The Phillies will go into the 2015 season without Jimmy Rollins for the first time in 14 years, so how will this affect the starting lineup on opening day against the Red Sox? Here’s what I think the Phillies’ opening day lineup will look like.
1. Let’s start at the top, where there’s no question that Ben Revere will again be the everyday leadoff hitter in 2015. Since joining the Phillies in 2013, Revere has played 165 games in the leadoff position, and has a career .288 batting average with a .321 on-base percentage batting leadoff. Last season, Revere finished with a .306 batting average, and was in contention for the NL batting title in September, but eventually fell to fifth. What makes Revere such a valuable leadoff hitter is his ability to hit both left-handed and right-handed pitching. Revere finished with a .291 batting average against righties, and an even better .341 against lefties. His speed is also a valuable asset to have at the top of the lineup, but if Revere can work on anything it’s his plate discipline. Revere finished the 2014 season with only 13 walks, putting him towards the bottom amongst leadoff hitters. To put that number into perspective, Jimmy Rollins worked 11 walks in 74 at-bats, while Revere only worked 13 in 547.
2. This is one of the biggest question marks going into the 2015 season; who will bat second? Ryne Sandberg will likely experiment with several different players in this spot in the lineup, but for opening day, I believe Freddy Galvis will get the nod. With Jimmy Rollins now a Dodger, Galvis will likely be the major beneficiary, and get most of the starts at shortstop this season. In his career batting second, Galvis has a .216 batting average in 51 at bats. What makes him an attractive option in the two-hole, however, is the fact that he is a pull hitter from the left side of the plate. In his career, Galvis has a .342 batting average when pulling the ball as a LHB. If Revere is able to make it to first in front of him, there will be a huge gap open on the right side for Galvis, and if that’s the case, the Phillies could see plenty of first and third, no out situations.
3. As still the best overall hitter on the Phillies, I expect Chase Utley to return to his usual spot in the lineup on opening day. Utley has played 980 total games batting third, and has a career .283 batting average, a .372 on-base percentage, and has 602 total RBIs. Last season, Utley played 146 games from the three-hole, and finished with a .274 batting average while driving in 77 RBIs. This is a no brainer for Sandberg since the three spot in the lineup is reserved for a team’s best hitter. Utley is still the team’s best overall hitter, so he belongs there, no questions asked.
4. This is where things get interesting. For years, Phillies fans have grown accustomed to Chase Utley in the three-spot, and Ryan Howard in the cleanup role. However, Sandberg showed last season that he is willing to tinker with the lineup depending on the pitching matchup, and how players are performing. Last season, Howard played 137 games from the cleanup spot, but I firmly believe that Darin Ruf will be the Phillies’ cleanup hitter on opening day. Whether that will continue during the season is yet to be seen, but I believe that Sandberg will want to split up the lefties in the middle of the lineup to cause matchup issues for opposing teams. For the first time in his MLB career, Ruf will go into a season as an every-day starter. In order to see what he is truly capable of, batting him cleanup is the way to go. In his career, Ruf has started 11 games in the cleanup spot. In 41 at-bats, Ruf is batting .244 with three home runs and five RBIs. We know Ruf has cleanup hitter power, but will he be able to drive in runs with risp? In 91 carerr at-bats with risp, Ruf is hitting a dismal .143 with two home runs and 26 RBIs.
5. With Ruf occupying the cleanup spot, Ryan Howard will be behind him, batting fifth on opening day. Last season, Howard played 10 games batting fifth, and finished with only a .216 average in 37 at-bats. In his career, Howard has a.268 batting average in 298 at-bats in the five hole, and has hit 28 home runs and driven in 70. If Ruf’s average with risp continues, Howard should have plenty of RBI opportunities.
6. Carlos Ruiz will slide right into the sixth spot in the lineup on opening day for the Phillies. In his career, Chooch has had the most success batting sixth. In 193 at-bats, Ruiz has a .326 batting average with a .422 on-base percentage. Ruiz has also been very clutch in his career with risp. In 736 at-bats, Ruiz has a .291 average with nine home runs and 284 RBIs. In 43 at-bats batting sixth last season, Ruiz hit .349 with a .905 OPS while hitting one home run and driving in four.
7. Drum roll please……batting seventh on opening day for your 2015 Philadelphia Phillies is the infamous Dominic Brown. We all know about Brown’s struggles last season, and I think that as the season progresses, Brown will either move up in the lineup, or not be in it at all. For opening day, however, he should be batting seventh behind Ruiz to further break up the lefties. In 252 career at-bats in the seven hole, Brown is hitting .246 with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs. Last season, Brown had 92 at-bats batting seventh, and hit .250 with only a .289 on-base percentage. One thing Brown did have going for him last season was his average with risp. In 118 at-bats with risp last season, Brown hit .300 and drove in 55. Brown will not have as many opportunities to drive in runs from the seven spot, but if he’s able to come up clutch when those moments come, expect Sandberg to move him up in the lineup as the season moves along.
8. The eight spot is usually reserved for the worst hitter in the starting lineup, but that’s not the case here. Cody Asche in my mind is poised to have a breakout season, but on opening day, he will find himself at the bottom of the lineup. In 222 career at-bats batting eighth, Asche has .258 average with six home runs, 22 RBIs, and an on-base percentage of .335, which is the highest he has batting in in any spot in the lineup. Asche isn’t the prototypical eight hole batter because he’s an aggressive hitter, and doesn’t draw many walks. He has only 48 walks in 559 career at-bats, and in the eight spot, it’s important to draw your share of walks to get the pitcher out of the way in order to flip the lineup over. I don’t see Asche staying in the eight hole for very long, but for opening day, he’ll be there.
9. This one is a no-brainer. Barring any improbable last-minute trades, Cole Hamels will be the Phillies opening day pitcher, and will bat ninth in the lineup. Hamels has always been an above average hitting pitcher, and has a .174 batting average in 568 career at-bats. He also has 28 RBIs, one home run, and even two triples in his career.
So to recap, here’s what I believe the Phillies’ starting lineup will look like on opening day against the Red Sox. This lineup looks pretty good on paper, but time will tell how effective this offense will be in 2015.
1. Ben Revere
2. Freddy Galvis
3. Chase Utley
4. Darin Ruf
5. Ryan Howard
6. Carlos Ruiz
7. Dominic Brown
8. Cody Asche
9. Cole Hamels