In MLB, it is not unusual to see an organization go from fielding a floundering team in turmoil to being world-beating champions in a very short period of time. However, many a MLB GM have found that it’s a daunting task to live up to the expectations once they have reached the promised-land, making maintaining a winning culture extremely difficult even though it is an operation that does not abide by a salary cap.
The Philadelphia Phillies winning culture is fading, and it could continue to affect their ace pitcher Cole Hamels.
It is no secret that the Phillies dominated the NL East for the better part of the past decade, winning five division titles between 2007-2011 along with a World Series in 2008 and a NL Championship in 2009. However, the glory they felt then seems like a lifetime ago as they have missed out on the playoffs in the past two seasons while watching a roster that was once thought of as being capable of forming a dynasty start to dwindle away.
The Phillies got old — plain and simple. Throwing money at free-agents, whether homegrown or not, almost always ends the same way as a team starts to approach the back-ends of such deals.
Perhaps no player was affected more last season in fantasy baseball than Hamels. In 33 starts, Hamels went 8-14 with a 3.60 ERA. In fairness, the club struggled to score him runs, but it was evident at times that the stress surrounding the club was overwhelming the players and Hamels was no exception.
Currently, he is ranked as the 13th starting pitcher with an average draft position of 75 across many fantasy sites. Although there are some in the industry who think there is every reason to believe he could return to past winning prowess, you should not draft Hamels this season.
The Phillies were highly inactive this offseason while Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are a year older, and there is nothing to indicate that Hamels will render that “maybe” turnaround into a “will”. Relying on a change-up as your out pitch is incredibly dangerous in a small park like Citizens-Bank Park, and the velocity on his fastball was down all season. If these trends continue, he will end up a fantasy baseball bust in 2014.
There is a good chance you will be pondering the choice between Hamels and Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price in the fourth round of your draft. Although Price would show a bit of a Cy Young hangover in 2013 after winning in 2012, it was mainly his win total that was affected and he kept his ERA at a serviceable 3.33 — winning 10 games despite missing some time to injury.
The Rays are a better team, and although it does not look like they can sign him long-term, it will only increase his value if he is traded at the deadline. He will be headed to a team chasing a pennant if the Rays are not, giving him another advantage over Hamels.