2009 MLB Preview: #8 Philadelphia Phillies

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Offseason Movement: The defending World Series champs added 2B Miguel Cairo, OF Raul Ibanez, C Ronny Paulino and pitchers Gary Majewski and Chan Ho Park this offseason. Philly also parted with OF Pat Burrell, OF So Taguchi and pitchers Adam Eaton, Tom Gordon and Rudy Seanez.

Top Prospect: Carlos Carrasco, RHP
Carrasco enters 2009 as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball and if Chan Ho Park struggles as the fifth starter, there’s a chance that Carrasco might make an appearance at some point this season. He appears to have a very high ceiling and while he’s still a bit erratic at times, Carrasco will likely smooth out his rough spots in Triple-A before making the big league roster.

The Big Question: Is the starting rotation good enough to repeat?
Cole Hamels is one of baseball’s best young arms, but he had to receive an anti-inflammatory injection in his left elbow in mid-March and there’s some concern that the injury could flair up again. If he shows no ill effects, then he’ll once again head a pretty solid starting rotation, but one that once again won’t be overpowering. Brett Myers struggled last year, while Jamie Moyer was outstanding but at 46 years old can he produce another 16-win season? Joe Blanton turned out to be a solid addition at the trade deadline last year, but don’t forget his career ERA is 4.24 and he’s liable to lose as many games as he wins. Chan Ho Park has had a decent spring but he hasn’t won more than nine games since 2002. (Of course, a 9-win season from a fifth starter would be pretty damn good.) The Phillies could do incredibly worse than this starting rotation, but will it be enough to get them back to the Series?

Outlook: The Phils’ lineup is absolutely stacked and there might not be a better 1 through 4 of Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the NL. But despite winning it all last year, Philly doesn’t come without its question marks. Utley and starting 3B Pedro Feliz each had offseason surgery and although they haven’t suffered any setbacks to this point, you just never know how the effects of a full season can have on an injury. As previously mentioned, the starting rotation is pretty solid but the law of averages suggests that Jamie Moyer won’t win 16 games again this season and Joe Blanton’s ceiling seems about maxed. Is Cole Hamels healthy? Can Brett Myers rebound? Some feel as though the Phillies are destined for another NL East crown, but the Mets are stacked and the Braves and Marlins should give opponents fits this year, too. Philly is going to win some games this year and probably make another postseason appearance. But back-to-back World Series titles will be tough.

Projection: 2nd NL East

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