By Matt Cott and Moe Koltun of RotoAnalysis.com
We all know that the Phillies are one of the best teams in baseball this season, even with their early-season injury troubles. So, in honor of opening day, we have decided to take a look at the Phillies’ outlook for fantasy this season.
Carlos Ruiz, C
Ruiz isn’t horrible offensively, and since he’s a catcher, that means he’s usable in fantasy. He managed a .283 batting average last season, and although he rarely strikes out, I would expect that number to come down to around .260 this year thanks to his extreme lack of speed. Ruiz doesn’t hit for power, but he does get on base more than most catchers, which could lead to 60 or more runs this year. Carlos Ruiz is one of the cases where his real-life value is far worse than his fantasy value thanks to his high on base, and although he won’t kill you, Ruiz is better served as a 2 Catcher league option, or an NL-only play.
Ty Wigginton, 1B (Injured: Ryan Howard)
A return in May appears to be the best-case scenario for Ryan Howard at this point, and even when he does, we are skeptical as to how well he’s really going to hit. Howard’s skills were declining like the Real Estate market in 2008 even before his injury, hitting less line drives than any year of his career, proving the drop from his 45 HR 2009 to his 31 HR 2010 was probably real by hitting only 33 bombs. Players like Howard don’t generally age well, and although I’d stash him on my bench in mixed leagues, I wouldn’t expect much out of him. Wigginton is continually underrated in NL-only formats, as he’s good for 15-20 homers and a .250-.280 average. I would happily roster him as a 1 dollar guy in those formats.
Freddy Galvis, 2B (Injured: Chase Utley)
Freddy Galvis is almost as bad at hitting as he is good at defending, and he is a really, really good defender. While Utley is injured, Galvis should get most of the playing time at second base, but outside of deep National League only leagues, I wouldn’t touch him for fantasy. Utley I would happily bench in even 10-team mixed leagues, but I would have a solid replacement second basemen as well; there’s really no telling how good he’s going to be, or how much he’s going to play (as Phillies fans well know).
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Rollins isn’t near his MVP season talent-wise at this point in his career, but he’s still a very valuable fantasy commodity thanks to the completely awful offensive standard at shortstop. Rollins stole 30 bags last year and hit 16 homers, and I think Rollins is very underrated this year for fantasy. In most leagues, nobody wants to touch him because they’ve been burned by him before, but very few shortstops have 20 homers, 35 steal upside, and Rollins is currently one of the few. I’d roll the dice on him.
Placido Polanco, 3B
Polanco isn’t notable in real life or fantasy at this point in his career. Polanco is really just an NL only league third base play, as he’s an average-only hitter who no longer hits for a very high average. He’ll probably end up somewhere around .280 with 70 RBI’s and 70 Runs, but that comes with essentially no power or speed. Unless you’re in a really deep league, I’d look elsewhere for fantasy production.
John Maybery Jr., LF
Mayberry impressed enough in his first season in the majors to earn the full-time job in 2012. While his average should drop towards the .250-.260 range, you cannot doubt his power. His slugging of over .500 and 15 homers in 267 ABs showed the potential for a 30 home run power in the majors. While we don’t think that will come this year, we like Mayberry as a sleeper in deep leagues for his power and a few stolen bases as long as you can stomach the drop in batting average.
Shane Victorino, CF
Victorino did miss some time last season, but it was also one of his most successful seasons yet, at least from a per-game perspective. Last year, the Flyin’ Hawaiian posted the highest walk rate of his career while also achieving the second lowest strikeout rate of his career. Victorino got very unlucky with his batting average, as he put the ball in play a lot and didn’t reach base all that often (.279 average). A player that fast who strikes out that little should probably hit around .290-.300, and that’s what we’d project him for this season. Also, Victorino’s injuries hurt his stolen base totals, and we expect him to swipe at least 25 bags this year, to go along with at least 15 homers. Very few players can claim that they are ‘Five Category Players,’ but Victorino is one of the few. He is a good addition to any fantasy team.
Hunter Pence, RF
While the Pence deal was definitely a plus for the Phillies in 2011, his fantasy value is not as high as many fans may think. He has been as consistent as anybody in the league, averaging 24 homers and 13 steals since 2008. Where the issue is, however, is with his average. A .361 BABIP in 2011 points to a huge drop in 2012, back to the .280 mark he posted the previous 3 years.
There really isn’t much to say about Roy Halladay from a fantasy perspective, other than the fact that he’s clearly the top pitcher in the game thanks to his consistent greatness combined with the fact that he’s pitched 220 or more innings each of the last six seasons. You have to pay top dollar for him, but in fantasy, it doesn’t get better than Halladay.
Lee’s a bigger question mark this season than Halladay, but that says more about Halladay than Lee. On our RotoAnalysis.com top 100 starting pitcher ranks, Lee still came in at 4th overall. The only worrisome about Lee is that his jump in strikeouts last season also came at the price of adding nearly a walk per nine innings; Lee almost doubling his use of his curveball likely caused both of those results. Even with the chance that his strikeout rate drops, Lee is still easily a top 5 fantasy pitcher in all of baseball thanks to his consistency and control.
While he checks in at #3 in the Phillies’ rotation, Hamels remains a top 10 pitcher overall in fantasy baseball circles. He showed the best control of his career last season, and has been durable enough to average 31 starts for the past 5 seasons. A sub-3 ERA may not be in the cards again this year, but there is no doubt that Hamels is a stud across the board with his low WHIP and high strikeout totals. Look for him soon after Halladay and Lee on the leader boards.
Worley advanced from a middling prospect to a very legitimate MLB starter in his first season, displaying a fantastic ERA and high potential. At RotoAnalysis, we’re skeptical of whether he can keep this up. His 78% strand rate will come down, meaning more of his base runners will turn into runs. While he can definitely be a lower-tier option in most leagues, be wary of his lack of innings and the high chance he will decline from his breakout year in 2011.
Like most #5 starters, there are a lot of questions surrounding Joe Blanton. While 2011 was a lost year, in the 40 innings he did pitch Blanton actually had both the best strikeout and walk rates of his career. Still, he should not be owned in anything outside of a deep NL-only format where his wins could help out. He should not be touched otherwise because of his high ERA and complete lack of upside to improve at this point in his career.
What if I told you that one of the unluckiest relievers in baseball last year also posted a 2.94 ERA in the AL East? That was true about Jonathan Papelbon, who managed to strike out more than 12 batters per nine innings last year while walking only 1.4. Those are even better than Cliff Lee-like numbers, and with this team’s rotation and offense both keeping scores low, Papelbon could easily have the most save chances in baseball next season, and could even increase his strike out rate now that he’s out of the AL East. For fantasy, he’s the #2 closer behind only Craig Kimbrel in our minds, and that might even be underrating him.