By Barry Jeffrey Jr.:
Jayson Werth had some major struggles this year with RISP, but his overall value to the team is huge. His play down the stretch most likely means the Phillies will not have much of a chance to retain him. Having come to the Phillies from the Dodgers and coming off a major injury, Werth was regarded as a good fourth outfielder. Four years later all he has done is had a 3 homer game, wrestled the starting job from Geoff Jenkins, become an All Star, and been a force on both the offensive and defensive side of the game. He has also been a very good playoff performer. His batting eye, good power/speed combination, excellent glove, and rifle arm will make him one of the most sought free agents, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, and Tigers among the teams with a heavy interest in and a lot of cash to throw at the Phillies rightfielder.
If Werth goes elsewhere next year, the Phillies already have plans to try to replace him. Let us look at some of the options.
Domonic Brown: Brown is the favorite to replace Werth. Batting from the left side instead of Werth’s right and though the Phillies still have a left handed heavy line up, Brown will get the first crack at the right field job. Brown has torn up the minor leagues, showing both good power and speed. Enough so that before his call up, several people were calling him the best player in the minors. Upon his promotion to the majors, Brown struggled, hitting just .210 with a .257 OBP. Question about that is though, how much of that was because he was relegated to a bench role and not given many chances to get at bats after the Phillies starters all returned to the line up. Brown was also slowed by a leg injury towards the end of the season. The Phillies were going to send him to the Instructional League, then the Arizona Fall League, but shelved those plans to get Brown some playoff experience instead.
Brown should be able to replace Werth’s power and speed numbers. He has both good power and speed. His defense is probably just below Werth’s and his arm might also be a step down, but he is very adequate in the outfield. What he can not replace is Werth’s batting eye or count working. Brown at this point is much more impatient and his almost 5-1 K to BB ratio is well double of what Werth did. Brown is still very young though and has lots of room to grow. Brown would be a downgrade at first from Werth. If he pans out to what many think he can be however, his ceiling may be even higher than what we have experienced these last 3 years.
Ben Francisco: The Phillies current fourth outfielder and former starter in Cleveland before being acquired in the Cliff Lee trade is the second most likely player to get a chance at replacing Werth. Francisco is a lot like Brown in that he has a decent power/speed set, but he does not have Brown’s talent level. Francisco hits from the right side however and that should get him some at bats, even if Brown wins the job. He also is not a major count worker or someone who will take a lot of walks. His career OBP is just .329. His power numbers should be adequate playing in Citizen’s Bank Park over a full season. He hit 15 at the Jake in 447 at bats back in 2007. In Philly I see no reason that he could not get 20-25 if given the playing time. He won’t hit .300, probably not even .280, but the guy will give you some extra bases. Of his 48 hits this season, 19 of them were for extra bases. His base running has improved over the last few years, with the exception of the tripping on the bag gaff he had at third late in the season. Francisco stole 8 bases without being caught in 2010. He had 14 in 09, but was just 1 for 5 after coming over to the team. It looks like Davey Lopes working with him has paid off to some degree. He is not a speed burner ala Michael Bourne, but you won’t need massive amounts of Draino to unclog the bases if he is on them.
Defensively, like Werth he does have experience playing all three outfield positions.
Francisco is usually alright out there, but prone to have adventure moments at times. He is no where near close to Werth is coverage or arm.
Francisco could be a starter on a few teams across the league. He won’t make All Star games, or put up big numbers, but he will be a guy who will hold down a position and chip in now and then. That being said it is a major downgrade from Jayson Werth.
Ross Gload: Gload is another potential internal candidate but he has a few things working against him. He doesn’t have the power or speed potential of either Brown or Francisco. Being a left handed batter is somewhat of a hindrance and he is much too valuable as a pinch hitter to be playing a position in the every day line up. Add to that, his track record as a starter when he played in Kansas City (mostly at firstbase) was not very spectacular. His plus is he has an excellent batting eye and can hit for average and he makes good contact. He does not have a lot of power but he also does not strike out very much. He also does not take a lot of walks either.
Defensively he is very good, at firstbase. In the outfield he will not kill you with his glove, but he will not cover a lot of ground either. Arm is average.
Gload does not have much of a chance at replacing Werth and is a major downgrade if he does. He is too valuable as a member of the bench.
Other Candidates: There really is not any more internal candidates with much of a chance. John Mayberry Jr. has the power, adequate defense, and he can run, but still has not learned to hit breaking balls. Even though the Phillies think his play has improved, it is not improved enough to warrant real consideration. Tyson Gillies, another left handed hitter, could play the position defensively, but his hitting took a major downturn at Reading with his injuries and legal troubles. He is still at least one full season away (most likely 2) from being ready, if he ever is. Jonathan Singleton is far away and just learning to play the outfield. The lefty is not close to being ready. Michael Taylor was the only real major league talented outfielder in the system besides Brown, who was close. Of course he was traded in the Halladay deal. Gregg Dobbs will be gone at season’s end and he was basically like Gload, except he has forgotten how to hit. The rest of the minor league outfielders in the upper levels are organizational filler types.
External candidates are not really appealing either. Marcus Thames, Magglio Ordonez, Rick Ankiel, Rocco Baldelli, Brade Hawpe, Garrett Anderson are some of the names. All those players are major downgrades from Werth. Ordonez being the only one who might come close to hitting like Werth, but his age, health, and his awful defense along with his asking price should give any team pause that does not the DH. Thames is the same, a DH. He can hit for power, but keep him off the field. Hawpe has some skill but is another lefty and has awful numbers outside of Colorado. The rest are not even worth discussing. I did not mention Carl Crawford for a big reason. I do not think the Phillies will pursue him because of his price, which might be even higher than Werth’s. Pat Burrell was also not mentioned because I believe the Giants will resign him and if they don’t I know San Diego has a big interest in him.
A way out of the box suggestion I saw was to trade for Dan Uggla and make him the rightfielder. No one knows if Uggla could make the transition. Memories of Gregg Jefferies playing the outfield make me shudder that Uggla may play outfield as well as he plays the infield. No arguing with his power and that he does take some walks, but that is a lot of strikeouts to add to a line up that strikes out quite a bit already. Question is, why would Florida move him within the division? I mean Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill are not Andy Reid. Another is, what he would cost, in players, and in cash since the Marlins haven’t been able to meet his contract demands for an extension. It would be a big cash investment for such a question mark.
If Werth is not resigned the best bet right now is to hope Brown is ready, with Francisco getting some at bats against the tougher lefties. Other than a trade of some kind there is no real way the Phillies will fully be able to replace Werth’s overall production on both the offensive and defensive side.
So what is Jayson Werth? An All Star who is worth quite a lot. Here is to hoping that his replacements, if they are needed, can give us a reasonable replacement of what he brought to the Phillies. In Brown We Trust… and hope.
Barry Jeffrey Jr. writes “The Crow’s Nest” column for PSC.
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