By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
The Phillies' staff won the Dick Martin Award (awarded to the season's best training staff) a couple years ago, just as they began their run of National League domination. It's not a coincidence. Even as the Phillies have aged and taken more injuries, the staff has kept the team competitive. They've gotten a bit lucky as well. Chase Utley's hip surgery cost him little time and Scott Sheridan's staff managed his knee issue perfectly, despite media and fan pressure. Ryan Howard's Achilles injury could cost him as little as a month, which again is just timing. This team has great, but aging talent and the downsides of that were seen last year with Utley, Howard, and especially Roy Oswalt. They've traded some of their upper level talent to fill in the major league roster with elite players, but that can go on only so long. The mediocre talent behind the stars means that health is more important to this team than it was last year. That with this risk profile, the team only dropped from 8 to 9 in year-over-year ranking is as impressive as the year they finished first.

Health Keys: Maintain the aging infield as best as possible while not neglecting the needs of the now three-deep staff.

(HEAD TRAINER: Scott Sheridan; FIVE YEAR RANK: 10; 2011 RANK: 9)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
RF Hunter Pence
I hate to say I was looking at pictures of Hunter Pence shirtless this offseason, but he tweeted them out and, to be honest, the dude looked jacked. Much bigger than he's been in past seasons, which is essentially meaningless, like "best shape of my life" stories. For what it's worth, Domonic Brown was even more muscular. Pence played through a sports hernia, but surgery corrected the issue in the offseason.

SP Roy Halladay
There's not much to say about Halladay that hasn't been said. But watch him next time out and you'll notice something: Halladay is a sidearm pitcher. That's neither good nor bad, since the arm slot isn't as big a deal as we used to think. It's just interesting. Next time you see me, ask me to explain.

RP Jonathan Papelbon
The Red Sox closer before Papelbon? Curt Schilling. That's how long Papelbon had the job. He adjusted his mechanics along the way and seemed to throw easier last season. Whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen, but he's an almost automatic 30 saves.

Also Green:
SP Cliff Lee
RP Antonio Bastardo
C Carlos Ruiz
It's not often the catcher is the least risky guy in the infield. "Chooch" takes a beating behind the plate, but the dings show up in his bat, not his durability. Like everyone else on this team, he's not young, and at some point there's a big cliff ahead. Ruiz seems like he's been around forever, yet he'll only be a free agent after this season on service time and the Phillies hold an option for '13.

CF Shane Victorino
Here's a bad combo -- hamstring and back injuries. They tend to be connected, physically. Victorino had both and it limited his mobility and his ability to turn on the ball. He also had a thumb injury that sapped some more power and bat control. The Phillies have talked about asking Victorino to dial it back a bit this year, but that's tough for players to do after it's become not just a style, but a habit.

RF Laynce Nix
Nix is likely going to be part of a platoon with John Mayberry. This yellow is a bit of a quirk since Mayberry will also be playing 1B some during Howard's absence. That makes the System think Nix could be overexposed, but it's more a bug than a feature. Nix probably won't play enough to be too risky.

SP Cole Hamels
Hamels ended the season having a minor cleanup on his elbow at the same time as he had hernia surgery. Two-for-one deals in surgery are always nice. There are some worries about the mileage Hamels has on his arm at age 27, but Hollywood Hamels has one of the smoothest lefty motions you'll ever see. The System does note some statistical similarities to Josh Beckett, even though they look and pitch nothing alike. That's not a bad comparison. The idea of pairing SoCal native Hamels with Clayton Kershaw has several potential Dodgers owners salivating and upping their bids.

SP Vance Worley
Worley will be tested by an increased workload and by hitters adjusting to his tailing fastball. The Phillies protected Worley at the end of the season and can't ride him too hard this year without testing both his arm and his stuff.

1B Ryan Howard
The System takes the gimmes. Howard will start the season on the DL, but he's made solid progress this offseason. Achilles injuries aren't common in baseball, but the techniques used have improved greatly over the last 10 years due to cadaver grafts and better anchors. It may sound grisly, but Howard is actually going to get something better than what he had. The surgical techs aren't going to have an Achilles from a 6-foot-4, 250-pound, muscular cadaver available, so they'll "engineer" it. This works much the way that engineered beams used in construction do, bonding things together to create a single, stronger piece. In the meantime, the Phillies may find it takes three men to replace Howard, as Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome, and John Mayberry will fill in externally.

2B Chase Utley
Utley fought through what was creatively called patellar tendinitis last season. There was significantly more to it and I'd need a lot more space to explain why getting him back and keeping him back was such a challenge. Suffice it to say, it was an impressive medical feat that required a lot of effort from Utley. It's also not a problem that's going away, now or probably until Utley decides to have that knee replaced. Utley may have regained some strength this offseason, which could help both his power and speed stats. Still, he's very risky, but you saw how well this was handled last year and it was tougher when it was acute.

SS Jimmy Rollins
Rollins was never going to sign elsewhere, though some teams were interested. The SS roulette spun on Rollins and Rafael Furcal, but the rumors that the Phillies thought Rollins was done were overstated. They know exactly where Rollins is, and while they may have gone one year too long on a deal, it's a risk they can afford. If there's any positive, it's that despite the leg injuries, his speed came back a bit last year.

3B Placido Polanco
Polanco has been breaking down slowly for the past three seasons. The problem is not that he's risky or that he's losing his legs, but that he's still the best option the Phillies have at 3B. Ty Wigginton will be available some, especially once Howard is back, but he didn't hit well last year in Colorado. If Polanco can't go another 120 solid games in '11, GM Ruben Amaro?s going to have to hit the phones well before the trade deadline.

SP Joe Blanton
Blanton was close a lot last year, but like many pitchers, it's that last test that he couldn't pass. Blanton could throw, but not from a mound, not at full speed and not without causing severe setbacks in his damaged elbow. The Phillies think he'll be better after six months of rest, but they also brought in Joel Pineiro just in case he isn't.

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