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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
Royals' Luke Hochevar nearing return from Tommy John surgery
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:00 pm ET) Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar has been able to throw off a mound and expects to soon be at the full strength, reports The Kansas City Star.

Hochevar is recovering from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the 2014 season and said he expects at full strength once spring training is underway.

"I'm conditioning my arm," Hochevar said. "Once spring training comes around they're going to monitor me for a little while, but once they cut me loose I become a regular guy again."

In 2013, Hochevar produced a 1.92 ERA in 58 games. While Hochevar said he's looking forward to returning, he wants to be cautious with his body.

"Hopefully, I'm ready in two weeks," Hochevar said. "But you never know and I'm not going to put a timetable on it. I'm going to listen to my body. I need to look long term, not just career-wise but season-wise. Me on the shelf is no good. If it takes me an extra two weeks, a month, whatever it is, I need to be mindful of that."


Report: Padres 'in touch' with Phillies regarding Cole Hamels
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) The Padres are "in touch" with the Phillies in an attempt to land pitcher Cole Hamels, FOX Sports reports.

The Padres have made plenty of upgrades across the roster since general manager A.J. Heller took over, and it's possible they don't have the ammunition to land the Philadelphia ace in a deal. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he didn't expect Hamels to be traded before the start of the season. Hamels went 9-9 with a 2.46 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings in 2014.


Report: Orioles sign Mark Hendrickson to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Orioles have signed Mark Hendrickson to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, CSNBaltimore.com reports.

Hendrickson, who last pitched in the majors in 2011, spent 2014 with York of the independent Atlantic League, posting a 1.54 ERA and 34:11 K:BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings over 55 appearances.


Rangers' Matt Harrison expects to open season on 60-day DL
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said Saturday that he expects to open the season on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to recover from spinal fusion surgery, the Dallas Morning News reports.

"My job is to just get as healthy as I can and get myself right so I don’t have something happen like it did last year when I tried to come back," Harrison said. "I’m just going to focus on that and get ready to contribute whenever it may be."

Harrison is dealing with some stiffness in his right side, which will cause him to throw from a distance of 90 feet for a second consecutive week rather than progress to 105 feet. He hopes that he'll get his hips to rotate more and loosen up with more stretching and more throws from the 90-foot distance.


Report: Rays sign Ronald Belisario to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Rays have signed pitcher Ronald Belisario to a minor-league deal with an invitiation to spring training, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Belisaro made 62 appearances with the White Sox in 2014, posting a 4-8 record, 5.56 ERA and 47:18 K:BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings. He'll compete for a bullpen spot during the spring.


Dodgers SP Zack Greinke hasn't decided whether to opt out
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke said Saturday that he's yet to decide whether to opt out of his contract at the end of next season but added, "There's not really better options anywhere besides here," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Greinke is set to make $23 million in 2015, and he's due another $71 million over the following three seasons if he remains under his current contract. The Dodgers said earlier this offseason that they wouldn't discuss a contract extension with the pitcher during the winter.

Greinke went 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 207:43 K:BB ratio in 202 1/3 innings in 2014.


Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez hoping to bounce back in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez can't wait to get on the field and get past the 2014 season.

"I can’t wait," Jimenez said at Saturday’s FanFest event. "Whatever happened in 2014 is in the past. There's nothing I can do about it now. I can just look forward and now I’m going to do everything in spring training to get myself ready the best I can for the season and help the team."

Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with Baltimore in 2014, went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 125 1/3 innings pitched. 

"It was pretty hard, coming in with a new team and signing a contract like that and not to do what everyone is expecting you to do, it’s hard," Jimenez said. "It’s hard not to be there for the team, but regardless what happened, I fought a lot. I think I was trying to find a way to survive to be there for the team and do whatever I can do the best. We got really far. I didn’t help a lot, but I tried to do whatever I could with whatever I had."


Royals' Alex Gordon plans to take it slow in recovery
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is still recovering from his wrist surgery this offseason and plans to take it slow in his rehab.

"We really don’t have a timetable," Gordon said. "We’re just going to see how it feels. Obviously, it’s spring training. So we don’t want to rush anything. If it feels good, we’ll be aggressive with it. But if it’s not feeling good, we’ll take it slow."

Manager Ned Yost wants to continue to take things slow with Gordon.
"We’ll just take it slow," Yost said. "We’ll see how he feels. We’ll play him one day. Then we’ll give him a day off. Play him another day, five or six innings, then give him a day off. We’ll just see how he’s doing."
Gordon hit .266 in 2014 with 19 home runs and 74 RBI.

Angels, Garrett Richards settle on $3.2 million for 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Angels and pitcher Garrett Richards have agreed to a contract for 2015 for $3.2 million, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Richards was asking for $3.8 million while the Angels offered $2.4 million. Richards posted a 13-4 record in 2014 with a 2.61 ERA and 164 strikeouts for Los Angeles.


Orioles' Manny Machado expects to be ready for spring training
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is progressing through his rehab and says he's "ready to roll" for the upcoming season.

"I have a lot of time to get ready. That is the key: having a regular offseason," Machado said Saturday. "Was doing my rehab in Sarasota and then went to Miami to do my regular weightlifting and get ready for the season. Been exciting. Looking forward to spring training."

Machado has taken part in baseball activities for the past few weeks since having surgery on Aug. 27 after tearing a ligament in his knee.

"It will be awesome," he said of the prospect of having a normal spring. "I'm dying to get back on the field. Spring training is key for a lot of players to get your at-bats and your reps. I think some take it for granted but it's a very big key for success for the year."

Machado hit .278 in 2014 with 12 home runs and 32 RBI for Baltimore.


 
 
 
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