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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Philadelphia Phillies

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This time a year ago, the Phillies were the talk of the baseball world, having added Cliff Lee to an already formidable rotation to give them a starting five that rated among the best in history.

But for as much success as they had during the regular season, their super-rotation formula fell flat in the playoffs, saddling them with yet another first-round exit. Now, with their payroll tied up long-term, they have no choice but to do it all over again -- only a year older and without some of the players that made it possible last season.

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Roy Oswalt was one of those players. Granted, of the Phillies' quartet of aces entering 2011, he was the one who didn't pull his weight, spending time on the DL with back issues, but when he was healthy, he was an improvement over the Joe Blanton-Kyle Kendrick combo that will attempt to replace him.

Still, with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, pitching won't be this team's problem. Its problem will be a lineup that's quickly becoming long in the tooth, having relied on the same cast of characters for the last seven seasons. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins are all 32 or older and showing clear signs of decline. The Phillies did inject some youth with the acquisition of Hunter Pence last July, but with Howard expected to miss a month or more with a torn left Achilles' -- and only Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome available to replace him -- a lineup that was already treading water will now be bailing it by the bucketful.

No doubt, the Phillies are still an NL powerhouse, and for all their inflated contracts, they did find a way to reel in closer Jonathan Papelbon this offseason. But with the rest of the NL East making even bigger moves, a changing of the guard could happen in the not-too-distant future. Outside of their pitching staff, the Phillies aren't the hotbed of Fantasy talent they used to be.

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Bust ... Hunter Pence, OF

The average Fantasy owner is all-in on Pence, targeting him as a top-10 outfielder in the fourth or fifth round. But before you hop aboard the hype train and ride it all the way to crazy town, you might want to remind yourself that the only aspect of his game that changed for the better last year was his batting average. He didn't gain any power. He didn't walk more or strike out less. He didn't fundamentally change as a player. He simply got better results, putting together a .361 BABIP instead of his usual .305 or so. It wouldn't be the first time. He had a .377 BABIP as a rookie in 2007, when he hit .322. But the peripherals suggested it was too good to be true then, and they do now as well. Pence is an asset in Fantasy because of his job security and 20-homer power, but he's a .280 hitter who can't take a walk. That, to me, isn't worth the price tag.

Sleeper ... John Mayberry, OF

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has made the comparison. Manager Charlie Manuel has made the comparison. It's Mayberry's identity now: the next Jayson Werth. For the Fantasy owners who have played long enough to remember when Werth rose from obscurity to put together a 20-20 season in 2008, that's cause for celebration. But is it a reasonable expectation? Hey, Mayberry is more of a certainty now than Werth was then, having hit 15 homers in 267 at-bats last year. Like Werth, he's a former first-round pick who, like Werth, didn't begin to meet his potential until his late 20s. And like Werth, he happens to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage. The Phillies are committed to starting Mayberry in left field this year, so as long as he hits righties well enough to keep Domonic Brown's bat in the minors (where the Phillies want it), 20-plus homers is the reasonable expectation. You won't find a more projectable player in the late rounds of mixed-league drafts.

Fading star ... Chase Utley, 2B

Chase Utley has a long history as the top second baseman in Fantasy, and though most owners recognize by now that younger players like Robinson Cano have leaped him the rankings, a certain segment of the Fantasy-playing community still regards him as elite based on nothing more than reputation. Really, nothing more. When he disappointed in 2010, you could argue it was mostly because he missed six weeks due to thumb surgery, but last year, his numbers simply weren't up to par. His .769 OPS was lower than that of Marco Scutaro, among others, decreasing (along with his batting average and slugging percentage) for the fifth straight season. Optimists will point out that Utley was never fully healthy, having missed the first seven weeks with a knee issue, but at age 33, injuries come with the territory. When a player on a steady downward trend can no longer stay in the lineup for 140 games, the end is near. I can think of better uses for my sixth-round pick than Utley.

2012 Philadelphia Phillies Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Jimmy Rollins SS 1 Roy Halladay RH
2 Chase Utley 2B 2 Cliff Lee LH
3 Hunter Pence RF 3 Cole Hamels LH
4 Ryan Howard 1B 4 Vance Worley RH
5 Shane Victorino CF 5 Joe Blanton RH
6 John Mayberry LF Alt Kyle Kendrick RH
7 Placido Polanco 3B
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Carlos Ruiz C CL Jonathan Papelbon RH
Top bench options SU Antonio Bastardo LH
R Ty Wigginton UTL RP Jose Contreras RH
R Jim Thome 1B RP Michael Stutes RH
R Laynce Nix OF RP Dontrelle Willis LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Trevor May 22 SP Class A Double-A
For all of Matt Moore's exploits last year, May actually led the minors in strikeouts per nine innings. He'll be ready to carry the baton once Halladay-Lee-Hamels is done.
2 Brody Colvin 21 SP Class A Class A
Though his stock dropped last year, Colvin still has top-of-the-rotation stuff if he can rediscover his delivery. Clearly, the Phillies don't have any reason to rush him.
3 Jesse Biddle 20 SP Class A Class A
Though maybe the safest of the Phillies' big pitching prospects, Biddle is also the furthest away. He'll need to show more consistent velocity to take another step forward.
4 Sebastian Valle 21 C Class A Double-A
Valle has a high ceiling both offensively and defensively, but his progress has been slow so far. You shouldn't expect to see him in the majors for a few more years.
5 Jonathan Pettibone 21 SP Class A Double-A
The hard-thrower with good command might be the pitching prospect closest to joining the Big Three in Philadelphia, but it still likely won't happen in 2012.
Best of the rest: Phillippe Aumont, RP; Justin De Fratus, RP; Michael Schwimer, RP; Joe Savery, RP; Freddy Galvis, SS; Larry Greene, OF; Tyson Gillies, OF; Matt Rizzotti, 1B; Austin Hyatt, SP; J.C. Ramirez, SP; Darin Ruf, 1B; and Harold Garcia, 2B.

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Player News
Nationals' Aaron Barrett: 'I'm ready for a full season'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:06 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Aaron Barrett worked on strengthening his shoulder and legs in the offseason to improve his longevity throughout the entire season. Barrett admitted he wasn't used to a full major-league schedule, which contributed to him feeling "tired" in the middle of his rookie season.

"I'm ready for a full season," Barrett said. "Last year was a long season for me. It was my first year up. I had a lot of appearances, a lot of warm-ups and stuff like that. I think that is part of the process of coming up and working on that. I did as much training as I possibly could for this year."


Daniel Descalso brings versatility, playoff experience to Rockies
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:06 pm ET) Rockies infielder Daniel Descalso is ready to fill the role of versatile veteran who can play second base, third base or shortstop as needed, the Denver Post reports.

"I'll be ready for whatever comes my way," Descalso said Monday. "It's been a while since I've played just one position for any length of time, so I've worked hard to reach a comfort level at all three spots. I have an idea of what it takes to stay sharp."

Another factor that piqued the interest of the Rockies this offseason was his postseason experience, as he has played in 44 postseason games and won one championship.

"All of that factored in quite a bit," manager Walt Weiss said. "I think we sometimes underestimate the value of that — guys that have played in big games, pennant races, and have won a World Series. Those types of players are valuable, and that's a big reason why we brought Danny in here."

Descalso has made 110 starts at second base, 91 at third base and 88 at shortstop in his five-year career, seeing at least 100 appearances at all three poitions. He hit .242/.333/.311 in 161 at-bats last year with the Cardinals.


Francona: Jason Kipnis likely to make spring debut this weekend
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:02 pm ET) Indians manager Terry Francona said Tuesday second baseman Jason Kipnis (hand) will likely make his spring debut this weekend, per MLB.com.

Cubs' Kyle Hendricks targeting 200 innings in 2015
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:01 pm ET) Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who was awarded the No. 4 spot in the starting rotation, told MLB.com that he's targeting 200 innings in 2015.

"That's one of the biggest goals I have for myself is consistency, No. 1, but then eating up innings," Hendricks said. "That's something I pride myself on is staying in ballgames and giving my team a chance to win. I think with the number I threw last year, 200 shouldn't be out of the question for me."

Hendricks put together a solid rookie campaign in 2014, registering a 2.46 ERA and 47:15 K:BB ratio over 80 1/3 innings with the Cubs. Overall, he totaled 183 innings between his time at Triple-A and the majors.


Francona: Indians' Raburn (knee) to make spring debut Wednesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:00 pm ET) Indians manager Terry Francona said outfielder Ryan Raburn will make his spring debut Wednesday against the Reds, per MLB.com. Raburn underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his knee in mid-September.

Royals RP Ryan Madson (back) expects to play catch Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:52 am ET) Royals reliever Ryan Madson, who injured his back doing squats over the weekend, expects to play catch Tuesday after being scratched from throwing Monday, per The Kansas City Star.

Nationals' Ian Stewart: I feel confident again in the batter's box
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:47 am ET) Ian Stewart is in camp with the Nationals this spring looking to land a spot on the team's bench. Stewart has a lot to prove since his career has been in decline since a 25-homer campaign in 2009 with the Rockies.

Stewart said his offensive struggles had a lot to do with wrist and hand injuries he sustained the last few years, per The Washington Post. He also feels the changes he made to his swing and hitting style to please other organizations also didn't help. 

However, he appears confident going back to his old routine will suit him well this spring.

“This offseason, I just tried to get back to my old ways of hitting and ways of working out in the past,” he said. “Really, just trying to be as comfortable as I can in the box. I’ve gotten into my own head a lot the last few years. Just struggling and letting that affect different parts of my game. … I’m at a point where I’m completely comfortable in the box. I feel like my head is clear because I really felt so good hitting this winter that I feel confident again in the box. I’m comfortable, I’m loose, I’m not in my own head.”


Dodgers manager Mattingly appoints Jimmy Rollins as leadoff man
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:44 am ET) A week after saying he wasn't fully committed to batting Jimmy Rollins at leadoff, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly revealed that the former Phillies shortstop will be the team's full-time leadoff man this year, per MLB.com.

Rollins batted first in just 19 of 131 starts last season for the Phillies. Rollins, 36, hit .243/.323/.394 over 538 at-bats last season. He has a career .277 on-base percentage over 200 at-bats at Dodger Stadium.


Phillies' De Fratus spent offseason adding velocity to fastball
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:38 am ET) Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus spent the offseason working on adding velocity to his fastball after losing a little zip on the pitch last season, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.

De Fratus said he built up arm strength through a long-toss program.

“I look at long toss like weightlifting,” De Fratus said. “The only way to get stronger is to keep doing it. How do you train your arm to go faster? Well, you try to throw it fast. That’s how I did it.

“Knock on wood, I feel good. I’m ready to get after it to see if the work that I put into the offseason helps.”


Mets not in significant trade talks with other clubs for Dillon Gee
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:37 am ET) Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters there's barely any dialogue between other clubs about potential trades for pitcher Dillon Gee, who was on the block during the winter meetings. Gee is scheduled to start Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener against Atlanta, though he's slated to start the regular season as a long reliever.

"I think most clubs, including ours, are focused on what's going on in camp and evaluating what they already have," Alderson said, per ESPN. "If there's going to be any significant trade talk, I think typically it's going to happen later in spring training, unless there's an injury of some sort. By and large, I think that comes more in the second half of spring training."


 
 
 
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