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Question: What has surprised you the most about the Phillies thus far in Spring Training?
Don McGettigan (@DonM409): The biggest surprise to me has been the lack of offense from Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard (hitting .211, .196, and .245 respectively). It’s not that I expected great numbers, or some complete rejuvenation, but I anticipated that the heart of the lineup would buy into the plea for better at bats from the coaching staff. The only chance this team has to contend is to get production from the 2-3-4 spots in the lineup, and so far the intended lineup just hasn’t shown anything worth getting excited about.
Corey Seidman (@CoreySeidman): The biggest surprise for me has been Mario Hollands, the Phillies’ towering lefty pitcher who wasn’t even protected in the Rule 5 draft, but who has a genuine shot to make the team out of camp. Hollands could be an X-factor this year because of his versatility. He could be a long reliever, a spot starter, or a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out Guy). Why not give that all-purpose role to a guy like Hollands who has a mid-90s fastball and some upside, rather than a Jeff Manship or a Sean O’Sullivan or a Shawn Camp?
Jon Nisula (@JNisula): My biggest surprise is the Jimmy Rollins saga. One of the best players in Phillies history is being treated like a villain in already one of the worst offseasons in recent history. Regardless of what side you’re on with the J-Roll thing, this is just a horrible way to go into the season.
Pat Gallen (@PatGallen_975): Actually, the most surprising part of Spring Training has been the absolute lack of any mojo or juice pertaining to the team. No one is talking about the team in a positive way. You might say that isn’t surprising given the lack of good baseball over the past two seasons, but it still surprises me.
That falls more on the players. Very few Phillies have given us anything positive to report. But what’s surprising is that normally a player or two will jump off the page at you in a given Spring Training by hitting .400, smashing eight homers, or just being a complete unknown that turns heads. Corey describes Mario Hollands as that guy, but even he has pretty much flown under the radar.
Martin Shnayder (@MartyTempleU): The most surprising thing was the recent outrighting of Kevin Frandsen to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Ruben Amaro gave Frandsen a guaranteed contract ($900,000) after avoiding arbitration. Contracts that are given to avoid arbitration are normally non-guaranteed, so Frandsen is going to get paid by the Phillies regardless of if he plays inning for them this season. Despite Frandsen’s batting average plummeting from .338 in 2012 to .234 in 2013, he still led all of major league baseball with 14 pinch hits last year. Frandsen also only struck out 29 times in 278 plate appearances last year. His pinch hitting ability combined with his defensive versatility and clubhouse presence makes his potential departure from the ball club all that much more surprising.
Eric Seidman (@EricSeidman): The biggest surprise to me isn’t necessarily how well Tony Gwynn Jr. has played, but how much better he has played than John Mayberry Jr. over the last several seasons. My surprise is more of a statistical comparison I never thought to make.
From 2009-12, Gwynn has 5.5 WAR compared to Mayberry’s 1.9 WAR. Both have similar playing time in the span. Gwynn has a higher walk rate and lower strikeout rate than Mayberry. Gwynn has a +36 defensive rating compared to Mayberry’s -18. Gwynn has a +7.6 base running mark compared to Mayberry’s +0.1.
Mayberry obviously has more power, but Gwynn’s defense and base running more than make up for it. The Phillies guaranteed Mayberry a major league salary this season but Gwynn should not only make the roster, he should be the go-to defensive backup and pinch-runner. He is a much better player than Mayberry.
Kenny Ayres (@KennyAyres8): This is along the lines of some of the other answers, but the most surprising thing to me is the lack of urgency it seems like the players have right now. Yes, it is only Spring Training, but there is a reason teams do it, and it is to get ready for the season. It does not feel like more than maybe a handful of guys are ready or are treating this spring like it actually means something. Spring training is the time to start good habits, not fall back into bad ones. It just seems like this team has not been eager at all this spring and that is worrisome moving into the regular season.
Alex Lee (@AlexLeeTSR): I have to agree with Pat. I had very low expectations for this team in 2014, but I didn’t foresee them plummeting to even greater depths in Spring Training. In a season where they need a series of variables to go their way in order to even contend, pretty much everything has gone wrong to this point. Their older, injury-prone players seem healthy, but their performances have given us no reason to believe their skills aren’t on the decline. Meanwhile, a handful of their younger players will start the year on the disabled list. What a disaster. I don’t typically put much stock in Spring Training performances, but the utter lack of positive news coming out of Clearwater is pretty ominous considering how this team has been trending in recent years.
Pat Egan (@Pat_Egan): The most surprising thing to me is how Amaro has turned this team from a power house, to the laughing stock of the league. It seems like it was 10 years ago when our pitching staff was adorning the cover of Sports Illustrated. The regular season was simply an appetizer to what was sure to be a World Series championship, but that wasn’t 10 years ago, it was three. And that team didn’t even make the World Series, they lost in the NLDS. In that short amount of time the Phillies have gone from one of the best teams in MLB, to a joke. Signing guys like 40-year-old Bobby Abreu, while saying you plan to compete this season is a slap in the face to the fan base.
Ian Riccaboni (@IanRiccaboni): What has surprised me the most about Phillies Spring Training is that Ruben Amaro has emerged as the outright winner of his last big trade. The trade for Ben Revere (.345/.386/.423 with 5 SB) has never looked better with Vance Worley being outrighted off of the Twins roster and Trevor May not impressing in his brief Twins Spring Training cameo. With the questionable return for Cliff Lee and the haul he gave away for Hunter Pence in his history, it is easy to forget the wins Amaro has a general manager. Revere’s acquisition will likely join the first Lee acquisition as a trade that works out well in Phillies history.