Amid the buzz over the Phillies pitching staff going into spring training, questions about the lineup had been relegated to the backs of most peoples' minds. Three key injuries later, and the Phillies are looking to fill significant gaps with the talent they have at the Triple-A level. Here is a look at the current injuries on the Phillies squad, and the implications they could have for the IronPigs.
Domonic Brown, ranked as the best prospect in the Phillies organization by Baseball America, had surgery on March 8 to repair a broken hamate bone in his right hand that he sustained being hit by a pitch. Brown and Ben Francisco were the lead candidates to start in right field for the Phillies in the wake of Jayson Werth's departure.
With Brown on the shelf for at least 4-6 weeks, Francisco is the clear favorite to start in right field. With one more bench spot open in the Phillies outfield, John Mayberry Jr. (.232-6-14 in 50 ML games) appears to be the lead candidate for the Phillies' fifth outfield job behind Ross Gload, who represents the primary utility option. Mayberry was fifth in the International League in runs scored and first on the IronPigs in extra-base hits in 2010.
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is currently suffering from patellar tendinitis, chondromalacia and bone inflammation in his right knee and has significant question marks around him as far as how much time he will miss. At the very least, he will be on the 15-day disabled list to start the season. Should the Phillies' worst fears pan out, he will be out of the picture for an extended period of time. To make matters worse, third baseman Placido Polanco hyper-extended his left elbow taking a swing; the same elbow that he had surgery on in November. At this point it does not appear to be overly serious, though he will likely miss Opening Day.
Fortunately for the Phillies, there are a host of options in players that would otherwise appear destined to start the year with the IronPigs. If Polanco and Utley miss time simultaneously, utility infielder Wilson Valdez would appear to be the first option at third base. There are a number of options for second base on the 40-man roster and beyond.
Perhaps making the best impression so far is Josh Barfield, who has gone 10-24 (.417) with two doubles and a triple so far in Grapefruit League play. In his major league career, Barfield has hit .264-16-112 in 309 games. In addition to second base, Barfield also has abilities in the outfield and on the base-paths with his above-average speed.
Another candidate is Michael Martinez. A Rule 5 pick for the Phillies this past winter, Martinez has shown some flash with a glove at second and would be a good defensive option. Although he has yet to make his debut in the majors, he has proven his mettle against pitching at every other level and has gone 11-36 (.306) with a homer and two doubles in Grapefruit League play this spring.
Pete Orr and Delwyn Young are the veteran options that could be utilized at second base. Delwyn Young has the most pop between the two options (.258-17-81), however his defensive abilities at second base may be a bit more in question than those of the Phillies' other options. Orr is extremely versatile defensively, and played every position except first base, pitcher, and catcher in 2010. He is a lifetime .262 hitter in the minors, and .260 hitter in the majors. Though consistent, Orr does not have the power numbers that Young has and would be seen as a defensive upgrade over Young.
The depth of Major League ready talent at the Triple-A level is a great asset in the Phillies organization - as it was a year ago when the IronPigs sent up 14 players to Philadelphia. When these players are not being used to absorb injuries on the Phillies' roster, it should prove exciting for IronPigs fans to watch players compete for whatever the next open roster spot may be.