Though there will be several new faces on the Phillies 2006 roster, some of the best potential for new contributors lay in those players that were on the club last season but will be seeing more playing time. While Chase Utley is the obvious example here, with the departures of Jason Michaels, Kenny Lofton, and Endy Chavez, there will be a lot more of Shane Victorino in the lineup. Earlier today the Baseball Prospectus 2006 preview made it around to the Phillies and Jeff Hildebrand (of the under-construction Phillies Foul Balls) noted that Victorino is due for a breakout season:
Last year’s PECOTA projection didn’t see much future for [Victorino], projecting a .240 EQA and a -2.2 VORP. In light of all that, this year’s PECOTA projection is nothing short of astounding, with an EQA of .266 and an a VORP of 18.4. What accounts for the change? In short, he finally put together the ability to handle the strike zone with a respectable amount of power. During his previous seasons he had occasionally shown decent plate discipline or a flash of power, but never both at the same time. Something fell into place last season and he was able to put up a .377 OBP at Scranton while still hitting 59 extra base hits.
…and as we all remember his 21 games for the Phillies at the end end of the season showed that he can contribute regularly and on occasion be counted on in the clutch.
So there will be a little bit of pressure riding on Shane this season. He will see regular playing time in all the outfield positions – especially if Charlie Manuel reads our last post about giving Abreu a few days rest next year, but also if Burrell relieves Howard at first for any number of games. If the latter does actually happen when a lefty is on the mound for the opposition, it could be a win-win situation in sitting Howard. In switch-hitting Shane Victorino’s one and only AB versus a lefty last season he hit a 3-run home run. Now of course that can’t happen all the time, nor should Howard not be given the chance to learn to hit lefties but it is nonetheless an interesting fact for Manuel to keep in mind when drafting the lineup. Thus he should be a more than adequate replacement for Jason Michaels with significantly less off field drama.
Finally, a quick announcement: Phillies Nation will be hosting a fantasy baseball league for the 2006 season – so order the new Baseball Prospectus, pop your Excel sheets open and get ready for a marathon year of roto fun. More details as to where it will be organized through, prizes and availability will be coming in the next month but feel free to start getting excited now!