Player Projection: Pat Burrell

Say what you will about Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. While their success is extremely important to the 2006 Phillies, perhaps nobody is more important than Pat Burrell. The Phillies need his right-handed bat to balance the left-handed firepower in the lineup and keep opposing pitchers honest.

There has to be at least some concern about Pat Burrell. The powerful left fielder has been hampered by a sore right foot that he had surgery on during the off-season. A specially made orthopedic insert has helped him this spring, but he is still hampered somewhat. Most of the problems come while running the bases and the Phillies have made it a point not to let him do too much baserunning this spring, often sending out a pinch-runner for him in the middle part of games. They won't be able to cover up the injury quite so easily during the season though, especially if they don't find another utility outfielder for the roster.

The Phillies are counting on a healthy and productive Pat Burrell to give them some balance among all of the left-handed hitters in their lineup. With Bobby Abreu, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard all swinging from the left side, it will be up to Pat Burrell to give some separation among those hitters. The Phillies are also considering having Aaron Rowand hit lower in the lineup to help provide balance, but he certainly doesn't have the power potential that Burrell brings to the lineup.

As for projecting just how Pat Burrell will do in 2006, we have some concern. Not about his potential numbers, but about his potential to stay in the lineup.

Homeruns: Burrell hit 32 homeruns last season, his most since posting a career-high 37 in 2002. He did most of that on a sore right foot that didn't allow him to put as much pressure on his foot as he generally likes to do. Of course, who knows, maybe that's a good thing. This spring, Burrell reports that his foot doesn't hurt him when he's at the plate, just when he's running the bases or when he has to go hard in the outfield. If that stays the same throughout the season, his offensive numbers shouldn't suffer too much, but it's doubtful that the injury won't get worse over time.

RBI: Last season, Pat Burrell's 117 RBI were the most of his career. There is no doubt that having hitters like Abreu and Utley hitting ahead of him, he should get some chances for RBI numbers, although Utley's power could clear some of those runners off the bases. It's likely that Burrell could see a bit of a letdown in his RBI numbers simply because Utley will likely hit ahead of him in some of the lineup configurations that manager Charlie Manuel will run out there and Utley figures to post impressive power numbers. Even so, there will be opportunities for Burrell to drive in runs.

AVG / OBP: Burrell fell just short of his career-high .282 average last season when he hit .281 for the Phillies. He did easily post the highest on-base percentage of his career at .389 on the season. The reason for that is easy; while he struck out 160 times, he also drew a career-high 99 walks. That's a huge issue for Burrell to be conquering, but you have to wonder if he'll look to hit longballs instead of drawing walks since his foot gives him trouble on the basepaths.

Projections for 2006

27 95 .272 130 474 70 129 18 0 0 76 164 .373

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