What if...? Five Phillies Who Could Be Important

Depth is one of the keys to winning. What if a key player goes down with an injury? What if Pat Burrell or another everyday player slumps badly enough that the Phillies need a Plan B? <i>PhillyBaseballNews.com</i> has identified five players who could become important parts of the Phillies roster.

Placido Polanco could become a very important member of the Phillies, or he could be one of the highest paid utility players in the history of the game. With Polanco's somewhat surprising return, the Phillies find themselves in a unique situation that they figure will work itself out one way or another. David Bell is sidelined by back spasms that the medical staff insists shouldn't be a big deal. The point is though that with Bell hurting, thoughts of Placido Polanco at third base have to be at least flashing through the minds of Charlie Manuel and Phillies fans everywhere. Keep in mind too, that although Chase Utley will be the real deal, he's young and could stumble under the scrutiny of playing everyday in the majors. Plus, Polanco could also move to shortstop and perhaps, even the outfield if really needed. By the time the season ends, Polanco could be a key component of the Phillies because of his presence at a number of positions or by being used as trade bait if Bell and Utley don't need any time out of the lineup.

The Phillies hope that Ryan Howard can simply enjoy a big season at AAA Scranton without needing him in Philadelphia. However, if they need him, Howard could step into a key spot with the Phillies.

Ryan Howard is going to be an interesting case study this season. Pat Burrell is suffering from two seasons of sub-par numbers and has a balky wrist. Howard has played a grand total of one game in the outfield and that was in the Arizona Fall League, but he has worked his butt off to learn left field. It would be a tough move to take a slumping - and high priced - Burrell out of the lineup in favor of Howard, but it's a move that wouldn't be out of the question. It would be an easier move to consider if Burrell's wrist problems persist and he winds up on the DL. Plus, Jim Thome's power would be greatly missed if he were to go down with an injury. Howard could ease the power outage somewhat by taking over at first base if - God forbid - that were to happen. Keep an eye on Howard, because he'll be important if for no other reason than a recall to act as a DH in interleague games this summer.

Gavin Floyd will be interesting to watch, because Philadelphia has become the land of the injured and slumping pitchers. Andy Ashby and Kevin Millwood both came to town in the not too distant past and were expected to be rotation aces. Both were busts. By now, Brett Myers was supposed to have become an all-star stud at the top of the rotation. That hasn't happened. Last season alone, Millwood, Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla were all on the DL. Even if everyone stays healthy, the popular rumor is that the Phillies may deal one of their starters to make room for Floyd at some point in the season. No matter how it plays out, you have to figure that Floyd is going to log some time in Philadelphia this summer. It's likely too, that once he arrives, it will be a permanent stay. The Phillies insist that he needs a little more time at AAA and maybe he does, but once he gets it, they're going to have to make room for him one way or another.

Jose Offerman was one of the quieter free agent signings of the offseason, but he could be a huge part of this club. Offerman can play a lot of positions and those that he hasn't played, he's willing to learn. He was one of the best pinch-hitters in the majors last season and has versatility on his side. If the Phillies were to trade Polanco this spring, it would likely be because they feel confident that Offerman can provide a strong player off the bench to fill any holes that may pop up. The other scenario is that if Polanco were to be needed to play everyday at third, Offerman would be able to handle a utility role with no problem at all. Offerman is at the point in his career where he realizes that he's not likely to play everyday and he's accepted the fact that he can help a club by coming off the bench in key spots. One interesting consideration is whether Offerman would accept a minor league assignment to start the season and be patient enough to see how everything plays out.

Marlon Byrd has had his share of tough times in the big city. If he doesn't show a marked improvement this spring, it's likely that Rule 5 Draft pick Shane Victorino would make the club. Which would you rather have? A speedy, but completely unproven entity like Victorino or a guy like Byrd, who has at least been through the rigors of a major league season? Victoring has solid potential, but he's pretty much of a one dimensional player; speed. He's not going to hit many homeruns and he's not going to win a batting title. Byrd won't win batting or homerun titles in his career, but he brings a more rounded approach to the game. He has legitimate speed and some pop in his bat. Keep in mind that he did also hit .303 in his rookie season after a tough start to the year. A repaired version of Marlon Byrd could be very important for the Phillies roster.

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