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35 For 2008: 5 B-Minus Players

This week, I’m previewing the 2008 Phillies by presenting the 35 players — as of today — who will mean most for repeated success. I say “as of today” because this list will definitely change. Last year, a list like this wouldn’t have mentioned JC Romero or Kyle Kendrick, and would’ve mentioned Matt Smith and Rod Barajas.

For the series, I divided the 35 players into seven groups, each one to be presented daily. The groups have a common thread, which each player seems to follow as his 2008 mission. So I present to you part six of the week-long series.

Day 1: Something To Prove
Day 2: The Villagers
Day 3: Great … Or Good Enough
Day 4: Rubber Rodents
Day 5: More Integral Than You Think
Today: B-Minus
Day 7: The Foundation

B-Minus: Pat Burrell, Tom Gordon, Geoff Jenkins, Shane Victorino, Jamie Moyer
While these five players aren’t quite the best, they’re close enough. Each one of these players has had their brush (or will have their brush) with stardom. For some (Burrell, Jenkins) they are suitable, strong starters, for others (Myers, Gordon) they are pasture-ready veterans. But each will have to perform well in 2008 for the Phils to recapture the NL East.

Pat Burrell (LF)
Role: Secondary Power Source
Acquired: Drafted by Phillies, 1996

Sometime in late 2007, when the Phillies impossible dream was turning to reality, Pat Burrell became a fan favorite. Fans cheered him wildly. On Clinching Day, he was the first to hug Brett Myers. And why not? He was now the team’s senior member, the one who could actually remember Ron Gant in pinstripes. And he deserved it.

Burrell has received his share of flack, but has been somewhat consistent for his career. He’s posted close to 30 HR, close to 100 RBI, close to a .260 AVG. He’s a power hitter, a three-true-type guy. He’ll walk. He’ll strike out.

And yet, 2008 could be his best year yet. It’s his contract year, and every American League team will be scouting him hard for a DH spot. It’s his first real healthy year in some time. And it’s his first year where he won’t always be the immediate backup source for offensive juice. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, even Geoff Jenkins will be looked at as well. Burrell can relax. And he might do that — en route to a big year.

Predicted 2008: 496 AB / .282 AVG / 33 HR / 103 RBI / .904 OPS

Tom Gordon (RP)
Role: Right-handed Setup Man
Acquired: Signed as free agent by Phillies, 2005

The aging Gordon seems to be on his last legs, so the Phillies obviously did everything to tire him out during his tenure here. Originally Billy Wagner’s closer replacement, he was dethroned after an injury in 2007 (one everyone foresaw). He won’t be closer in 2008 either.

Gordon is best in small doses, as exhibited in September 2007 with the rise of JC Romero as a setup man. Still, Gordon was awesome in a two-inning spot on Clinching Day, and because of that and his late-season flurry, will be called upon to lay the last bridge bricks to Lidge.

At best, Gordon will remain healthy and lay those bricks well enough. At worst, he’ll injury early and often and perform horribly, forcing himself into retirement. We must really hope for the former, or at least something on the good side of it.

Predicted 2008: 58.2 IP / 3-2 / 3 SV / 53 K / 4.48 ERA / 1.378 WHIP

Geoff Jenkins (RF)
Role: Platooning Rightfielder
Acquired: Signed as free agent by Phillies, 2007

For years, Geoff Jenkins was a Tier Three outfielder, not the kind of guy you’d build your outfield around, but a guy who could command some notice by the opposition with each at bat. A left-handed Burrell, with maybe a little less talent.

In Jenkins, the Phillies now have a lefty bat worthy of commanding huge notice off the bench. The rest of his time with the Phils will be as a starter, and likely the No. 6 hitter. He’ll be looked at to provide steady power and occassional contact with some good fielding.

For two years, Jenkins may have been too much, but he should provide the bridge between the Burrell-Abreu era and an era that could include Greg Golson and, possibly, Adrian Cardenas. Will Jenkins match Burrell in offense? No. But hopefully he’ll contribute well.

Predicted 2008: 381 AB / .258 AVG / 16 HR / 49 RBI / .776 OPS

Shane Victorino (CF)
Role: Starting Centerfielder
Acquired: Drafted as Rule V player from Los Angeles Dodgers, 2004

One of the few Rule V players that have panned out for the team that drafted him, Victorino has turned into a starting outfielder, and the young backbone of the Phillies green. At 27, Victorino has two seasons of 400+ at bat ball, and he hit .287 and .281 in those seasons, with OPS+ scores that are close to the league average.

Yes, Victorino is league average. He’s more valuable because of his speed (37 steals in 2007) and strong defense (10 assists, 3 errors in ’07). But as he enters his prime years, there’s definite possibility Victorino will improve offensively.

Victorino seems set as the team’s No. 2 hitter, though he has fantastic numbers as the No. 6 hitter. He’ll likely start the whole season at the top of the order, and get a few substitutions throughout the season. If healthy, Vic would likely have a career year.

Predicted 2008: 561 AB / .281 AVG / 14 HR / 49 RBI / .770 OPS

Jamie Moyer (SP)
Role: No. 4 Starter and Teacher
Acquired: Traded from Seattle Mariners for Andrew Barb and Andy Baldwin, 2006

The ageless wonder is the oldest player in baseball, a 45-year-old flicker of dust. Yet he posted over 200 innings in 2007 and was the most important man on Clinching Day, providing the six-inning performance necessary to give the Phils the banner. His career isn’t Hall of Fame-worthy, but it’s long and filled with memories.

Like any man nearing the very end of his career, Moyer will probably fade out quickly. Without doubt, 2008 should be the last year of his career, and he’d surely like it to end with the only result he hasn’t seen: Holding up the World Championship trophy.

For Moyer to see success, it’d be without pitching 200 innings. I’m pessimistic with Moyer — injuries could quickly stop his career without fanfare; poor play could fade him out before the last days of September. The Phils should proceed with caution this year and hope some youngsters can help carry the No. 4 starter torch.

Predicted 2008: 162.1 IP / 8-7 / 88 K / 5.02 ERA / 1.401 WHIP

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