Opening Day, is here at last, after the winter that seemed as if it would never end. The joy that usually accompanies this annual rite of spring is somewhat tempered by the doom and gloom forecast for this 2014 edition of the Phillies. Most prognosticators are picking the Phillies to finish 4th, with some going so far as to pick them dead last, below even the lowly Marlins. This forecast is likely going to be accurate, but, being of an optimistic nature, I’m going to go the other way. I think the Phillies, despite their age, are going to be healthy. And if they are healthy, they have the potential to be quite formidable. If the core four of Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Ruiz can play 130 games each, and can perform at 80% of their best, they form a strong lineup. Couple that with Marlon Byrd, who seemed to put it all together last year, an experienced Domonic Brown, who won’t be expected to carry the offense this year, and young players Ben Revere and Cody Asche and the offense could be much stronger than anyone anticipates.
The rotation with Lee, Hamels, and Burnett , has three starters that match up with anyone, while Kendrick and Hernandez in the four and five spots are equivalent to most other teams fourth and fifth starters. They also have Jeff Manship and Jonathan Pettitbone waiting in the wings should anyone falter.
The bullpen could actually be a strength for the Phillies this year as some of the promising young arms that were baptized by fire the last couple of years seem to have benefited from the experience, having shown signs of putting it all together in spring training.
The bench is still week, the rotation a little thin, and, if the injury bug strikes again the Phillies aren’t deep enough to replace their stars, but if they remain healthy, they could be stronger than anyone thinks, perhaps even strong enough to prop that fabled window of opportunity open one last time.