July 18, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay (34) is checked on by the team trainer during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

Phillies Health Insurance Policy: Part II

The Phillies health concerns aren’t limited to the infield. In part II of my focus on the team’s “health insurance” i take a closer look at their policies in the outfield and with the pitching staff. Disclaimer: These policies do not include dental.

Outfield

The Phillies’ greatest combo of youth and athleticism is in the Outfield. Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino are in the prime of their careers, and John Mayberry Jr. had a breakout season last year. Pence and Victorino play at full speed, leaving them susceptible to a freak injury here and there. They have been pretty durable in their careers so far, and should be counted on for a full season of work.

Mayberry will likely split time in left with veteran Laynce Nix, with Charlie playing them to favorable match-ups. The Phillies 5th outfield spot is still up for grabs, but it’s likely to go to veteran Juan Pierre.

If anyone has to go on the DL, Domonic Brown will be the first to get the call up. The onetime top prospect is likely to start the season at AAA according to Ruben Amaro, but he still has a lot of raw talent that has yet to shine in Philadelphia.

Diagnosis: The Phillies have a lot of cheap alternatives to turn to in the outfield should anything go wrong.

Starting Pitching

The entire Phillies season rests on the shoulders of the Big 3. Halladay, Hamels, and Lee are the meal ticket to a 6th straight division title. If any one of these three all-stars goes down, the emergency bells will be ringing. Thankfully, all three have been extremely durable though out their careers. Halladay is a machine with his workout regimen, seriously he might be a robot. Hamels and Lee are both locks for 200 innings pitched, helping save the bullpen in the process.

After these three, the health concerns begin to mount. Vance Worley had a stellar season, but pitched only 132 innings last year in barely a full season. There is a lot to like about Worley, but he still has to prove he can stay consistent into August and September.

Joe Blanton is attempting to make a full comeback after missing nearly all last year recovering from elbow surgery. He made a few unremarkable appearances out of the bullpen, but he’s not being paid for relief. If Blanton can’t make it back to his reliable starter status, expect to see plenty of Kyle Kendrick.

Austin Hyatt has a chance to be this years Vance Worley if the Phillies need a starter. He is a little old at 25 to be considered a top prospect, but his 3.40 SO/BB ratio was more than solid.

Diagnosis: There is no insurance for any of the Big-3 going down, but the Phillies have depth behind them to make it through 162 games.

Bullpen

The Phillies new closer Jonathan Papelbon has to be eager to quiet all the nay-sayers after he signed his 4-year deal with the Phils. Paps (nick-name to be determined) has been consistent throughout his career, averaging 63 appearances. Even if his numbers don’t trump the recently departed Ryan Madson’s, he is guaranteed to be handed the ball in the 9th for every critical game.

Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes will hold down the 8th inning. Both pitchers wore down late in the year, but they should be better prepared for enduring the dog days of summer.

Veteran Jose Contreras is trying to regain his form after arm troubles limited him to only 14 innings last year. Contreras is well beyond his prime at 40 and could be even older (more like 50!).  If the Phillies can’t count on Contreras to stabilize the middle innings, there’s plenty of youth to fill in the gaps.

Michael Schwimmer, Justin De Fratus, and Phillipe Aumount should take the next step this season. Schwimmer and De Fratus had a cup of coffee in September, but they didn’t pitch enough to show their full potential.  All or most will begin the year with the Iron Pigs, but they should play key roles come July.

Diagnosis: The Phillies’ bullpen insurance is so good, it might as well be free (I hear they have that in Canada)

As someone who’s still on their parents health insurance plan, I might not be qualified to tell the difference between Blue Cross and Aetna. However, I can say with certainty that there are some serious holes in the Phillies’ policy. They should be able to mitigate the loss of Howard to begin the season, but if past injuries rear their ugly heads again, they may not be able to find a cure.

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

Tags: Cliff Lee Cole Hamels Hunter Pence John Mayberry Jr. Roy Halladay Shane Victorino

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