Forget the talk that Howard and his contract issues are going to hamper the big superstar. Yes, the Phillies may pay dearly for their dealings down the road, but for now, it's opposing pitchers who are going to pay dearly. Howard is smart enough to realize that he's stuck with year-to-year deals if that's how the Phillies want to handle things, but eventually, he's going to get a huge deal from somebody. So for now, the only thing that Ryan Howard can control is himself. In order to keep handing the Phillies losses in arbitration, Howard will have to put up numbers that will allow him to get the higher contract dollars that he's looking for and the totals of those numbers will all weigh in as part of the equation for when he does get the big multi-year deal whether it's from the Phillies or someone else.
Howard has become a legitimate superstar. After an MVP season in 2006, there were those who predicted an off year last season and it started off just that way for Howard who battled a slump and then an injury to literally limp through the early part of the season. He should be locked in now and ready to put up big numbers through a full season without prolonged slumps and hopefully, without injuries.
Philly Baseball News Projections for Ryan Howard
Is this Chase Utley's year to win the MVP? After Howard in 2006 and Rollins in 2007, the Phillies look for the three-peat with Utley being the next likely candidate. Even though he missed a month of the season last year with a broken hand, Utley put up some impressive stats and has shown himself to be a better defensive player than most thought he could ever be. There's actually pretty much pressure on Utley, who has some big performances from his infield mates to be compared to, but the fan favorite has the potential to put up numbers that will garner him decent enough consideration for MVP votes and it's very possible that if he doesn't win it in 2008, he will pick up an MVP award at some point in his career.
Hitting in front of Howard will always make Utley an important piece of the Phillies offense. With Rollins setting the table, he's also in a nice spot to do some damage of his own. Yes, it's good to be Chase Utley.
Philly Baseball News Projections for Chase Utley
As the newest member of the Phillies infield, Pedro Feliz is in a nice spot. His offensive trends have shown good and consistent power numbers, but have also shown a somewhat weak ability to simply get on base. Playing in Citizens Bank Park will help him to continue showing some power numbers, but will he find ways to do other things in the Phillies offense to make himself more productive? As good old Dr. Phil always says, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior; in other words, don't figure on Feliz getting on base much more than he has in the past. He's not going to suddenly develop a strong strike zone discipline or head to the plate looking to draw a walk or just get on base to make something happen. Still, his numbers will at least equal what the tandem of Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms were able to produce last season and when you add in the extra power and defense, Feliz is a definite step in the right direction.
Philly Baseball News Projections for Pedro Feliz
|Can Jimmy Rollins produce back-to-back MVP seasons and carry the Phillies to the 100 wins he believes the team is capable of producing? (Photo: Getty Images)|
Raise your hand if you think J-Roll can put up the sort of numbers that he did last season. In 2004 and 2005, Rollins hit for pretty decent averages [.289 and .290 respectively] but hit a combined total of 29 home runs over the two seasons. In 2006, he was criticized somewhat because he seemed to be focused more on the long ball [25 home runs] and his average dipped to .277 for the season. In 2007, it was the best of both worlds when Rollins hit a career-high 30 home runs and hit a career-high .296 [we're not counting 2000 when he hit .321 in just 53 at bats]. Optimists will say that at age 29, Rollins could just be hitting his stride, which many believes comes in the late 20s, but the pessimists will insist that there is no way that Rollins can equal his 2007 numbers. Well, let's see what we have to say on the issue.
Philly Baseball News Projections for Jimmy Rollins