What better way to get fantasy advice about players on a team than from the blog that covers them the best? In fact, every SB Nation website should do a preview like this one to give the best insight into the team for everyone to benefit from.
Of course, I'm probably about two or three weeks late on doing this, but my draft isn't until this week, so my fantasy focus has been a bit late all around this year. And doing it today over two or three weeks ago gives you the benefit of knowing exactly what players have made the roster, as the team's 25-man roster was submitted to league officials yesterday.
So, here's the best fantasy scoop around on your 2010 Philadelphia Phillies:
Ryan Howard - 1B: This is pretty easy. He may not be an elite first baseman in real baseball, but in a fantasy league that uses HR, RBI, and R, he's a gem. He'll hit cleanup again, where he's been incredibly consistent for the Phils. In each of the last three years, he's hit between 45 and 48 HR, scored between 94 and 105 runs, and knocked in between 136 and 146 runs. He won't get your average or OBP into the stratosphere, but he might just steal 10 bases this year (he had 8 last year).
Chase Utley - 2B: Another easy one. Utley is the best second baseman in baseball. From the 3-hole, he hits for power, scores and drives in runs, steals bases, and will help your average of OBP. If there's one knock on him it's that he wears down as the season progresses. He has a career .934 OPS in the first half of the season and an .865 in the second half. Last year that split was particularly pronounced -- 1.004 in the first half, .790 in the second. If you're worried, pay high dollar now for him and trade him for improvements in July. Or trust him that he's worked out more this off-season to avoid the late-season decline.
Jimmy Rollins - SS: Let's get this out of the way. Even with his horrible OBP and AVG last year, Rollins was still an elite fantasy shortstop. He still stole 31 bases, slugged 21 home runs, knocked in 79, and scored 100. That's great for a shortstop. But, he struggled mightily getting on base, even by his own standards. A reasonable rebound is pretty certain this year though, as Rollins had a .251 BABIP last year, by far the lowest of his career. Push that up to his normal .280 to .290 range and he'll be even better this year. And much to many critical fans' chagrin, he's staying at the top of the lineup. With the power behind him the Phillies have, he'll at the very least produce runs even if he has another awful BABIP year.
Placido Polanco - 3B (also qualifies at 2B): The one newcomer to the Phillies lineup, Polanco will play third and bat second. He's been in decline for the past three years, dropping his OBP from .388 to .331 and his SLG from .458 to .396. He doesn't walk much, nor does he strike out much. He doesn't steal bases, and he doesn't hit for power. But, he will score runs batting second in this lineup, even if he won't have many opportunities for RBI with the pitcher and low-OBP Rollins hitting right before him. Polanco is clearly one of two fantasy weak-spots in the Phillies' everyday lineup, but that doesn't mean he's unworthy, considering he'll play everyday in this powerful lineup.
Raul Ibanez - LF: Ibanez was a world-beater in the first half of last year. Then he got hurt, and has struggled since. In fact, this spring training he hit .130 with 1 HR in 54 at-bats. But if there's anyone whose spring stats you can ignore it's a veteran like Ibanez. He may be on decline, but he'll produce HR, runs, and RBI, while having an AVG or OBP that doesn't kill you. One thing to be forewarned about - he's incredibly streaky, so count on major ups and major downs while he bats sixth in the Phillies lineup.
Shane Victorino - CF: Here's the one guy that takes a big knock this year. He's slated to bat 7th, now that Polanco is batting 2nd. Now, there are those of us who think he should be at the top of the lineup, but he's not. Batting 7th, he'll have more opportunities for RBI, but his runs and stolen bases should decline significantly. He may walk more with the bottom of the lineup behind him, but that will only help if you play in an OBP league. Still a valuable offensive contributor, just not as much as years past given his new spot in the lineup.
Jayson Werth - RF: He does it all, and he's in a contract year to boot. He may have been a steal in your league last year, but he won't slip this year. After putting up elite power/speed numbers last year and being a huge asset in OBP leagues, Werth will get drafted with the top outfielders this year. And he'll be worth it. He'll hit fifth behind Utley and Howard, and he'll crush the lefties opposing teams bring in to counter those two.
Carlos Ruiz - C: Ruiz had a breakout year last year. Still, he's a catcher with durability issues and only had 9 HR, 32 runs, and 43 RBI. He'll hopefully play more this year and get his counting numbers up a bit, but don't expect too much from him. If you play in an OBP league, he's a sleeper though -- his 12.4% walk rate was a career high, but that has been climbing each year for him, so don't expect a drop-off.
The Phillies have been an incredibly healthy team, and Charlie Manuel likes to use his starters on a full-time basis. So, barring injury, don't expect much from the Phillies' bench players. The lone exception is Ben Francisco, who will get time spelling each of the outfielders, in particular Ibanez as he deals with aging issues. You can probably count on him for 300 to 400 plate appearances this year, and he'll get you decent power and speed off the bench. Brian Schneider will get his time behind the plate subbing for Ruiz, and he'll have some value as he has intermittently hit for decent power (for a catcher) in his career, though that is declining. Greg Dobbs will get some time at third and will be the power pinch hitter from the left side. His BABIP of .268 was a career low last year, so expect some improvement, but in very limited opportunities. If you're considering Ross Gload (1B) or Juan Castro (2B and SS) for your team, then something has gone really wrong for you or the Phillies.
The Starting Rotation:
Roy Halladay: What's really to say here? He is one of the two or three best pitchers in baseball coming to a new league and pitching for a team that scores a ton of runs. He should win 20+ easily, as long as he's healthy. Yes, he's moving from a slight pitcher's park to a slight hitter's park (don't believe the hype!), but he's facing the weaker league where the pitcher hits and over which he's dominated in his career (3.02 career inter-league ERA). He'll be worth every penny you bid on him.
Cole Hamels: (Oh how I wish I were writing Cliff Lee's name in this second spot, but alas.) Hamels is coming off a league average year which everyone seems to remember as a wipe-out. It wasn't, but he definitely did not replicate 2008. All indicators point to a rebound, as his peripherals in 2009 were exactly the same as they were in 2008. Don't expect him to repeat his 2008 raw numbers, but he should be closer to them than to 2009. He's in better shape this year and has learned a new pitch or two.
Joe Blanton: He's starting the year on the DL, but don't forget about him. He should be back by mid-May at the latest and should start 25 games for the Phillies this year. He strikes out a surprising number of batters, keeps his WHIP in the helpful zone, and should win games with the lineup the Phillies have. He's not flashy at all, but he'll be a good solid innings-eater (the good kind, not the really harmful kind) for you.
J.A. Happ: The other H in the Phillies' rotation. Based on his stats last year, he doesn't deserve being tossed to the side though -- he had a 2.93 ERA and won 3/4 of his decisions. But, his peripherals spell decline, as his FIP was almost a run and a half higher than his ERA. Expect an ERA much closer to 4.25 this year, if not above it. Still, with this lineup, he'll be valuable as he has a decent strikeout rate and keeps his WHIP in the helpful zone.
Jamie Moyer: If you'd spent your life betting against Jamie Moyer, you'd be broke now. Every time it seems like he's done, he comes back and does something more. Pitching at 47 years of age, he's doing something very few have done before. And he struggled more as a starter last year than as a reliever. But he's in the Phillies rotation for now, and he'll have his moments. Just don't rely on him.
Kyle Kendrick: Part of the reason not to rely on Moyer is that Kendrick is in the wings. I left Kendrick for dead last spring and was happy the Phillies did too. But he resurrected himself last year and excelled this spring, pitching 24+ innings with a 1.46 ERA. Spring training stats mean nothing, but Kendrick might just have turned something around. He'll have the chance to show what he's got with Blanton out for the first few weeks. And if he keeps up his spring performance and Moyer struggles, Kendrick might stick in the rotation longer than Blanton's DL stint. The Phillies showed last year that they weren't afraid to send Moyer to the bullpen, so I'd say it's even money which of Kendrick or Moyer is starting come May.
The bullpen is a mess right now. Brad Lidge is the closer, but he's out for the first couple of weeks. And, as everyone knows, he's coming off the worst season by a reliever probably ever. He says he was hurt more than he acknowledged last year, but can we expect anything more than a dead-cat bounce this year? Lidge is probably the riskiest pick on the Phillies. One thing we know, though, is that Manuel will stick with him even if he sucks, so if you can stomach the possibility of a big ERA, he will get you saves.
In Lidge's absence, Ryan Madson is the closer. He says he's figured out how to close after last year's shakiness (10 saves in 16 opportunities), and he was solid down the stretch last year in save opportunities. But, you'll get more value out of Madson in late relief than as a closer, as he's been dominant in the seventh and eighth innings. Danys Baez is the in-the-wings closer in-the-wings, but he's been shaky in his last few years and hasn't closed much (12 saves since 2005). He'll have the advantage in coming over to the NL though, so he could do well, but he's nothing but a flyer on the possibility Lidge or Madson don't cut it.
Jose Contreras will pitch in long relief, and if you can predict what he'll do this year, you should go to Vegas, quick. He dominated with the Rockies last year late in the season, but was pretty bad with the White Sox two of the last three years. He was awful in spring training this year, with an 8.31 ERA and 2.23 WHIP. He's a candidate to start if the Phillies' rotation gets hit with injuries. Chad Durbin and J.C. Romero will pitch toward the back-end of the bullpen, but really can't be counted on for anything positive in fantasy, other than possibly some vulture wins or the freak low-ERA year middle relievers sometimes get. Romero starts the year on the DL after spending almost all of last year suspended or hurt, so he's even riskier. When he's healthy though, his ERA tends to be low, but his WHIP is always high. The rest of the bullpen is no-man's land for fantasy rosters -- Antonio Bastardo, Drew Carpenter, and David Herndon will pitch sparingly, not only because of their own abilities but also because Manuel tends to leave the tail-end of his bullpen unused. Also, all three of these guys could be gone by the end of April as Blanton, Lidge, and Romero return.
If your league drafts minor-leaguers or you can stash guys on reserve in the hopes they get called up this year, the best bet here is Domonic Brown. He'll start the year in AA Reading, but he could get called up if an outfielder is injured. It would be rushing him, but he might be up to the task. The Phillies' best prospects are in AA or lower, so there aren't really many short-term fixes in the minors, but other guys to watch can be found here. It's very unlikely any of them will help in 2011, though, let alone 2010. From the AAA roster, the team has post-hype prospects such as pitchers Joe Savery or Scott Mathieson, as well as AAAA stars Andy Tracy and John Mayberry, Jr., but none of these guys are really worth much until they might be needed in Philadelphia.
So there you have it. Your 2010 Philadelphia Phillies - the fantasy version. All comments, critiques, different perspectives, etc. welcome below!