By Barry Jeffrey, Jr.:
The Phillies have solid starting players, from the on field eight through the rotation and the bullpen. No one really can question that, if everyone is healthy, but what about the bench and the depth below the major league levels. Any team that suffers injuries to key members of their starting line ups almost always has a regression in the talent it is putting on the field. It’s a natural selection type of thing. After all, if the player who is coming off the bench was as good as the player he is replacing, well he would be the starter in the first place. Last year the Phillies had several injuries, as has been mentioned, and it showed in some of the inconsistent play and numbers that the team put up. The injury bug hit several teams, the Red Sox, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Minnesota, and the Mets all had several injuries. This shows how good depth can help a team stay playing at a top level during the season.
Last year when Jimmy Rollins got hurt the first time, Juan Castro was forced into the starting lineup. Castro is an excellent glove man but his bat left a black hole in the lineup. Luckily for the Phillies they had some depth behind Castro in Wilson Valdez. Valdez played above his head and stabilized the infield filling in for Rollins, Polanco, and later Chase Utley. His play was enough that the Phillies actually released the struggling Castro and made Valdez the utility man on the bench. Going into this year Valdez is once again the utility infielder. Behind him the Phillies still have slick fielding no hit Brian Bocock and they added John Barfield, a former prospect of the Padres. They also acquired a wild card named Michael Martinez in the rule 5 draft and have Delwyn Young in the mix as well.
The bench last year had some good spots and some bad. Greg Dobbs and Castro were part of the bad, while Castro was released, Dobbs hung around. Even after being sent down to the minor leagues twice Dobbs still somehow managed to come back in September. Dobbs problems was not only hitting, his fielding also took a nose dive. This offseason the Phillies said goodbye to Dobbs and brought in a few players who can do the same things he can in Rob Quinlan and Jeff Larish. Quinlan is a right hander who had some success with the Angels, though none of it recently as he spent the majority of his time at AAA last year. Larish is a left hander who has had good minor league success but hasn’t translated it into the majors yet, though he is still under 30 years old and may surprise. Larish is my pick to be a diamond in the rough acquisition that helps the team. Both players are like Dobbs in that they can play first, third, and both outfield corner spots. Though I think Larish has a better glove at the positions than Dobbs does.
Barry Jeffrey Jr. writes “The Crow’s Nest” column for PSC.
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