Sep 20, 2011; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco (27) reacts to fouling a ball off himself during the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals during game two of a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals defeated the Phillies 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Phillies Health Insurance Policy: Part I


Oct 7, 2011; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (6) is helped off the field after being injured on the last play of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals during game five of the 2011 NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. The Cardinals defeated the Phillies 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The aging of the Phillies has been a favorite topic of discussion this off-season. It’s no secret that most of the roster is on the wrong side of 30, particularly in the field. This doesn’t, however, preclude them from being a successful team, or even win the series.

After all, who says you can’t win with a bunch of old guys?

The 1983 Phillies, better known as the “Wheeze Kids”, didn’t let arthritis or any other ailment get in their way. Sure, they didn’t bring home a championship, but they’re proof that we don’t need to worry about the vintage of the 2012 Phillies…right?

There’s too much being made of the roster’s collective aging, but there’s no denying that many key players carry a significant history of injuries. Howard won’t be back until May recovering from last season’s horrific achilles tear. Polanco dealt with back problems all last season, which severely affected his hitting. Chase hasn’t played more than 115 games the past two seasons, and J-Roll is just a year removed from chronic hamstring issues. And that’s just the infield!

The Phillies clearly need a good health insurance plan for this team to succeed. They’ve taken out a few policies already this winter, but signing up for BlueCross BlueShield might be wise. Here’s a look at how the Phillies health insurance policy rates at each position.

Catcher

Chooch has been a very durable catcher over the years. His games played have actually increased the past three years. It’s reasonable to expect another solid year behind the plate from Ruiz, but there’s very little depth behind him.

Brian Schneider is back to spell Ruiz on Sunday day games. They certainly aren’t paying Schneider for his bat, but he does call a decent game.

In the minors, Phillies top prospect Sebastian Valle should start the year in Reading. Valle looks like the real deal at the plate, but he needs more seasoning behind the dish. As much as I can’t wait to see Valle in a Phillies uniform, I sure hope its not this year.

Diagnosis: If the Phils lose Chooch for any significant amount of time they will be in big trouble.

First Base

With Ryan Howard missing the beginning of the season, Ruben Amaro took out a few cheap policies in the form of Jim Thome and Ty Wigginton. Thome is on his last go-round in the majors. The once great slugger is now relegated to pinch-hit duty. Thome will be more valuable if he can play the field a few days a week, but he’s not the same player we saw last time.

Wigginton on the other hand has been a career part-time player. He should be able to handle playing the field better than Thome, but he’s hardly gold-glover. All you really need to know about Wigginton is that he had a negative WAR of -1.1 in 2011, which means he was only as good as your average AAA player. His greatest asset is offering some right-handed pop off the bench.

The Phillies traded away their top first base prospect, Jonathan Singleton, in the Hunter Pence deal last summer. Unfortunately, after Singleton, the position is pretty thin. Matt Rizzotti has become a bit of a folk hero, putting up gaudy numbers in the minors. The one problem is that he struggled mightily during his promotion to AAA, leaving doubts about his ability to handle big league pitching.

Diagnosis: Rizzotti could be an interesting name in the first base carousel with a good spring, but the Phillies first base candidates should ultimately make most fans appreciate what Howard does for this team.

Second Base

Utley is another Phillie who has missed significant playing time recently. Knee trouble delayed the start of his season in 2011, and he wasn’t the same player when he came back. The Phillies need a strong season from Utley, especially with Howard starting the year on the shelf. Utley is one of the hardest working individuals in the game, giving reason to hope for another all-star season.

Back-ups at second include Wigginton and Michael Martinez. Placido Polanco could also shift over and handle duties at second, but if Utley gets hurt, there isn’t anyone on the roster who can replace his production at the plate.

Depth is sorely lacking at second down on the farm. Harold Garcia is a promising young player, but he missed most of last year due to injury. Garcia is an interesting name to watch, but the Phillies shouldn’t be counting on him for much in 2012.

Diagnosis: The Phillies will be paying a big premium for health insurance at second if Utley goes down.

Third Base

Placido Polanco’s back may be one of the most discussed body parts on the team this season, shy of Howard’s ankle. Tony La Russa once called Polanco his favorite player after he watched him leave in the Scott Rolen deal. His OPS and WAR have steadily declined since 2007 though, as well as his games played. After a hot start in April Polanco’s production plummeted, ending the year with an OPS + of 85. It’s reasonable to expect Polanco to miss at least 30 games this year with his chronic back trouble.

Wigginton is likely the first sub to fill in for Polanco at third, but we’ve already been over what he brings to the table. Michael Martinez is another option at the hot corner as well, but he brings more glove than lumber.

The Phillies minor leagues are barren at the third base. Michael Franco was recently ranked 9th on MLB’s top 20 Phillies prospect list, but the downside is that Franco can’t even legally drink and hasn’t had a full season of A ball to date.

Diagnosis: The team is due for a check up at third, but they don’t have the insurance to cover it.

Short Stop

J-Roll is back in the fold with the ink barely dry on his new 3-year deal. Most fans, including myself, are happy to see Rollins back, and why not? Aside from 2010 he has been a very durable player. His defense is still stellar, and he’s the engine that makes this lineup run.

Rollins is 32, however, and not the MVP player he was in 2007. The Phillies have prospect Freddy Galvis at AAA Lehigh Valley, who could potentially take over for Rollins down the road. The jury’s still out whether or not he can handle big league pitching, but he has the glove to start right now. The Phillies were ready to give Galvis a shot if Rollins’ contract situation had gone the other way. You have to believe that Galvis will get the call if J-Roll’s season gets hamstrung again.

Diagnosis: The Phillies have a solid insurance policy out on Rollins, but shouldn’t have to take out a claim.

Tune in for Part II of the evaluation on the Phillies Health Insurance, where i focus on the Outfield and the Pitching staff. Thankfully, the picture gets a little prettier.

You can follow Ethan’s Phillies thoughts on Twitter @Yearinbaseball and on Facebook.

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Tags: Carlos Ruiz Chase Utely Jimmy Rollins Placido Polanco Ryan Howard