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PN 2009 Season Preview: Injury or Bust-Through For Werth

Of the many moments that defined the once-in-a-lifetime 2008 season, the most stupendous individual moment was likely the night Jayson Werth lit up the cloudy sky with three home runs. Like a youngster, Werth trotted around the bases with the wind tearing away from his back, a confidence growing that would balloon throughout the season. It capped in the World Series, game four, when he slammed a ball into the left field seats, exclaiming the Phils victory with a raised arm and single finger.

Yes, he broke through the glass ceiling and turned into a profitable player in 2008. But Jayson Werth remains a huge, huge risk.

The good numbers are good. In 482 plate appearances in 2008 Werth homered 24 times, drove in 67 runners and stole 20 bases. But the bad numbers stick out. In those same 482 appearances Werth struck out 119 times. That’s almost Howardesque. But that’s not the worst number — no, it’s the 482 that hurts the most.

Werth missed time between May 23 and June 6. He sat at times in June, partly in a platoon, partly still hurt. Go back to 2007, when he missed most of late June and the entirety of July. Before those seasons, Werth was often injured; in fact, injuries seemed to conclude his career until he came back with the Phillies. The bottom line: Nobody can be sure Werth will make it a whole year as a healthy commodity.

And what if Werth can’t make it? Can Geoff Jenkins pick up the slack on a dime? Is John Mayberry Jr. the solution? There’s a difference between being a conscious everyday player and having to step in immediately at the major league level. Moreover, there is small concern that Werth now remains the most important bat in the Phillies lineup, now that Pat Burrell is in Tampa Bay. Old-boy supporters of the left-right balance argue the Phils need a greater right-handed presence in the lineup. While this argument may not be fully fleshed, there is something to be said about getting production from both sides.

Of course, we all received a large helping of sighs as Werth struggled to find his form early in camp, staying out of lineups during the first two weeks. Now Werth is fully entrenched, and is finishing his Grapefruit League stint with impressive numbers (56 AB, .304 AVG, 5 HR, 11 RBI). The goal, of course, is to get him through an entire season without injury. If that happens, you could … could … be looking at a 30-home run player, a run producer with speed and defense to boot.

If the injury bug hits, though, there might not be another step up for Werth.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. NJ

    March 31, 2009 at 11:12 am

    There’s always too many questions at the same time as so few unanswered questions depending on which side your looking. Which Howard will we get/Howard’s proved he’s a monster, can the bullpen be healthy/see the best complete bullpen with depth, Werth injury/sleeper? I was a little uneasy about Werth as an everday guy last year but so many people are raving on the inside about Werth as a sleeper. The thing I’ve come to accept from this Phillies team is it won’t be pretty, the fundementals will disappear for complete games at a time and there are guys who’ll strike out at the rate Nolan Ryan dished them out, but come the end of year the money stats will be there and that’s what won the team a championship, it won’t be pretty but this isn’t a sabermetric team, we’re paying for the big stats. I expect Werth to have a decent year, he’s proved he’s hungry for AB’s and has all the talent in the world to have his best baseball still ahead of him.

  2. Manny

    March 31, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I think he’s finally gonna let loose and not think about his injuries. In his mind, he’s now an everyday player and won’t go out there everyday thinking “I might get hurt.” That should help him a lot. I project a 30-30 season for him.

  3. Ed

    March 31, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Werth is going to hit close to 40 homers and steal 30 bases. I really firmly believe that. Especially if he is hitting behind Howard as many think he will.

  4. Don M

    March 31, 2009 at 11:37 am

    I can see a 25-25, 30-30 season for Werth too… He’s much better than people give him credit for..

    .280, 28 HRs, 31 SB, 86 RBIs, 91 Runs Scored.. Double-Digit Outfield Assists..

  5. Ed

    March 31, 2009 at 11:39 am

    I’ll take that stat line Don. I’ll take it and i’ll love it.

  6. Chuck P

    March 31, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Those are phenomenal numbers, Don… I like Werth and I think that he can be a real force for us. I’m not sold on him as everyday protection behind Howard because of those strikeout numbers but he should absolutely be there against lefties because he is a masher against LHP.

  7. Don M

    March 31, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I just think Werth is a much better all-around player than Burrell.. and with the same amount of at-bats, his power numbers can be as good as, if not better than Burrell’s..

    He’s got above average speed.. and despite his mishaps in the WS, he’s a very good baserunner. .. Look for him to have a huge year, I bet my life on it

  8. dan

    March 31, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    The word “Howardesque” sounds too much like Howard Eskin

  9. Phil

    March 31, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I think Werth will have a stat line like this. .280/.380/.520 32 HR 27 SB 95 RBI 130 OPS+.

  10. Bruce

    March 31, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Chuck P says~ “..because he (Werth) is a masher against LHP.” How will he do against RHP? 😉

    NJ says~ “Which Howard will we get?” Which Howard are you looking for? 😉

  11. Brett

    March 31, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t at least one of his injuries due to getting hit by a pitch? I know he had a strained oblique last season, but other than that, I think a ot of his reputation for being “injury prone” is just plain bad luck.

  12. Dave S

    March 31, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Well I guess Jenkins won’t have a chance to pick up the slack…

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