How Replaceable Are the Phightins?

A blurb in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday played with the theory that Chase Utley, while not the best player in baseball, is certainly the most irreplaceable one in the game.

Utley is currently faced with his third serious injury in as many years and had the Phillies so concerned that they scooped up Luis Castillo about as fast as the Mets could drop him off the back of the truck.

With Wilson Valdez being groomed for just about every field position there is (he’s seen time everywhere except for first base, on the mound and behind the plate this spring), and a handful of wide-eyed Spring Training invitees vying for one lone spot on the 25-man roster, did Ruben Amaro, Jr. & co. really feel that uncomfortable filling the four-time Silver Slugger’s shoes with anything less than a veteran of Castillo’s caliber?

Perhaps, but it’s not just Utley the Phillies should be worried about replacing.

On paper, it may seem like the Phils have it all figured out -- Castillo will fill in for Utley should he pass his eight-game trial run, Ben Francisco will probably spend the most time in right field until Domonic Brown’s hand is healed (despite what anyone says about Ross Gload getting a solid shot at it), John Mayberry, Jr. can take the reins in left field should Ibanez need a day off here and there (and he will). So what’s the big deal?

In 2010, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez were the only starting fielders to remain free from the disabled list. Charlie Manuel isn’t taking any chances in 2011 and has played guys all over the field, getting a feel for not only how well players like Valdez handle different positions, but other semi-standouts like Josh Barfield, Michael Martinez and Delwyn Young as well.

It isn’t likely we’ll ever see Roy Oswalt catching fly balls in left field again (as fun as that was to watch), and we’ll have Charlie’s preparedness to thank.

But just how deep do the depth charts run in Philadelphia this year? Above is the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric for the preferable starters and likely replacements should the injury monster rear its ugly head again in 2011:

Not surprisingly, Placido Polanco, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz join Utley as some of the most difficult position players on staff to replace. Futhermore, it becomes painfully obvious just how shallow the pool is for Charlie to pick from to claim that last roster spot or two, depending on how many pitchers the squad chooses to carry.

Sound off on how you feel about how replaceable the Phils really are barreling towards the start of a new season. Who would you pick to fill the gaps should "roster roulette" become a necessary evil again in 2011? 

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