Replacing Raul Ibanez Not A One-Man Job
When Raul Ibanez came to Philadelphia before the 2009 season, many Phillies fans wondered why Ruben Amaro would give a three-year deal to a 36 year old.
That first season Ibanez hit .272 with 34 home runs and 93 RBI and changed many Phillies fans minds.
In the two seasons after, Ibanez cooled off and so did the fans, but now he is gone and the Phillies are left trying to replace him.
"(I'm) just trying to do less really," said Ibanez, back on May 6th of last season while in the middle of an 0-for-35 skid. "Just trying to stroke it and put an easy stroke on the ball. Usually it equates to more, but it's a tough concept to grasp sometimes. It's the opposite. Hitting can be counterintuitive sometimes. Sometimes you think swinging harder is better and it's not."
Will John Mayberry Jr. or Laynce Nix have the same reaction if they go into a funk this season. Ibanez was a true pro and the Phillies need that in a season where two of their top players will miss the start of the season and maybe a large portion.
Ibanez is now gone, heading to New York after the 39-year-old batted .245 with 20 home runs and 84 RBI in 144 games last season for the Phillies, but gave the Phillies a steady presence that they aren't sure they will have in 2012.. Replacing that production won't necessarily be a one-man job, as the Phillies have a trio of potential left field options that could end up being a timeshare.
Here's a look at the three guys who will replace Ibanez:
John Mayberry Jr.: Serving as Ibanez's backup last season, Mayberry hit .273 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI in just 296 at-bats, but did most of his damage against left-handed pitching, hitting .306 with eight homers and a .953 OPS against lefties during the regular season. In addition, Mayberry hit six of his 15 home runs in the month of August while showing he was a great defensive outfielder, helping him become one of Phillies fans favorites players. However, he could become the guy fans go after if he isn't able to produce in an offense that really needs a lift.
Juan Pierre: Pierre went a career-worst 27-for-44 in stolen base attempts last season, but he finished hitting .279 with two homers, 50 RBI and a .657 OPS over 711 plate appearances. His most significant value comes as a top-of-the-order presence with Jimmy Rollins hitting third without Chase Utley around. Three times in his career Pierre has led the league in stolen bases and twice he has led the league in hits. He gives the Phillies a small-ball presence that they have lacked, and after a 15-for-48 spring it looks like Pierre might get more time then originally thought. He seems to be a guy Charlie Manuel likes, but will the fans, his production will give us that answer.
Laynce Nix: While Nix has played all over the outfield, the Phillies have put him in the left field mix. In Washington in 2011, the 31-year-old outfielder posted a .250 average with with 16 homers, 44 RBI in 351 plate appearances for the Nationals. He has big-time power against right-handed pitching but doesn't get on base much and can't hit a lick against southpaws. Nix, a former fourth round pick of Texas's 2000 draft, had his best season has a pro in 2011. While he has never been a full-time player, he could be in the mix to play a lot early against right-handed pitching while both Howard and Utley are out since the Phillies need to add some power.
Maybe three is better then one, for the 2012 Phillies, they need it to be.