PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 07: Don't cry for me Philadelphia / The truth is I never left you / All through my playing days / My bad defenses / I won a ring here / With deeper fences. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The fundamental flaw with team-based fantasy previews is that, come draft time, you shouldn't really care if your players are Phillies or not (note to yourself: send thank you email later). Silly! you should know that fantasy draft preparation is a sophisticated, multivariate analysis/guessing game that - and you must realize this now - omigod you are already way, way behind on!
Haha, I jest. Sort of. You might spend your time more wisely by paying attention to the stat categories in your league, because if you're looking for 2012 Phillies to fill your roster, aside from the three aces and a shiny new closer, this team is filled with older guys who are just so many mid-round red and white numbers on a roulette wheel. And I'm more than a little edgy about being too high on any but the studliest stud offensive players in the NL East, as they will all have to play an unbalanced schedule against some top-tier pitchers.
I'll grant that there's a certain comfort level in following players on your favorite team rather, than, say, just watching the stat sheet fill up on the Detroit Tigers' boxscores. (If you're playing in my league, I'll gladly take on that boredom for you.) Or maybe you're in league with a statistically hairy-knuckled relative who's a fan of the Rangers or Astros or somesuch, and you want to hit them with the more undervalued Phillies. So you settle in on draft night with your mock draft pages and depth charts, and along with that an extra spreadsheet one ALT+TAB away from your draft screen (or graph paper if you're hopelessly old school) set aside to grab Phillies where you can. And also keep in mind that if you are playing here with predominantly Phillies fans, you may want to study last year's draft results and keep in mind that Phillies tend to go earlier than this guide suggests (yes, I remember Jayson Werth in 2010).
Here's my take on where to draft these 2012 Phillies, in a hypothetical keeper league of 16 players.
Rounds 1-3: No surprises here
Well, duh. If your league is tilted toward offense, add two rounds. But if not - and if walks and strikeouts are counting stats - go higher and take these guys. If pitching will count equally to offense, most fantasy players are conditioned to go for Pujols or Cabrera before they think Verlander or Halladay. You have to fill four starting pitching slots. Get some durable studs, and pronto, or you'll blow your load on capturing the HR category and your number one starter will be John Lester. Hypothetically.
Again, pay attention to your league's scoring structure. A league like last year's TGP Fantasy Base Ba'al League - which had a nifty combo stat called "Bullpennery" = (Saves+Holds)- Blown Saves can distort traditional draft economies.
Rounds 4-8: Exploit your league structure
Positional scarcity is a key consideration - you need a shortstop, and while there may be only a few elites, they go quickly in a deeper league. The next plateau down from that tier may not be all that crowded either - and this is where Rollins has an inflated draft value. The concept here is that you have to maximize value from a spot you have to fill anyway. Your finger quivers a bit as you consider the injuries. But clickit anyways.
Like Alexander the Great, the injuries, combined with his Kremlin-style secrecy in speaking about or dealing with them, make this guy a very hard player to draft (Hannibal and Trotsky had much higher ceilings prior to their demises). Regrettably, it's come to the point where you have to start looking around the league for 24-year-old 2Bs with more upside, especially when it comes to power. But it's Chase, he's just sitting there in round 8. And you remember what happened when you took Ortiz last year in the 12th round, don' t you? Don't you? Goddammit pull the trigger and don't look back (though make a mental note to draft a part-time utility infielder just in case).
Pence is a guy who's likely to go earlier than he should - the trade deadline publicity, "let's go eat" catchphrase, and the persistence of the contract-year performance/ CBP bandbox myths gave him a bit more profile. That said, he's a bona fide counting-statsheet filler, and given Ryan Howard's absence, will be batting in the heart of the order - at cleanup or the third position - quite a bit. Because of the relatively scarce combination of speed and power he has, as well as peak age, you could argue he should go higher, but because he's both an outfielder and a guy with a high BABIP last year, I just don't see why. If he's the first outfielder you draft, um, damn.
A tired mantra by now - "depends on your league's stats" - but if it has runs and stolen bases, there are a lot of worse options out there. Victorino fits as a complement to an outfield that by round 8 might still have a sluggier stud in it, like Pence. But remember there's value in fantasy to durability. Victorino's not bulletproof, but he's even a good fantasy clubhouse guy to have around.
Howard will be an interesting long-term DL stash conundrum for everyone, and pretty much on the same timetable for return as Utley was last year. Not only are Phillies fans unsure of who will replace him early on, but it's an open question how well power hitters - particularly one who seems to be declining - will return from a known power sapper like an Achilles rupture. He'll be back in time for his perennial hittin' weather outburst, at least. RBeyezz!!
A good backstop can be hard to find, and more teams are tinkering with platoons and job shares. If OBP is in your league's stats, Ruiz is a solid option here, and flies under the radar because of some unsexy counting stats, especially power, which dipped last year. He'll be 33 in 2012, so it's fair to wonder if he shouldn't be used less (Jeebus, the guy played 132 games last year). In a world populated by catchers who routinely go 1 for 5, Chooch's tidy 1 for 4 or 0 for 3s with a walk is that small thing that could wind up helping out your team.
Rounds 9-12: Market inefficiencies meet market panic!
Worth a good look in Spring Training. If he's back to form, the many layers of fantasy injustice and misperception might just net your team one of the better third basemen in the game right now. Chances are one of your positional slots needs filling.
Need four pitchers? Oh, why the hell not. See how his velocity is in Clearwater, and whether he can snap off a curve still. If he's still shaky, you may want to consider Kendrick a little higher if you're still looking for SP number 4. But your offense better be pretty damn good already if you are.
This is a play for holds, pure and simple, so do so only if they matter to your league. He averaged in the low-20s in his better years in Houston and even had 22 with San Diego last year. If holds count the same as saves, wouldn't you snap up a guy with the same number? And he ought to have plenty of opportunities behind those starters and in front of Papelbon. He's likely to be there late given the low-profile signing.
May want to figure Wigginton into a catch-and-release program. He doesn't have a great bat by any stretch of the imagination, but will see plenty of playing time with Howard out until Memorial Day-ish. It's not unreasonable to project him hitting 6-8 HRs in that 70-game stretch. Fairly decent U prospect for the entire season, but chances are there will be something better out there and he'll get passed along in the Transactions page.
Rounds 13-17: Dumpster diving
Like Pence, people may have peeped Mayberry's nifty 2011 power stats and seen a breakout and already rolled the dice on him. And Lord knows, I'm a fan. If he's still down here, get him, but stats aside, he's more of a practical nightmare to slot him into a lineup, unless he gets enough playing time where you can put him in a utility slot.
Kendrick is more likely to get more starts, maybe more than ever in his career, and if your stats are not FIP-fancy or anything, you're almost certain to find him here. Pay attention to how the rotation stacks up as March wears on in Clearwater and even after the Phillies break camp, as someone, barring a spring training injury, is going to be odd-man out here. They're both white-knuckler picks - after all, in a 16-team league you shouldn't be looking at 4th or 5th starters unless it's absolutely necessary. You might be mocked less picking Worley, but better off picking Kendrick. O ye gods. But in these rounds you hold your nose and fill out the roster.
Rounds 18+: Looking for winners on the floor
I'll list these guys together because one or the other will emerge from Clearwater as the LOOGY of choice, and as such might be in in line for a hold or occasional save if Papelbon goes on his 30-minute walkathon acid-reflux adventures.
Trying to manage a fantasy team with platoon players is a nightmare. No matter how much you think you have the pattern down, no sooner to you slot your guy in a starter than the other guy actually plays. If one of these guys starts to nail down a start and produce, they might be decent FA pickups.
The Undraftables / Midseason FA patch-and-fills, catch-and-releases, and canaries in the coal mine
You'll have to follow the carousel of roster moves and situational role development and injuries before picking these guys up as free agents.
Yes, we love Thome, but without a regular role he has negligible fantasy value in the NL.
Chances are your fantasy bullpen will be in a shambles by mid-June, with new faces and new roles and injuries galore. The Phillies are likely not to be any different. See how roles shake out, as over the last two years the guys who played with the team demonstrated hot handedness. Until they didn't.
Sure, why the hell not?
Whether it's your fantasy team or the Phillies, if you're using Michael Martinez for more than a day or two, it's bad trouble.
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