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35 For 2008: 5 Villagers

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 two of the week-long series.

Yesterday: Something To Prove
Today: The Villagers
Tomorrow: Great … Or Good Enough
Thursday: Rubber Rodents
Friday: More Integral Than You Think
Saturday: B-Minus
Sunday: The Foundation

The Villagers: Chad Durbin, Brandon Watson, Shane Youman, Chris Snelling, Francisco Rosario

The term that originated somewhere at Beerleaguer and took shape in 2007 was “Value Village.” In this land were the cheap, safety signings Pat Gillick seemed to make weekly during 2007. To start 2008, we have five who fit well in this category. They may not be huge contributors … but they could be.

Chad Durbin (SP)
Role: Fifth Starter and Spot Starter
Acquired: Signed as a free agent by Phillies, 2007

Your big pitching signing of 2007, so far, is the acquisition of Chad Durbin. Yes, the Chad Durbin. The 30-year-old actually had a passable year in 2007, going 8-7 with a 4.72 ERA for Detroit. Of course, he also has a penchant for giving up more hits than he should, so pitching at Citizens Bank Park should be a ride and a half.

Durbin was picked up to be Adam Eaton’s main challenger for the fifth starting spot. Though Eaton has the edge at the moment, an injury or any poor play by Mr. 6 ERA means Durbin could see himself starting Game No. 5 (or No. 9) for the Phillies. How many games will he start? Probably more than five, but likely less than 12.

I would love if Durbin (or Eaton) could turn into a dependable middle relief guy for 2008, but that probably won’t be the case. Most likely, Durbin will be starting here and there, while mopping up for Eaton (and others). But don’t expect anything world-turning from Durbin. It just wouldn’t be right.

Predicted 2008: 73.2 IP / 4-4 / 0 SV / 5.25 ERA / 1.401 WHIP

Brandon Watson (OF)
Role: Pinch Runner and Defensive Replacement
Acquired: Signed to Minor League deal by Phillies, 2007

Brandon Watson, for me, headed the list of seven who were inked in one day in November. At 26, Watson has shown to have some hitting prowess; moreover, he’s a lightning-quick runner.

Last season, Michael Bourn became a name through pinch running, spot starts and late-inning defense. He didn’t hit much, but provided a spark — he stole 18 bases in 2007 while being caught just once. Because of this, he’s leading off on opening day for the 2008 Astros. Watson could find himself the same success if he sticks to that template.

Of course, Watson may not even get a shot, with So Taguchi and Chris Snelling above him on the depth chart. But, as the season is a marathon, Watston will become an option at some point. He may not have Bourn-ian numbers, but he could be of fresh value to the Phils.

Predicted 2008: 29 AB / .241 / 0 HR / 3 RBI / 5 SB / .729 OPS

Shane Youman (RP)
Role: Left-handed One Out Guy
Acquired: Signed from waivers by Phillies, 2007

Between starting and relieving, Shane Youman did a whole lot of whatever for the 2007 Pirates. And doing a whole lot of whatever for the 2007 Pirates means your 2008 is becoming a do-or-die sitation. At 28, Youman has to make a splash sooner than later, and 2008 is perfect.

The Phils will try out a slew of LOOGYs between now and opening day, with Youman likely leading the pack to start. He doesn’t have electric stuff, but he has a nice fastball, and lefties aren’t terribly good against him. For better or worse, he’ll be given a strong shot to succeed.

Can Youman deliver and be dependable for a division winner after a poor year with a basement dweller? The likely answer is “no,” but with a new year comes new hopes. Don’t get excited about Youman, and if Shane is removed by May 15 for the younger options of Mike Zagurski and Fabio Castro, don’t be alarmed.

Predicted 2008: 15.1 IP / 0-2 / 0 SV / 5.28 ERA / 1.531 WHIP

Chris Snelling (OF)
Role: First Hitter Called Up From AAA
Acquired: Signed as a free agent by Phillies, 2007

In four seasons, Snelling has amounted one a third of Jimmy Rollins’ 2007 at bats. Yes, that’s true. Actually, Rollins has about 50 more than him after that. Wow.

Snelling is a talented hitter, and for our sake, can project into a Jason Michaels-type player. That bodes well for him — if Michaels can parlay fifth outfielder success into a starting job for a division champion, anyone can do anything. He never stayed in one place too long (a great 65-game stint in Tacoma in 2005 led to his promotion to Seattle), so his inability to succeed for good may just be due to lack of comfort.

Sadly, I don’t think Snelling will be in one place too long in 2008. He’s the No. 6 outfielder behind a smattering of veterans and established starters, but will probably see some time once someone goes down (and chances are someone will). Look for Snelling to provide a key hit or two in 2008, and not be a considerable mistake for Pat Gillick. Maybe, just maybe, 2009 will see him up in the Majors for good.

Predicted 2008: 57 AB / .280 / 1 HR / 9 RBI / 2 SB / .794 OPS

Francisco Rosario (RP)
Role: Sixth or Fifth Inning Reliever
Acquired: Signed from waivers by Phillies, 2007

Last season, Rosario was an early pickup once the pitching staff began to deteriorate. He got 26.1 innings from the Phillies, and showed, at the very least, a strong strikeout ratio. Other than that, however, Rosario got knocked around, and was never relied upon as a key bullpen piece.

In 2008, like 2007, Rosario could see a middle relief role, and for a couple dozen innings. While he’s never translated Minor League success to the Bigs, he has good pitches. Then again, he’s wild, walking close to one batter per inning for his career.

Is Rosario in the Opening Day bullpen? He’s not my first choice. But as we’ve learned lately with Phillies pitching, the first-through-12th choices will toe the rubber at some point. I will say that lately, Rosario has pitched well in the Caribbean Series, making him a more desirable bullpen candidate than most.

Predicted 2008: 31.1 IP / 1-1 / 0 SV / 3.74 ERA / 1.311 WHIP

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