A Dose of Optimism

With the Cole Hamels scare yesterday, I figure we Phillies fans need something to lift our spirits. You’re up, Jayson Stark:

Jason Donald, Phillies (.350, 9 runs scored): With Jimmy Rollins off on WBC duty and both Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz recovering from surgery, Donald has gotten 40 at-bats already at second, third and short. And he’s done nothing to dissuade the Phillies from thinking he might be ready to help them right now. “He really grows on you,” said an NL scout. “I don’t think I’ve seen him strike out yet. He reads pitches well. He squares up the ball consistently. I like him a lot. He’s got some baseball player in him.”

There’s a bit of hyperbole in there: Jason Donald has struck out — 7 times in 44 at-bats, in fact, this spring training. But he has just as many walks and a slash line of .318/.423/.409. The SLG is a bit concerning as only three of his 14 hits have gone for extra bases, but the Phillies will take a similar line over Pedro Feliz (.249/.302/.402).

If the Phillies intend to use Donald at third base, the question simply becomes “How good is his defense?” Feliz last season contributed 7.8 fielding runs which nearly offset his -9.8 batting runs. If Donald can be noticeably better than -2 runs, the Phillies should at least put him in to spell Feliz, if not have them both split time.

John Mayberry is another prospect making an impact in spring training. He has struck out way too much (14 of ‘em) and hasn’t walked nearly enough (only two) in 43 spring training at-bats. That’s a BB/K of only .14, and it hasn’t been higher than .5 in his Minor League career. However, if Mayberry can slug anywhere close to the .558 slugging percentage he has now, he would be an excellent addition to the Phillies’ bench and would be extremely useful if the Phillies brass could find the stones to platoon a player on whom they spent $31.5 million.

Miguel Cairo, anyone? Dude is slugging .630 in 27 spring training at-bats. He’s always been good with the glove, though he’s been regressing since 2006. Anything above his .672 career OPS would be nice and he could find a spot on the Opening Day roster if the Phillies find a way to dump Geoff Jenkins and/or Matt Stairs (please, let it be Jenkins) and if Chris Coste doesn’t heal in time.

Assuming a five-man bench, the Phillies could go with Greg Dobbs, John Mayberry, Eric Bruntlett, Jason Donald, and Ronny Paulino. That’s a balanced, above-average bench.

Further down in Stark’s article, we do have a dose of pessimism regarding Kyle Kendrick.

Kyle Kendrick, Phillies (1-1, 14.29 ERA, 5 2/3 IP, 14 H, 3 HR): Kendrick has fallen so far behind J.A. Happ and Chan Ho Park in the Phillies’ fifth-starter derby, there is speculation the Phillies could even trade him before Opening Day. “He’s got options left, so they don’t have to move him. But they’d have to think about it,” said one NL scout. “I don’t see where he fits, quite honestly. You want to root for this kid, but the more you see him, the more obvious it gets that he doesn’t have enough stuff. He needs to come up with another pitch to get the hitters off that sinker.”

I’m normally not one to brag but I told you so. And I told you so. I should be a scout.

What’s that? I predicted a Rockies-Indians World Series in 2008? Mike Hampton for the 2008 NL Comeback Player of the Year award? Aaron Harang for the 2008 NL Cy Young?

Maybe I should leave the scout stuff to the professionals.

Want to go back to the optimism? I think the Phillies can win the NL East without Cole Hamels for an entire season. How, you ask? As I stated on FanGraphs:

According to FanGraphs, Hamels was worth 4.6 wins last season. I believe that is adjusted for replacement level but correct me if I’m wrong. And most projections have Happ and Park being above replacement level. The drop from Hamels to whoever gets bumped into the rotation (i.e. the loser of the Happ/Park duel) is large, but not quite as large if, say, it was Hamels to Adam Eaton. In other words, losing Hamels might result in a loss of three wins or so.

[…]

…as long as Happ and Park are as good as most of the projections have them being, which is in the low 4’s in ERA. If the Phillies are projected to be, say, a 91-win team, then Hamels’ ~4.5 wins and Happ/Park’s ~1.0 or so would put them at around 87-88.

That assumes that the Phillies are a 91-win team at present with a healthy Cole Hamels. That, certainly, is debatable.