While Ben Francisco's spot on the ball club wasn't ever in jeopardy, it certainly wasn't a guarantee that he would be in the starting lineup on Opening Day. Domonic Brown's injury has pretty well cemented Francisco's starting job, especially when you look at his numbers so far. Hitting a comfy .320 with a team-high 18 total bases, Francisco would have had a leg up on the job even if Brown weren't hurt. The real battles now are for the open utility role that was formerly held by Francisco.
The first name that comes to mind is John Mayberry Jr., who the Phillies have been hoping would blossom into a quality fourth outfielder. So far this spring, Mayberry is hitting .273 with two solo home runs to his credit. He's a right-handed bat, which the Phillies need and he can play all three outfield spots, so his versatility is helpful. Mayberry was supposed to be a candidate for the Phillies bench almost immediately after arriving from the Texas Rangers in a deal that sent Greg Golson to the Rangers. With huge power potential, a strong, tall build and magnificent pedigree, Mayberry was seen as a near can't-miss prospect, but he simply hasn't fulfilled that destiny. His power numbers - 28 minor league home runs over the past two seasons - have been some what pedestrian, when you consider that this is a guy who projected to be hitting 20 or more per season. What a lot of people overlook is the fact that in just 69 major league at-bats, Mayberry has hit six home runs or one every 11.5 ABs, which isn't exactly a horrible pace. Mayberry was somewhat miffed that he didn't get a September call-up last season and he's doing all he can to show that he deserves to be with the club all season long in 2011.
Delwyn Young, 28, is staking his claim to the spot with a strong start to the pre-season, hitting .333 in the early going. The Phillies are continuing to run Young out there almost every day to gauge just what he may be able to bring to the table for the 2011 Phillies. The fact that Young is a switch-hitter and can play second base along with both corner outfield positions is a nice addition, especially considering Chase Utley is sidelined with patellar tendinitis and is now officially fragile. Playing on a semi-regular basis for Pittsburgh the past two seasons, Young has hit .255 with 14 home runs and could continue to be a factor in the battle for the final spot on the roster.
Rule 5 pick Michael Martinez hasn't exactly showed a lot of offensive ability this spring, hitting just .105, but his defense has been stellar. Like Young, Martinez is a switch-hitter who has played every position on the diamond except first base and catcher; yes, he has even pitched, but all of that work has been in the minor league ranks. In fact, Martinez has played just 33 games at the Triple-A level while in the Nationals' organization, but the Phillies do love the fact that he is a switch-hitter with a lot of versatility and has some speed that could come in handy off the bench. The Phillies, of course, have to keep Martinez on the roster all season or offer him back to the Nationals. It's also conceivable that they will offer up a trade to keep Martinez in the organization, but continue to groom him with more playing time at Lehigh Valley.
Martinez and Young could both also be helped by Utley's injury problems if he's unable to start the season on the active roster. Wilson Valdez is on fire and has solidified his spot with the club and it should be noted that the Phillies have had him playing some outfield this spring to increase his versatility. It's possible that Valdez could be in the Opening Day lineup in place of Utley and it's also very possible that with his increasing versatility, Valdez will get close to his career-high of 333 at-bats that he had last season with the Phillies.
Josh Barfield got off to a hot bat this spring, but the Phillies haven't been giving him much playing time with the big league club lately. Barfield remains a possibility, but is more likely to serve as insurance at the Triple-A level in 2011. Meanwhile, Pete Orr has gotten increased playing time as the Phillies consider what the veteran infielder might be able to do for them this season. Orr is surprisingly fast and has a confident presence on the field. What he lacks in raw talent he makes up for with hard-nosed play and a willingness to do whatever he can to help the club. However, as things stand now, both Barfield and Orr would have to be labeled long shots to make the club.