After watching the 2016 season unfold for the Philadelphia Phillies, one thing remained abundantly clear: they needed a power bat in the middle of the lineup. Maikel Franco was the centerpiece of the order, but after a hot start, he began to cool when the league found out there was no one left to protect him. We have been through these protection issues before in the land of the Phightins, but this regime seems to be poised to change things around.
It has been reported, through a variety of media sources, that Michael Saunders, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays, has inked a one-year deal with the Phillies, with a club option for a second, to help bolster their lineup in 2017.
Saunders put forth a breakout season in 2016, hitting .253/.338/.478 with 24 home runs and 57 RBIs, earning himself an All-Star bid, which was the first of his career. He is a lefty with plenty of pop that will serve as a nice addition to a Phillies outfield that has seen Odubel Herrera lead the way with only 15 home runs last year. Holding a career .235 average, Saunders won’t be running many full counts, but he should give the fans in the right field seats plenty of opportunities to catch some home run balls.
With all the power prowess comes some interesting concern. Even during a career year, Saunders is coming off a difficult second half that saw him bat just .178 with eight homers and 15 RBIs after the All-Star break. Some may point to these statistics as the reason why he was only able to snag a one-year deal with an option. For the Phillies and their fans, this is a low risk-high reward signing. This gives a guy like Nick Williams a little more time to develop in the minors while giving Pete Mackanin a veteran presence in the clubhouse and the lineup to help guys like Franco deal with the ups-and-downs of a 162-game season.
Saunders posted 558 plate appearances last year in a very good Toronto lineup with guys named Encarnación, Donaldson and Bautista. He was used more as a trendsetter there and will serve as a producer here. During the course of a full season with the Phillies, I don’t see a line of 250/28/70 out of the question. The Phillies re-tooled their lineup a little bit this offseason and should offer a decent amount of run production for their power guys. Saunders will have every chance to be a solid source of offense for this team and could be a nice snag in the upcoming fantasy drafts this season.