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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Philadelphia Phillies

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Don't mess with the Phillies.

Seriously, don't mess with them. Don't do like the Giants did last year and keep them from reaching the World Series when they're the obvious favorites. Because when they get mad, they don't mess around, and the rest of the league suffers the consequences.

The coup this offseason was, of course, the signing of Cliff Lee. The Phillies weren't supposed to be in the running, but they swooped in at the last minute to intercept what looked like a two-team race between the Rangers and the Yankees, adding to what may have already been the most fearsome threesome in the league in Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

Yes, Hamels, the ace of the 2008 World Championship team who is coming off a 200-strikeout season and still has plenty of room to grow at age 26, is now their fourth starter.

Scary.

But hey, no team is without its weaknesses. The Phillies might have to depend on that starting rotation more than anyone expects if franchise players Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins don't live up to their past standards. Each is on the wrong side of 30, each has had trouble staying healthy and each took a notable step backward last year. Granted, each is still pretty good, but if top prospect Domonic Brown can't claim Jayson Werth's spot in right field, the Phillies' only offensive player trending in the right direction is Shane Victorino. They also have a shortage of bullpen depth, especially if Brad Lidge plays his usual head games and Jose Contreras starts pitching like he's 39.

But with that starting rotation, which may very well be the best ever, the world would have to explode for this team not to make the playoffs. If you're thinking about drafting a Phillie in Fantasy, you can check off "supporting cast" as an obvious benefit.

Bounce-back player ... Brad Lidge, RP

When most Fantasy owners think of Lidge, they still think of his 2009 meltdown, when he blew 11 saves with a 7.21 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP. He had his chance to redeem himself last year but was deemed a lost cause after posting a 5.57 ERA through July. But take a second look at his final numbers. Not what you expected, right? Lidge was a completely different pitcher over the final two months, performing as well as he has at any point in his career. In 26 appearances, he had a 0.73 ERA and 17 saves in 18 opportunities. Finally recovered from the elbow and knee injuries that led to multiple surgeries last offseason, he was back to being the same lights-out pitcher who put together a perfect season in 2008. With the Phillies loaded pitching staff, Lidge is going to get the save opportunities of an elite Fantasy closer, but nobody is willing to trust him as more than a No. 2 option.

Bust ... Jimmy Rollins, SS

The Phillies' aging nucleus gives them several candidates for this category, but Rollins is the most obvious. His batting average, slugging percentage and OPS have declined every year since his 2007 MVP season, to the point they were below average even by shortstop standards last year. He can still hit some homers and steal some bases, and those raw talents are enough incentive for Fantasy owners to approach him as an elite option at a position increasingly scarce on talent. But he'll have to reverse more than few trends to live up to that title. He'll also have to stay healthy, something he didn't do last year and something that'll be even more difficult coming off wrist surgery. At 32, Rollins has reached the age when other notable shortstops -- most recently Edgar Renteria -- have fallen off the map, making him too much of a risk to justify his draft position. Don't bother with him unless he falls to you.

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Sleeper ... Domonic Brown, OF

For whatever reason, manager Charlie Manuel doesn't trust Brown, giving him only 62 at-bats in a 68-day span after the Phillies promoted him in late July. And even with Jayson Werth out of the equation, Manuel planned to give the right field job to Ben Francisco or John Mayberry over Brown, who only sealed the deal by breaking his hand early in spring training. But with that disappointment comes new opportunity in Fantasy. The injury will be enough to scare most Fantasy owners away even though it's the same one that cost Troy Tulowitzki only five weeks last year. Brown is rated the fourth-best prospect according to Baseball America and is coming off a minor-league season in which he hit .327 with a .980 OPS, so clearly he offers something that journeymen like Francisco and Mayberry never could. The Phillies won't need long to realize that. Knowing how quickly Brown progressed in the minors, you wouldn't want to assess him on only 62 at-bats. He's a fast learner and should be ready to turn heads as soon as he returns from his injury.

Philadelphia Phillies Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Jimmy Rollins SS 1 Roy Halladay RH
2 Placido Polanco 3B 2 Cliff Lee LH
3 Chase Utley 2B 3 Roy Oswalt RH
4 Ryan Howard 1B 4 Cole Hamels LH
5 Shane Victorino CF 5 Joe Blanton RH
6 Raul Ibanez LF Alt Kyle Kendrick RH
7 Ben Francisco RF
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Carlos Ruiz C CL Brad Lidge RH
Top bench options SU Jose Contreras RH
R John Mayberry OF RP Ryan Madson RH
R Wilson Valdez INF RP J.C. Romero LH
R Ross Gload 1B RP Danys Baez RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Domonic Brown 23 OF Majors Triple-A
Five-category stud pretty much ready, but Phillies too focused on winning now to turn right field over to him.
2 Jonathan Singleton 19 OF Class A Class A
Slugger already has good batting eye and should advance quickly if transition from first base goes smoothly.
3 Brody Colvin 20 SP Class A Class A
Hard-thrower has ace potential but some lingering questions about makeup. Likely won't help until 2012.
4 Jarred Cosart 20 SP Class A Class A
Has stuff on level of Colvin, but durability is a concern. Has dealt with shoulder, back and elbow pain.
5 Trevor May 21 SP Class A Class A
Older than Colvin and Cosart but may need longer. Trio will ensure Philly rotation remains in good hands.
Best of the rest: Vance Worley, RP; Sebastian Valle, C; Jiwan James, OF; Jesse Biddle, SP; Domingo Santana, OF; Aaron Altherr, OF; Justin De Fratus, RP; J.C. Ramirez, SP; Phillippe Aumont, SP; Joe Savery, SP; Tyson Gillies, OF; and Matt Rizzotti, 1B.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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