It’s time for our quarterly chat with MLB analyst Mitch Williams. The former closer breaks down Charlie Manuel’s squad with Metro as pitchers and catchers report for spring training in a few days.
Q: A number of Phillies will be under scrutiny in February and March, but none more than Roy Halladay. Do you agree?
A: I would have to say that’s correct. So much hinges on whether Halladay can bounce back from 2012. You know that if anyone can come back from injury and be effective, it’s Halladay. Nobody works harder. It’s about Halladay but it’s really about the big three. Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Halladay each need to win 15 games for the Phillies to be successful.
Q: If the trio is healthy, there’s a reasonable chance that can happen since the bullpen has improved dramatically. Correct?
A: That’s right. They don’t have to throw complete games due to the bullpen, which was so bad last year. You add Mike Adams to a ’pen with Jonathan Papelbon, [Chad] Durbin and [Antonio] Bastardo and the promising kids, and it looks good for the Phillies.
Q: Jake Diekman has tremendous upside. Is he the kid who could have the biggest impact this season?
A: Absolutely. He throws so hard, throws the ball across his body and hides the ball so well. If he could work out the issues with his hands and lower body, he could be absolutely dominant. Sooner than later, it won’t matter if he is facing right-handed or left-handed batters. He’s going to blow everyone away.
Q: Will Michael Young be Philly’s most popular new acquisition of 2013?
A: That’s possible since I think he is a big, big pick-up for the Phillies. He was an All-Star at three different positions, including third base. Michael Young is a professional hitter. He has won a gold glove. He is a tremendous clubhouse guy. Yes, Philly is going to love him.
Q: What about Delmon Young?
A: I think he could hit 30 home runs this year, playing in that park [CBP]. He can hit. I think he will do fine in right field.
Q: So that squeezes Domonic Brown out of the picture.
A: I think it does. Brown is a great kid, but there are too many ways pitchers can attack him.
Q: You were very high on John Mayberry Jr. Would you still buy stock in Mayberry?
A: Absolutely. I still think he could become another Jayson Werth, which is exactly what this club could use. They would be so dangerous with a right-handed bat with power. I think Mayberry could become the guy they need if they kept him in the lineup everyday.
Q: What’s your take on Darin Ruf?
A: Either play him every day in Philly or in the minors. If he does start in left, I guarantee you this, he’ll be pitched to differently. Don’t think that he won’t be part of pitcher’s meetings.
Q: Can the Phillies compete with the Nationals and Braves?
A: Yes, I think they can. The Braves and Nationals added players but you can’t buy a team. I think there is something to team chemistry and I think the Phillies have that. I think they’ll be competitive. Everything that could have gone wrong last year did.
Q: Can Ryan Howard still put up big numbers?
A: I think so. I could see him hitting 35 or more homers and driving in 120-plus runs. If he and Chase Utley play well, watch out. Look at what the Phillies did during the second half when Howard and Utley were back and healthy.
Q: Can Kyle Kendrick be consistent for an entire season?
A: I think Kyle can do the job. Now he has a split and a slider that he can locate. If he locates, he can win. Last year, he threw the ball exceptionally well. He can be the fourth guy on the staff and John Lannan will be five. The Phillies certainly have a shot at he playoffs with that pitching staff. If the Phillies are healthy in 2013, they could be very dangerous.
Q: Harry Kalas once said, ‘Chase Utley, you are the man.’ Who is ‘the man’ on the 2013 Phillies?
A: Jimmy. If Jimmy Rollins is smiling , well, that team is winning. Jimmy will hit leadoff and that kid Ben Revere, who is as nice as can be, will bat down in the order. If Jimmy is smiling, the Phillies are winning. I expect some wins for Charlie [Manuel] this season.
Mitch’s batting average
As a prognosticator, Williams has hit some out of the ballpark and others, well, not so far. Here’s a look at Williams’ take on the Phillies in previous seasons.
Williams view of Ryan Howard:
“Anyone who complains about Ryan Howard in Philadelphia is out of their mind.”
Our take: Agreed. The Big Piece has been incredibly productive for his entire Phillies career. Even when way less than 100 percent, Howard somehow drove in 56 runs in 71 games on one leg. Impressive.
On Antonio Bastardo:
“He fell in love with his slider way too much.” Williams believes that’s why Antonio Bastardo was so bad for most of the 2012 season.
Our take: That’s on the money. Bastardo should have relied on his fastball.
Williams on Mayberry:
“John Mayberry Jr. will hit 30 home runs.”
Our take: Mayberry failed to seize opportunity.
On Cole Hamels getting a new contract:
“There is no chance that the Phillies will re-sign Cole Hamels.”
Our take: Williams made the prediction just before last year’s All-Star Game. That was by far the lone great moment for the Phillies in 2012. Hamels left so much money on the table to continue his relationship with the Phillies. If King Felix is getting $175 million, what’s King Cole worth?