Who is the early favorite to be the Phillies' center fielder in 2013?
-- Gennaro C., Fort Myers, Fla.
Everybody seems to think B.J. Upton is the favorite. I get that. He is 28. Upton hits for power. He can run. He has a great arm. Upton has what every scout drools over: tools. Phillies hitting coach Steve Henderson also coached Upton with Tampa Bay, so there is familiarity there.
There are a lot of reasons to like Upton, but it is worth mentioning he has not hit better than .246 since 2008 and has not had better than a .784 on-base-plus-slugging percentage since 2007. He strikes out a ton. Upton had a .298 on-base percentage last season. He has been benched in the past for a lack of hustle. He is not exactly a sure thing.
I think money might be better spent on somebody like Angel Pagan. He could come cheaper than Upton. Torii Hunter has not played center field regularly since 2010, but he could be a good short-term solution, if the Phils think he can play there. Even if he can't play in center, Hunter could be an option as a corner outfielder. Shane Victorino could be an option, if he is willing to sign a lesser deal than he might get elsewhere. Michael Bourn? I think Philadelphia would love to have him, but I think his agent, Scott Boras, is going to milk every last cent from a team, and I don't think the Phillies will be it.
Do you think there's any chance the Phillies bring back Ryan Madson in a setup role?
-- Pete B., Newark, Del.
Sure, there is a chance. But like Bourn, Madson is represented by Boras. I'm sure Boras is going to push hard for Madson to land a closer's job somewhere. Coming off Tommy John surgery, it remains to be seen if he can land one. If he cannot find one to his liking, the Phillies absolutely would be interested in Madson as Jonathan Papelbon's setup man.
Who is going to play third base?
-- Matt H., Philadelphia
I'm sure the Phillies would love to know the answer to that question, too. Right now, it looks like some combination of Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen, because the free-agent market for third basemen is incredibly weak.
But there are issues there. First, Galvis has never played third base before. Now, he never played second base before last season and took to that incredibly well, but there are no guarantees. Galvis also has not proven he can hit big league pitching consistently. Frandsen hit the ball remarkably well last season, but can he repeat that success? That is a legitimate question.
Phils manager Charlie Manuel loves to say a few good weeks or a few good months don't make a career. He is right about that. Everybody who is ready to pencil in Frandsen as a .300 hitter in 2013 should take a deep breath. Kevin Youkilis would make some sense, but does Philadelphia want to spend good money on a guy who's numbers have been dropping the past couple seasons? Maybe it is best for the Phillies to stick with Galvis and Frandsen at third and find a couple outfielders to help the offense instead.
Who is going to be in the bullpen on Opening Day?
-- Scott S., Conshohocken, Pa.
Are we talking about locks to make the bullpen on Opening Day? If that's the case, I see just three: Papelbon, left-hander Antonio Bastardo and whichever veteran they sign to be a setup man.
After that, I expect there to be a serious competition in Spring Training to decide the rest. There are favorites for the other jobs. I would put right-hander Josh Lindblom (acquired in the Victorino trade) and left-hander Jeremy Horst in that category. Phillippe Aumont is up there. The Phillies love the arms of Aumont and left-hander Jake Diekman. If they show up in Spring Training throwing strikes and dominating the competition, they should earn spots. But if they are all over the strike zone, others can step up.
That includes guys like Justin De Fratus (the Phils like De Fratus a lot), Mike Stutes, Raul Valdes, B.J. Rosenberg, Joe Savery and Michael Schwimer. This should be the most fascinating competition in Spring Training, because Philadelphia has a handful of talented young arms to choose from.