Saturday, March 24, 2007

35 Reasons to Believe

The Phanatic Magazine continues its preseason coverage of the Phillies, profiling one player per day to get you set for the 2007 campaign. Our 35 straight days of Phillies coverage kicked off on February 25th, and will continue to roll until Opening Day on April 2nd. Then we will hand it over to Michael Rushton, who will provide an in-depth season preview before the first pitch is dealt.

DAY 28: Wes Helms

By Tim McManus
The Phanatic Magazine

Ever since Scott Rolen decided that Philadelphia just wasn't his style back in 2002, the Phillies have been rather ill-equipped at the hot corner.

Placido Polanco was serviceable, but was really a second baseman playing out of position.

David Bell was supposed to provide stability at third, as he had just claimed team MVP honors for a Giants team that made it to the World Series. He, his back and his contract, though, proved to be an albatross rather than a solution for this club.

Abraham Nunez? Not so much.

This season, the Phils have apparently stopped trying to replace Rolen with one player, instead using the two-prong approach.

Nunez is the defensive side of the tandem, while newly-minted Phillie Wes Helms will wield the lumber.

Helms is an offensive upgrade for sure. While Nunez struggled mightily at the plate last season, Helms hit a career-best .329 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 240 at-bats for Florida. He was part of a Marlins lineup -- consisting mostly of youngsters and journeymen -- that led a surprise playoff charge last season before eventually tailing off.

That was his only year in Florida, having played the previous three seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. In his final campaign with the Brew-Crew, the North Carolina native posted a .298 batting average, which was a 35-point increase over his previous high of .263 at the time.

Helms started his career with rival Atlanta and spent parts of four seasons with the Braves, but was never a big contributor.

It appears that he has found his swing in recent years, though, and will add a boost to the back end of the Phils' lineup in '07. Expect him to slide back and forth along the No. 5, 6 and 7 slots, depending on Pat Burrell's production and Uncle Charlie's gut.

While he will be a solid addition offensively, Helms is a defensive liability by all accounts. This is going to force Manuel to mix and match in the latter stages of the game (gulp), using Nunez to protect a lead while calling on Helms to help dig out of a hole.

It's not an ideal situation. The best scenario would be to have a third baseman that can both rake and play the corner like a violin. Like Rolen, for example.

But the Phils no longer have such luxuries, and are just going to have to hope that the platoon philosophy works.

Tomorrow: Rod Barajas

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