Projected Win Total: 69
It’s a transitional season for the Phillies. The club has recognized the need to rebuild and will continue to divest themselves of their veteran talents. Former regulars like Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd, and Antonio Bastardo have already been traded. Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, and Ben Revere are probably next in line to be dealt or discarded.
Terrible baseball teams are a double-edged sword for fantasy owners. Nobody is likely to produce great counting stats. As an example, if Chase Utley had a career season, he could still fail to exceed 80 RBI. Beyond Hamels, the Phillies lack any players who can truly be called reliable – everyone else comes with some type of red flag.
Uncertainty creates opportunity for fantasy value. Expect a lot of moving parts in the outfield. Predictable platoons could form for fantasy owners who like to use the waiver wire. Streamable starters should be largely ignored by your rivals due to minimal offensive support. In recent seasons, the Padres have been a trove for this sort of talent. Now the Phillies may fill that role.
Cliff Lee (elbow inflammation)
Most fantasy owners need not look beyond Hamels. The southpaw is a source of some controversy in the baseball community. Statistical analysts see a merely good pitcher based upon his peripherals. ERA adherents consider him one of the 10 or 15 best starters in the game.
Projection systems generally anticipate a 3.40 ERA. Expect a strong WHIP with a little under a strikeout per inning (about 8.70 K/9). Projecting a win total is always more guesswork than science. He may not win more than 10 games with the Phillies, but any contender who acquires him should provide better run support.
Trade rumors and a lousy supporting cast could prove distracting. Many players can remain focused and productive in these sorts of situations, but some play down to the environment. Others crumble upon landing in a new environment. With so many great pitchers available this season, there are plenty of reasons to leave Hamels to others. It depends on your tolerance for uncertainty.
The rest of the rotation is barely fantasy relevant. Cliff Lee has a tear in his flexor tendon and is dealing with discomfort. The discomfort could result in him requiring surgery and missing the entire season. We’ll know more before long, but don’t expect much.
Harang, Buchanan, and Williams are all potential stream starters. You’ll be looking to use them in very ideal situations. For example, the Braves are projected to have the league’s worst offense. They also play in a pitcher friendly stadium, so Atlanta may be one place to use the Phillies’ back end guys.
Depending on the outcome of Lee’s injury, another arm will make the roster. Kevin Slowey, Miguel Gonzalez, and Ethan Martin look like early candidates for the role. Later in the season, trade acquisition Ben Lively and 2014 first round pick Aaron Nola should receive an opportunity. Lively relies on deception, which can take years to master at the top level. Nola has a much higher ceiling and could be fantasy relevant. Jesse Biddle could also enter the picture if he can get back on track.
Justin De Fratus
There are two sides to the Papelbon coin. He’s become scary to own for a number of reasons. He regularly averaged 95 mph when with the Red Sox. Last season, his fastball was down to 91 mph. He still generates plenty of whiffs using his slider and split finger. Both pitches do depend on his fastball to some extent, so it could all fall apart if the velocity continues to suffer.
The Phillies would love nothing more than to turn him into a decent prospect. Alas, a large contract, perceived off-field issues, and age make it a hard sell. The good news for fantasy owners: all the negativity has really driven down his price tag. If you find the trendy relievers too pricey, Papelbon can provide saves and useful ratios at a fraction of the cost.
Giles is one of those trendy relievers. He uses a 97 mph fastball and a wipeout slider to dominate opponents. With two fantastic pitches, Giles’ PITCHf/x data compares favorably to Craig Kimbrel. Watch out for his walk rate. He allowed just 2.17 BB/9, but he has struggled with command at times in the minors. The downside looks like the 2014 version of Trevor Rosenthal. If Papelbon ever gets out of the way, he’s instantly a top 10 closer.
Diekman and De Fratus are options for holds leagues. Diekman has a 97 mph fastball that frequently hits triple digits. He improved throughout last season and appears to be ready for elite setup work. De Fratus could be an eighth inning man on another club. He leans heavily on his slider like a Sergio Romo or Shawn Kelley.
As far as hitters you’ll want to draft, the Phillies are very thin. For most league types, there are just two guys on the radar – Ben Revere and Utley.
It’s likely you’ve seen somebody say that steals can be acquired cheaply on the waiver wire. It’s the trendy thing to think. However, the advice applied better in 2008 when power was plentifully supplied by lumbering giants. The league has shown a preference for more athletic players in recent years. The end result – a player like Revere can be rostered without completely punting the home run and RBI categories.
Revere is projected by the FanGraphs depth chart crew (to which I contribute) to be worth about the same as Nelson Cruz and Jayson Werth. Nearly 40 steals, a .300 average, and a leadoff role have their value. I like handcuffing Revere with an elite power bat like Chris Carter or George Springer. Their numbers together will add up to two above average players. Lumpy skill sets tend to cost less than five category players, so there is some potential for value.
Utley is starting to inch towards replacement level in the fantasy pool, but it’s possible we’re all throwing in the towel too early. He ran off to a hot start last season before slowing down. Some in the organization think frequent rest will keep him fresher for longer. A 15 home run, 10 stolen base season is possible. It’s not sexy, but it compares favorably to the projections for Howie Kendrick, Martin Prado, and Brett Lawrie.
Those in ultra-deep leagues should add Odubel Herrera to their watch lists. The Rule 5 pick was the Venezuelan League MVP this winter, and he’s raced off to a fast start this spring. Continued production could see him with a semi-regular role hitting between Revere and Utley. It’s not likely, but 20-team dynasty league owners might want to roll the dice.
Other starters include Ryan Howard, Ruiz, Freddy Galvis, Grady Sizemore, Domonic Brown, and Cody Asche. Maikel Franco is the top position player prospect on the farm, but he appears to be a couple seasons or a breakout from fantasy relevance. He has 30 home run power with shaky plate discipline.
Rank and Outlook
The Phillies rank 30th in our preseason power rankings. The club has very few must own players. Most of the best growth assets are in the bullpen where fantasy value is limited. It’s hard to gauge the plans of the club, but they should be running a few revolving doors as they search for breakout talent. Don’t be surprised if something interesting emerges from the ashes. Philadelphia should be an excellent source of streaming-quality talent for both pitchers and position players.
Fangraphs Depth Charts and Projections- http://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=Standings