You might think Jayson Werth already had his breakout season last year, when he set career highs in nearly every category, made his first All-Star team and finished 17th in MVP voting. But there are a few reasons Werth might be even better this season.
1. He just might be warming up now, as last year was actually his first full year as a starting player (he split time the year before with
2. He remains perfectly placed as the prime right-handed threat in a lefty lineup that may be the best in baseball. Opposing teams will throw as many left-handers against the Phillies as they can find. Werth had a 1.080 OPS vs. left-handers last year compared to an .808 mark against right-handers.
3. He has yet to cash in for the big bucks befitting a star, and while the walk year can weigh on some players, he is the kind who can handle it.
"I feel like I played my whole career to get to this year,'' Werth said in an interview with SI.com just before the season started. "I signed in '97, and this is what we came for. If I do what I'm supposed to, everything will take care of itself.''
The pressure is off, he figures. "I feel like after what I did last year I kind of put the pressure on someone else,'' he said.
Finally, that's true. It's been a long, sometimes torturous ride for Werth, who was set back by a severe wrist injury while with the Dodger a few years back. It's hard to believe he didn't earn a full-time starting job until last year, when he turned 30. Seems like a lot of wasted time for someone this talented.
Yet, he never gave up hope that he'd one day become a star (or at least a starter), and last year he made the most of a chance that could have come many years before by hitting 36 home runs with 99 RBIs. But he is not just a slugger, though. One competing executive called him a "five-tool player,'' which should bode well for his coming free agency
"I always felt I could play at this level,'' he said. "The thing is, I just wasn't sure I'd get the opportunity. Opportunities are hard to come by. A lot of guys fall through the cracks.''
Legendary general manager
"He had the stones to give me a second chance,'' Werth said.
Since Werth didn't realize his potential until he got to the Phillies, and when he finally was on the cusp of his first full-time job, he jumped at the chance to sign a safe $10-million, two-year contract. But Werth figures to have a chance now to sign a deal at least five times that, and probably more than that. It's hard to make a case that
Many are suggesting Werth will definitely leave Philadelphia with top prospect
Werth certainly will have options. The Yankees are thought to have
Right now, Werth has Philly on his mind. "It's a good place to come to work every day,'' he said. "We've got a chemistry. We have a great atmosphere. The guys are pretty positive and business oriented.''
After the year it'll be business time for Werth 13 years after he was picked out of Springfield, Ill. And is now finally ready to cash in big.
A few more breakout candidates for this year ...
• The Brewers are trying to work out an extension for
• There's no guarantee Houston's
• John Maine didn't win the job as the No. 2 starter for the Mets, whose decision-makers just didn't want him next to
• The Tigers are expecting
• It's going to be fun monitoring the Yankees' big lineup decisions day-by-day. One day after the departed
• Congratulations to