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Is Jayson Werth the Price?

Jayson Werth hit .303 against lefties with a .652 slugging percentage in 2008.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Jayson Werth had a breakout season in 2008 posting career highs in at bats (418), runs (73), hits (114), home runs (24), runs batted in (67), stolen bases (20) and slugging percentage (.498). Being on the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies also got him a lot of fall exposure and it means that Werth won't come as cheaply as he did in 2008 when his Average Draft Position was an astronomical 376.

This time around, instead of being a free agent or a late-round draft pick, Werth is going around the seventh or eighth round.

So the question we must ask ourselves is Werth worth the higher draft choice?

The Phillies seem to think that last year was not a "career" year, but the improvement of a player who is just now getting the opportunity to shine. They signed him to a two-year, $10 million contract.

But Werth and his 20/20 season came with flaws. He swings and misses a lot - to the tune of 119 Ks in just 418 at bats last year. That's one in every 3.51 at bats. And he doesn't hit righthanders very well - .255 with just eight HRs and 31 RBIs in 263 at bats last season.

The Phillies, however, faced a lot of left-hand pitching last year and will likely see an increasing total as the lineup became even more lopsided with right-handed Pat Burrell heading to Tampa Bay and being replaced by left-handed Raul Ibanez. It's likely that the heart of the Phillies lineup will consist of three left-handed hitters - Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Ibanez along with one righty - Werth.

That will put a lot of pressure on Werth because if he doesn't live up to expectations the Phillies will see every lefthander a team can throw against them.

Werth came through in 2008, hitting .303 against lefties with a .652 slugging percentage. He hit a league-leading 16 HRs against southpaws and knocked in 36 in just 155 ABs.

The question remains, however, will Werth play everyday against righties too and get 600 at bats or will the Phillies end up platooning him with Matt Stairs or Geoff Jenkins.

"To me, he's proven he's an everyday player," said manager Charlie Manuel last fall.

We'll see. For now it caveat emptor - let the buyer beware. As long as you know the risks and are willing to take it, the upside is huge because he will see a lot of lefties this season.

2009 Projection

Jayson Werth5108214726840.2880.505

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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