You've heard of the proverb: "Slow and steady wins the race." Well, it's seems the Philadelphia Phillies are adapting the adage: "Old and steady wins the race."
|A.L. East||N.L. East|
|A.L. Central||N.L. Central|
|A.L. West||N.L. West|
The core of the Phillies' roster might be filled with All Stars and future Hall of Famers, but there's no denying it's an aging group. By the start of the 2013 season, the entire starting infield, including catcher Carlos Ruiz, will average 34 years in age, and two of the team's top three starters -- Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee -- are 35 and 34, respectively. Let's not forget about closer Jonathan Papelbon, who turned 32 in November.
Yet, even though the nucleus of the Phillies' lineup might be able to start swapping notes about their AARP applications, no major-league team will be taking Philadelphia lightly. Even though the Phillies missed the playoffs and didn't win the division in 2012 for the first time in six seasons, they won 80-plus games for a 12th straight season and will push the Nationals and Braves for the NL East crown in 2013.
It was interesting the Phillies chose to replace 37-year-old third baseman Placido Polanco, who is now with the Marlins, with 36-year-old Michael Young, but the veteran Young gives Philadelphia versatility around the infield. He played first base, second base, third base and shortstop last season for Texas. Although he will primarily play the hot corner, at least manager Charlie Manuel has a reliable option in case he wants to spell shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Chase Utley or first baseman Ryan Howard.
The Phillies outfield has a new look in 2013. The team gave up one of its prized pitching prospects, Trevor May, to bring in Ben Revere from Minnesota to be the team's everyday center fielder. The Phillies hope former top prospect Domonic Brown starts to live up to what was once considered immense potential, but he isn't guaranteed to start. Both corner outfield spots are in flux. Brown, Delmon Young, John Mayberry, Darin Ruf and Laynce Nix will all compete for playing time. The rookie Ruf has great potential because of his bat, but the outfield is a relatively new position for him and could be a defensive liability, which is why Philadelphia added Young to the mix in late January. The Phillies hope Young will become a regular in their outfield, but he might miss the start of the season due to offseason ankle surgery.
The rotation also has a fresh face in former Nationals' starter John Lannan. Gone are the days of Joe Blanton occupying the fifth spot and bouncing between the mound and DL, but it's not like Lannan is a major upgrade. Lannan, who spent a majority of the 2012 season in the minors, is 42-52 with a 4.01 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 134 MLB starts.
Philadelphia is two years removed from winning a franchise-record 102 regular-season games. While this year's crop of talent might not rival the 2011 squad, the Phillies will still be a formidable opponent and full of Fantasy viable players.
Bust ... Roy Halladay, starting pitcher
Fantasy owners shouldn't get the wrong idea here. We aren't saying avoid drafting Halladay. We are saying don't reach for the veteran hurler. Halladay battled shoulder problems last season and saw a drop in velocity, which were the reasons for his down year. The offseason reports have been positive, but it's not like if they were negative the Phillies would let us know, so don't buy into optimism without hard evidence. The fact, however, is that Halladay struggled in the second half last season, posting a 4.93 ERA in his final 14 starts. Fantasy owners shouldn't draft Halladay as their ace, which would be risky no matter how much you are convinced of a bounce-back season.
Impact Prospect ... Darin Ruf, outfield
The 2009 20th-round pick really didn't start to appear on the prospect scene until he slugged .506 at Class A in 2011. Now everyone seems to be getting amped about his outlook after he bashed 38 homers at Double-A last season and thrived in a brief late season stint with the Phillies. After totaling six extra-base hits (three homers) and slugging .727 in 12 games with Philadelphia, Ruf then added 10 more homers and a .575 slugging percentage in 32 winter ball games. Ruf is a bit old for a rookie (26 years old), but he has major power potential. It's just that his natural position is first base, so unless he quickly adapts to playing left field, then the Phillies could have trouble getting Ruf regular at-bats.
Buyer Beware ... Ben Revere, outfield
Owners are probably overvaluing Revere's trade to Philadelphia. Revere probably deserves a slight upgrade because the Phillies have been a better team than the Twins the last few years, and he will likely be hitting in front of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Michael Young. But remember, those are aging bats getting past their prime. Don't forget Revere has no power and his RBI production is lacking. Sure, he might provide average, on-base percentage and stolen bases, but Rotisserie owners need to keep in mind he actually finished higher among outfielders in Head-to-Head than Rotisserie formats last season. We're not convinced the move to Philadelphia dramatically increases Revere's Fantasy value.
It wasn't long ago the Phillies' farm system was flush with elite pitching prospects. In fact, Trevor May, Jesse Biddle, Brody Colvin and Jarred Cosart were nicknamed the Baby Aces and considered the future of the Phillies' rotation. Well, fast forward a few years and it's a different picture for the Phillies. Cosart and May have been traded, Colvin has self-destructed in the minors and Biddle might be the only player left to one day join the Phillies' rotation. Still, Biddle hasn't pitched above Class A, so don't expect him to make a Fantasy impact anytime soon. A few names seasonal league Fantasy owners might stash away are Tyler Cloyd, Jonathan Pettibone and former Dodgers' first-round pick Ethan Martin. All three players are on the 40-man roster and could be candidates to join the rotation in the event of an injury ... Catcher Carlos Ruiz, who will miss the start of the season due to a suspension, is under contract through this season. Therefore, keep tabs on catcher prospect Tommy Joseph, who was acquired in the Hunter Pence trade with San Francisco last summer. Joseph, who will likely spend most of 2013 at Triple-A, could be ticketed for major-league duty in 2014. He has good power for a catcher ... Michael Young might only be making a one-year pit stop in Philadelphia since the Phillies have some burgeoning talent at third base brewing in the minors. Cody Asche and Maikel Franco rank among the Phillies' top prospects and one of them might be ready to join the major-league roster in 2014. Franco might have the most power potential of the duo, but Asche is further along and is a more polished hitter.
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