When teams enter Spring Training, they mostly have all of the kinks worked out and a general idea of who is going to play where when Opening Day rolls around. But sometimes, you have too many players for one position. Such is the case this year, where the Phillies have multiple outfielders vying for two spots – left field and right field.
With Ben Revere set to hold down center field, the Phillies are left to figure out the remaining two spots between a number of suitors during the spring.
At this point, the list consists of John Mayberry, Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, Laynce Nix, Delmon Young and Ender Inciarte. The odds are long that the likes of Nix or Inciarte will come out of the spring with nothing more than on a spot on the bench, so it really leaves Mayberry, Brown, Ruf, Nix and Young left to compete for a starting job.
Each player has strengths (and some more than others) and weaknesses, and you can almost make a legitimate case for each of them as to why they should be the starter come Opening Day. That task might prove to be a bit difficult when it comes to Young -- who is still recovering from off-season surgery -- but he'll be considered for a starting role all the same.
But after just a handful of Spring Training games, the Phillies should just go ahead and remove right field from the competition, thanks to the early play of Brown, who hit his second homer on Tuesday in the team's first win of the spring.
And yes, it is way to early to proclaim Brown to be the winner of one of the two remaining outfield spots, but I've written more words on Brown than anyone on this blog, and I intend to ride this out until he is either a five-time All Star or a career minor leaguer. Either way, the reality is that there is very little reason for the Phillies to give one of those spots to anyone but him. And you need to look no further than his competition.
First, you have Mayberry. He's a decent enough player who can field all three outfield spots with aplomb, and he has solid enough power. The only problem is that he is 28 years old and probably won't get much better. He's a fine bench bat who can handle lefties, but he doesn't appear to be good enough to play every day.
Then, you have Ruf. He is someone who I'd like to see get a spot in the lineup on a daily basis, just because there is the potential for him to be the right-handed slugger that the Phillies seem to perpetually be in need of. Despite his obvious shortcomings (bad defense) and the fact that scouts don't think too much of him, I'm interested to see what he can do if given the opportunity at the major league level.
Finally, you have Young. Like Brown, Young was a highly-touted prospect who many thought would be the cornerstone of a lineup. But in seven big league seasons, he's been an average player, with the occasional flash of brilliance. At 26, he could still turn into that player, but he can't play defense, and he is currently nursing an injury that may prevent him from getting much action during Spring Training.
And then you have Brown, who is younger than his competition and filled with a greater amount of potential. Brown, who was given sporadic playing time over the past three seasons. Brown, who had to recover from a broken hand suffered at the beginning of Spring Training 2011. Brown, who by all accounts can still be a dynamic hitter and important piece to a Phillies team that is in the process of rebuilding. Brown, who is hitting moon shots like this one.
Performance during Spring Training really doesn't mean anything unless you are trying to push a narrative, which, suffice it to say, I am. But I cannot understand for the life of me why Brown is even having to compete for spot in the starting lineup when he is clearly miles ahead of his competition.