It seems that with each passing year, the Philadelphia Phillies roster looks older and older.
2014 appears to be no different.
Because of this, there is a ton of unknown fantasy prospects for this NL club, presenting a handful of risk on draft day. However, with that also comes some potential reward, making for a bit of a fantasy headache when talking about the Phillies.
There aren’t many riskier options in fantasy this year than Ryan Howard. Gone are the 50 home run, MVP days, as injuries have plagued the first baseman for years now, and at age 34, time is suddenly running out. Howard’s struggles against left-handed pitching have been very evident, sporting an ugly average of .173 against such hitters in each of the last two seasons. His strikeout rate has hovered in the 30 percent range in each of the last two seasons, too. Do I believe that, in a hitter-friendly park that saw a league-leading average of 1.517 home runs per game last season, Howard could flirt with 30 homers? Sure. However, when first base is insanely deep, I’m not sure I’d be willing to bank on it. There has even been talk of platooning him this year, due to his struggles against lefties. Tread carefully.
Of course, you have long-time Phillies in Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, and for the most part, you know what you are getting out of them. For Utley, a .280 average, 18-22 home runs, 70 RBI and a few bumps ans bruises along the way. Rollins, on the other hand, will present an ugly batting average, very few long balls, however, he’ll swipe 30 bags and if the Phillies offense gets back on track, he could once again flirt with 100 runs. Position scarcity will have these two drafted in the middle rounds.
Finally, the player that offers the most upside by far is Domonic Brown, who broke out a season ago. Brown batted .272 with 27 homers and 83 RBI in 2013, emerging into a top-30 outfielder in fantasy land. His impressive month of May (.303/12/25) helped launch him into the bright lights, and Phillies fans finally saw the potential come to fruition in their top prospect. He could improve on his plate discipline a bit more, but the guy is only 26-years old, which is the season where most baseball players enter their prime. The sky is the limit for this burgeoning star.
*Hamels likely won’t be ready for opening day
After a lost season for former Cy Young winner, Roy Halladay was forced to retire, but the Phillies still have two aces atop their rotation. Cliff Lee will likely get the nod for opening day, and needs to be considered a top-10 fantasy pitcher. The guy has stuck out at least 207 batters in each of the last three seasons, and the only concern is run support. Remember back in 2012 when Lee had 207 strikeouts, an ERA of 3.16 and a 1.11 WHIP. Pretty good numbers, but the Phillies struggling offense limited him to an unappealing record of 6-9. The Phillies haven’t finished inside the top-10 in runs since 2010, and were an ugly 27th a season ago.
Meanwhile, Cole Hamels will be second in the rotation when healthy, but shoulder tendinitis will have him sidelined to start the season. Hamels pitched very well last season, but it again came down to run support, as he won just 8 games. Finally, the Phillies recently made headlines by signing veteran arm A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $15 million contract. He leaves Pittsburgh to join a hitter-friendly park in Philadelphia. He’s 37-years old, and I won’t be going anywhere near him for fantasy purposes.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.