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What to Expect: Cole Hamels

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    Here at Philthy Stuff we'll be taking a look at the 2013 Phillies and what we can expect from each and every player in the upcoming season as we head towards Spring Training. Last up, Cole Hamels.

    With possibly the exceptions of free-agents to be Roy Halladay and Chase Utley, the player with the most to prove in 2013 figures to be Domonic Brown, as the outfielder should finally get his chance to prove that he can bloom into the player that was once named the fourth best prospect in baseball.

    A  year ago, the future of Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies was an unknown one. With one more season left before he hit the open market as a free agent, there was a lot of talk about how we might be witnessing the last season of Hamels in red pinstripes, which was a bitter pill to swallow for those who got to experience his journey, which took him from top-rated prospect, to World Series Champion, and finally, to being one of the best pitchers in the game.

    Despite a rough season that appeared to be the beginning of the end for the once mighty Phillies, they were able to sign Hamels to a six-year contract extension that not only will make him one of the highest paid pitchers in the game, but also ensures that he will remain in Philadelphia for the majority of his career. Signing pitchers to those types of deals is always a risk, but when you consider what Hamels has done throughout his career, especially over the last three seasons (2.97 ERA, 621 K in 640 IP over 95 starts), you can argue that he was well worth it.

    To go along with the new contract and a nice big bank account, Hamels has also been named the Opening Day starter for the club, in a sort of passing of the torch from Roy Halladay. While getting that honor doesn't cement a pitcher's legacy, it's a way for the club to recognize that Hamels is now the chief Ace among a rotation that has not been a stranger to great pitchers as of late.

    And if Cole's March performance (1.13 ERA in four starts) is any indicator, then the 29-year-old is going to add another stellar season to his already impressive resume. Stat guru Bill James agrees, and he projects the lefty to have a 3.23 ERA and 8.52 K/9 in 223 innings of work. Now, that's just a projection, but we can all agree that Hamels will likely be among the best pitchers in the game in 2013.

    If the Phillies want to have a shot at making it back to October, it's going to start with their homegrown Ace and his ability to lead the rotation – and the team – in 2013.