The Philadelphia Phillies' inconsistent lineup and lack of a productive bench was fully tied to zero playoff games being seen during the past two seasons. As Ryne Sandberg gets set for his first full season as a major league manager, questions about his team's offensive abilities abound.
Ben Revere is a better leadoff option than Jimmy Rollins at this stage of both men's careers. The starting centerfielder's on base percentage (.338) was only 20 points higher than Rollins (.318) last season. But, Revere still looks to be the better bet at the top of 'Ryno's' lineup.
Larry Bowa was rehired for a number of reasons, one of them was to act as Rollins' resurrected mentor. There's no doubt that Bowa's presence at the start of 'J-Roll's' career aided his early development. Having the second-greatest shortstop in team history back in the fold gives the Phillies best-ever middle-infielder a lifeline during what might be a long season.
While Rollins isn't likely to recapture his 2007 MVP batting stance, he retains the ability to be productive. Having a day off each week could also allow him to have stronger offensive legs late in the season.
Chase Utley appeared in 131 games last year. If he can match that number again this season, major health issues will remain a memory. His left-handed bat, always-aggressive base running abilities and overall game smarts allow him to remain one of the Phillies most consistent offensive players.
Ryan Howard seems almost certain to step away from the cleanup spot during a variety of regular season games, which will represent a major shift in team philosophy. The 'Big Piece' is fit and should hit with power again. So, thirty home runs and 100+ RBI's are in order.
Marlon Byrd is a nice addition to the lineup because he's become a better plate man since the Phillies traded him in 2005. His right-handed bat, sandwiched between combinations of Howard, Utley, Domonic Brown, Carlos Ruiz and others, should lift 15-20 balls over the fence and drive in 70-80 runs.
Domonic Brown remains an offensive question mark because he only generated six great weeks last year. That represents the only overly-productive stretch in a major league career that began in 2010. Brown could be on the verge of securing his full-time status in Philadelphia, or working his way out of town.
Carlos Ruiz is believed to have a secured prescription for Adderall and that's important. Chooch developed into a clutch hitter for the Phillies during their five-year playoff run. The more he hits, the higher he'll stand in Sandberg's batting order.
Cody Asche hasn't proven himself at the plate, which is common for most young baseball men. Common sense says that he should offer more offense this season, which will be good enough from that third baseman's spot in the order.
Wil Nieves is purely a backup to Ruiz behind the plate. While he's not an automatic out, the veteran catcher should live in the eighth spot when he starts.
Cesar Hernandez is a versatile young player with 34 games of major league experience under his belt. Tony Gwynn, Jr. is on the team because of his outfield glove, rather than his bat. Jayson Nix has hardly distinguished himself throughout his journeyman's career. John Mayberry, Jr. is inconsistent, but does offer the occasional power-punch.
Freddy Galvis and Darin Ruf seemed set to sit on the bench to start the season, but will open the year on the DL instead. Galvis is far more glove than stick, while Ruf is the exact opposite.
This collection of bench bats should represent a modest upgrade over last season's model.
A balanced perspective clearly must question most of this Phillies' offensive brigade. If generally healthy, Sandberg's hitters could perform better than the 2012, or 2013 units did. However, that's hardly a recipe for any post-season cake.