. Amaro would like a motherlode of talent for Hamels to help fuel the rebuild. Who can blame him?
2. Cliff Lee’s elbow
How effective will Lee be for a month? Scouts from contending teams that need an ace, the Red Sox and Padres, should be watching. If Lee is healthy and effective, don’t expect him to be dealt until closer to the trade deadline.
3. Can Domonic Brown bounce back?
During spring training in 2013, Metro asked Charlie Manuel if Dom Brown could finally turn it on and have a monster season. Manuel said to count on it, and it happened. Manuel helped Brown put it together. The Phillies most enigmatic player since Jeff Stone, lost it after Manuel was fired. Manuel stayed away in deference to Sandberg last season but he’s back. Will he help Brown reach his potential or will he continue to flounder?
4. Chase Utley’s body
Utley reported to camp with a sprained ankle, which supports his balky knees. Utley started 155 games last season. Will he be healthy enough to play 130 this year? Also, Utley had a terrible spring last year before magically turning it on opening day. What does Utley have left?
5. What does Ryan Howard have left?
The Big Piece is about as proud as any Phillie. How will he bounce back from a disappointing 2014 season and Amaro declaring that the Phillies would be better off without him this season? It’ll be curious to see if Howard’s made some adjustments. He’s working with his mentor Charlie Manuel and it’s certain that he will work hard to prove that he has something left. But can Howard make adjustments for the first time in his career? Will his lower body enable him to play even half-decently at first base?
6. Can Freddy Galvis even approach the Mendoza line?
Here’s one for fans who had issues with Jimmy Rollins batting average (career BA .267). Freddy Galvis will provide excellent defense. Expecting him to average .230 for a season would be a reach for a guy with a career BA at .218 in part-time duty. But could Galvis, who is remarkably only 25, surprise fans?
7. Will Maikel Fanco emerge as the future of the offense?
Everyone has the Phillies third baseman of the future ticketed back to the Lehigh Valley but Franco.
Don’t be surprised if Franco, who hit the ball as hard as any Phillie last spring, impresses. If so, will it be enough to unseat Cody Asche?
8. Will the young bullpen arms dazzle again?
The bullpen is the most volatile part of a team. Relievers normally have up and down seasons. Will Ken Giles, Jake Diekman and Justin DeFratus improve, stay the same or have issues?
9. Will Jonathan Papelbon remain a good camper for the spring?
Pap said all the right things during his press conference. But if things go awry, will he snap? Is he capable of delivering an obscene gesture? Sure. Is he capable of still being a better than average closer? We’ll see.
10. Can Aaron Harang duplicate his 2014 season
Harang was one of the surprise stories of 2014. The massive, oft-injured hurler put it together for a solid season with Atlanta. Can he replicate that success and pitch well enough to be a 3 Judging by the lack of interest in the off-season for Harang, most in baseball doubt it.