It seems that Jayson Werth is becoming a bit of a celebrity in the Delaware Valley. Three articles yesterday – one in the Inquirer, one in The News Journal and one on Phillies.com – chronicled the injury-plagued career of the Phillies new 4th outfielder. For a guy who has over 50% of his potential contract tied to simply making the club, I wondered why he received so much ink today. Now what may have happened is that the Phils media people released a heart-warming account of Werth’s two-year comeback from wrist injury and Todd Zolecki, Scott Lauber and Ken Mandel ate it up like a Schmitter in the fourth-inning; but when you hear it, it is actually quite a remarkable tale.
In Spring Training of 2005, a misguided A.J. Burnett fastball sliced a ligament in Werth’s left wrist – early reports placed the recovery time at two weeks. A fortnight came and went, and Werth still had pain, so he opted for surgery. After the initial surgery failed and all hope seemed lost for a return to professional baseball, Jayson got wise to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. They fixed him up good and yesterday he took BP in Clearwater with no complaints. Both he and Ruben Amaro expect him to be at 100% for the upcoming season. The question then is, how good is 100%?
Werth is a career .245 hitter. I use the word "career" loosely because other than a few cups of coffee in 2002 and 2003, Jayson has only played in 89 games in 2004 and 102 games in 2005 (0 last season). However in 2004, he had a career year going .262/.338/.486 with 16 HR and 47 RBI. Although he will strikeout a lot, he hits the curveball well and can be a flyball hitter. In his two full years in the majors he went 3 for 11 as a pinch hitter with one homer and four RBIs. Still, Werth might well be the Phillies best right-handed bat off the bench when compared to the options of Ruiz/Barajas, Coste, Nunez, Roberson, and Sandoval.
Jayson is predominantly a left fielder but can play any outfield position as well as first base and catcher. His real value will be measured if one of the Phillies starting outfielders is injured as Werth is an able replacement. We all know that with Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand as outfielders, injuries are never far away. For that reason, expect to see a good deal of Jayson Werth this year. If he stays healthy he could see at least 250 at-bats in 2007. That would be 250 more than he saw in 2006.