Career year for the 29 year old?Well, it's a career year thus far. I think the implied questions are whether or not Werth is going to be:
a) an everyday player who gets 550-600 AB and possibly hits 30-35 HR in that cozy ballpark he calls home and
b) will he hit lefties well enough so that you don't lose too much value in his batting average?
Unlike a lot of late bloomers, Werth was never a non-entity or a non-prospect. Injuries were the primary culprit for his limited production with the Dodgers in 2004-2005. When he finally got his opportunity with the Phillies this year, he didn't waste it.
There is a lot to like about Werth's numbers this year, and enough to make me think that he'll sustain his gains barring another round of injuries. Werth's BB/AB total is solid, and having seen him play quite a bit here in Philly, I'd classify his plate discipline as "good enough." He's always going to strike out a lot, and could whiff 140-150 times if he gets those 550 AB. But I don't think that will stop him from hitting 30-35 HR if he does get that opportunity.
The speed he's shown this year has been a nice surprise. If I owned Werth, I'd be pleased if he did it again, but wouldn't build 20-25 SB into my bid limit for him. I'd be conservative and hope for 10-15 swipes.
As far as his splits vs. LHP/RHP go, Werth is a player who loses some average but not as much power as you would expect. A 416 SLG in a limited sample size this year might not tell us enough, but it tells me that Werth won't completely disappear against right-handers. His power is a little weaker if you go back to his three-year splits, but with a 389 SLG, it doesn't disappear entirely.
I don't want to oversell this point. Werth is an acceptable major league corner OF against right-handers. He's not great, and he still might need someone to spell him against tougher right-handers. But the Phillies might be better off using a roster spot on someone with more utility than a fifth OF to caddy Werth against especially tough righties.
At this point, the bigger question to me isn't whether or not Werth will play everyday in 2009. I think he will. The larger question is what will the Phillies do with their outfield. Pat Burrell could come back, but it won't be for as much money as he's been making on his current contract. If the Phils do let Burrell walk, they'll have to bring in another outfielder to caddy Geoff Jenkins. Giving Jenkins a multi-year deal looks like a mistake at this point, and at the very least the Phils will want to bring in a platoon partner for him...unless they want to give Greg Golson a clean shot at an outfield job in 2009.
But I'd expect Werth to start next year. My early bid limit would probably be $23, which is high for a guy who most people had a minimal bid on this year, but realistic given the expectations of both production and playing time.