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In a pro career full of odd disjunctions, J Dub has evolved from can't-miss purebred to hard-luck journeyman to World Series hero to redoubtable All-Star who, at week's end, led the NL in doubles (38) and was second in extra-base hits (56). Phillies third base coach Sam Perlozzo calls him a "six-tool player," which makes Werth the baseball equivalent of an amp that goes to 11.
"J Dub can run, throw, field and hit for power and average," says Perlozzo. "He's a manager's delight."
So what is Werth's sixth tool?
"He can hang in there," Perlozzo says. "Tenacity can be a tool too."
Werth is a master at wearing down pitchers by working long counts; for two seasons he has topped the league in pitches per at bat. "He's an extremely patient hitter," says former Phils general manager Pat Gillick, who signed Werth as a free agent in 2006, "and the by-product of his patience is bases on balls."
And strikeouts—last year, Werth walked 91 times and fanned 156. "Lots of players are afraid to hit with two strikes," Gillick says. "The biggest part of that approach is knowing your strengths."
Werth is an athlete who knows himself and has always been totally clear about his priorities, which begin and virtually end with baseball. "I've pretty much lived my life to play in the big leagues," he says.
When did that become a goal?
"When was it not?" he asks, ever helpfully.
A prospect's DNA can be nearly as important as his ERA or OBP, and front-office types often gush about Werth's "pedigree" as if he had just won best-in-show at Westminster. "Jayson had pretty good athletic genes going for him," says Gillick, who as Orioles G.M. scouted Werth at Glenwood High in Chatham, Ill., and picked him in the first round of the 1997 draft.