In 2003, Jayson Werth suffered his first left wrist injury, and it sidetracked a young star who was prepared to be an everyday major league starter. At age 24, just before Opening Day 2004, a finally healthy Werth was traded to the Dodgers, as the Blue Jays sought pitching. Despite a DL appearance, Werth put together a fairly nice season, homering 16 times and hitting .262 in just 89 games.
But in his first Spring Training game of 2005, Werth got knocked again in the left wrist, sending him back on the DL. He’d miss the first 44 games of the 2005 season. Hitting just .234, he felt wrist troubles all season, and on Nov. 17, 2005, Werth had arthroscopic left wrist surgery. He’d have another wrist surgery in April 2006. He’d miss all of that season.
When the Phillies signed Werth on Dec. 18, 2006, they were taking on a guy who had an athletic frame and generous talent, but a laundry list of problems getting his career kick-started. The spawn of the Schofield family, Jayson had the make to surpass his family members as the best of his lineage. But it didn’t seem possible when the Phillies took their gamble.
The 2007 season saw more fumbling, as if Jayson were trying to ride a bicycle again. He hit eight homers and drove in 49, hitting .298 in the process. But he also suffered another left wrist setback, hitting the DL for a full month midseason. Werth seemed poised to spend his career as a fourth outfielder with a history of wrist problems … but 2008 changed everything.
Without wrist problems, Werth hit 24 home runs for the Phillies in 2008, playing the most professional games of his career. His .498 slugging percentage confirmed his ability to produce runs, and his breakout game May 16 against Toronto turned him into an offensive star in Philadelphia. By the postseason, reports about the dangerous Phillie offense included Werth, and how — Jayson hit .313 in the Division Series and .444 (slugging .583) in the World Series, probably the team’s best offensive weapon in the Series.
Moreover, Werth’s emergence justified moving Aaron Rowand in the offseason. The celebrated outfielder took a long-term deal with the Giants, and hit .271 with 13 HR and 70 RBI for San Francisco. Werth bested him overall, playing in fewer games.
People also pondered the effects of losing Rowand’s clubhouse leadership. As important as it may have been, the Phillies seemed to gel in 2008 because of guys like Werth: tough guys who play for the big moments. And hearing him in a post-victory interview, brutally hoarse from yelling throughout the postseason, you can tell Werth was one of the vocal leaders of the team.
Werth meant a lot to the Phils in a lot of places. He may overcompensate at times on defense, but he recorded no errors in right field in 2008. Moreover, his nine outfield assists made him a threat for any baserunner. Combine that play with his above-average speed and long stride, and you have a five-tool player who just hadn’t been able to get it all together. In 2008, Werth got it all together, and was crucial to the world championship.