Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Howard poised for a big season?

It has been back to the drawing board for the Philadelphia Phillies lately. Roy Halladay‘s career halted unexpectedly and disappointingly. Jimmy Rollins‘ production declined. And the team paid Ryan Howard a $125 million contract, one which he has failed to live up to.

Actually, to say that he has failed to live up to the deal is a charitable description. But Todd Zolecki of wonders if Howard is ready to bounce back and have a big impact in 2014.

OK, I’m going to say Howard bounces back. He stays healthy, he hits 30 or more home runs with 100 or more RBIs, has a .350 or better on-base percentage and hits respectably against left-handed pitchers. Howard is motivated, and truth be told, this is a huge year for him. If he comes back and struggles, then the “Don’t-worry-about-Howard-he’ll-be-fine-when-he’s-healthy” talk goes away and the final years of his $125 million deal paralyze the organization. If he comes back, stays healthy and produces, it will be a huge relief for the front office.

Howard played only 80 games in 2013. In those games he batted .266/.319/.465 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI. As Zolecki notes, Howard has mostly come under fire for his inability to hit left-handed pitching. Rightfully so: last season he hit a gruesome .173/.218/.321 against lefties with only three home runs.

Teams cannot afford to pay a guy with a platoon player’s skill set a superstar’s contract. That’s the situation the Phillies currently find themselves in with Howard, and barring the type of monster season suggested here, it is going to continue to be a major hindrance for the franchise.

Tags: Philadelphia Phillies Ryan Howard