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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Philadelphia Phillies

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Their payroll constricted by the long-term deals they doled out during their recent run of success, the Phillies have fallen into a rut over the last few years, giving Fantasy owners a good idea what to expect in 2014: A bunch of old guys who'll probably just be worse than last year.

Fortunately, that's not true for the starting rotation yet -- or at least not all of it. Roy Halladay had some shoulder issues that forced his retirement, but Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels still exhibit top-10 potential. Drafting either as your ace puts you in a good position in mixed leagues.

2014 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Of course, they're about the only Phillies pitchers you'd want to draft. The other two in the discussion are closer Jonathan Papelbon, whose knockout stuff appeared to lose some of its bite in his age-32 season last year, and recently signed A.J. Burnett, who's back in a hitter's park after a two-year respite in Pittsburgh. Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez are assured spots but are just as likely to hurt your ERA and WHIP as help it in NL-only leagues -- and with hardly any strikeouts to boot.

The Phillies' big offseason acquisition was Marlon Byrd, which hardly constitutes a youth movement. Coming off a career season at age 36, he has his share of skeptics, but he isn't any riskier than Ryan Howard, who's now in jeopardy of becoming a platoon player because of his struggles against left-handed pitchers, which have only gotten worse with his body beginning to betray him at age 34. Hey, Darin Ruf hit 14 homers in 251 at-bats last year, and the Phillies talked like they wanted him to play every day until the Byrd signing forced him to the bench. His natural position is first base.

If the Phillies have one bright spot in their lineup, it's Domonic Brown. Chase Utley has remained fairly productive in between injuries, and Jimmy Rollins could end up going in the middle rounds just because of the position he plays, but Brown represents the one player in the Phillies lineup with honest-to-goodness upside. True, he already broke through as a Fantasy mainstay last year, but because of an Achilles injury that sidelined him off and on throughout the second half, he wasn't as steady as he could have been, hitting 12 of his 27 homers in May alone. He showed he's turned the corner, though, having finally settled on a swing after tinkering with his for most of his minor-league career, and is just scratching the surface of his potential at age 26.

Underappreciated ... Marlon Byrd, outfield

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Ben Revere CF
2. Jimmy Rollins SS
3. Chase Utley 2B
4. Domonic Brown LF
5. Marlon Byrd RF
6. Ryan Howard 1B
7. Cody Asche 3B
8. Carlos Ruiz C
Bench Darin Ruf 1B/OF
Bench Bobby Abreu OF
Nobody would endorse drafting Byrd where he finished last year, ranked 27th among outfielders in Head-to-Head leagues and 23rd in Rotisserie. Buying into a career-best performance from a 36-year-old is generally a bad policy. But judging by early draft data, Fantasy owners are so convinced Byrd won't repeat those numbers that they hardly draft him at all. The opportunity cost is so low that, frankly, you're better off believing. And here's some food for thought: Byrd revealed this offseason that he was always taught to aim for the top of the ball, hitting it on the ground to make better use of his speed. He finally realized that staying through the middle of the ball elevates it, making better use of his power. It seems too simple to be true, but looking back at his minor-league numbers, he started out as much more of a power hitter. Believe me: I don't revel in backing an obvious regression candidate, but value is value. At Byrd's likely going rate on Draft Day, he can't possibly hurt you.

Sleeper ... Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, starting pitcher

I could address every Gonzalez question yet to be asked with the same two-word response: Nobody knows. Nobody has any clue what kind of pitcher he'll be because nobody really knows what kind of skill set he has. Access to Cuban ballplayers is so limited that scouting reports on them are always vague, and Gonzalez specifically hasn't pitched since 2011 thanks to surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. So why draft a complete unknown? Like with Byrd, it's a matter of opportunity cost. The chance of striking gold with any player in the last round or two is so low that you may be better off gambling on the mystery man. Hey, the Phillies signed Gonzalez to a six-year, $48 million deal (before cutting it back to three years, $12 million because of concerns over his elbow) for a reason -- and they weren't the only ones bidding. With the A.J. Burnett signing, the gamble is much easier to justify in NL-only leagues than mixed, especially since Gonzalez is likely to begin the year in minors, but you'll want to monitor his performance in all formats. With only Roberto Hernandez standing in his way, a strong showing likely vaults him to the majors.

Impact prospect ... Maikel Franco, third base

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Cliff Lee LHP
2. Cole Hamels LHP
3. A.J. Burnett RHP
4. Kyle Kendrick RHP
5. Roberto Hernandez RHP
ALT Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Jonathan Papelbon RHP
2. Antonio Bastardo LHP
3. Mike Adams RHP
4. Jacob Diekman LHP
5. Chad Gaudin RHP
If the Phillies hadn't already broken in a third baseman last year in Cody Asche, Franco would be a candidate for this year's Wil Myers -- that hitter everyone stashes before the season in anticipation of his arrival midseason. No, he's not quite as well-known as Myers, but judging by his breakthrough performance last year, when he hit .320 with 31 home runs and a .926 OPS -- numbers that only improved following a midseason promotion to Double-A -- he's a pretty big deal. A much bigger deal than Asche, by the way, who doesn't exactly profile as the next Scott Rolen. Translation: The Phillies may not be as committed to him as the world perceives them to be. It's not like he earned anything with his 162 at-bats last year. He didn't embarrass himself, but with a .235 batting average and .691 OPS, he didn't lock up the starting third base job forever and ever. If Asche gets off to a slow start and Franco continues to rake at Triple-A, a midseason switch could be in store.

Prospects Report

Franco isn't the only potential game-changer in the Phillies system. Jesse Biddle might already be in the big leagues if his control hadn't abandoned him down the stretch last year. It was never his strength, but the way he started out 2013, striking out 16 batters on April 22 and 10 in his next start, it didn't seem like it'd be too much of a hindrance. Until he makes some progress on that front, his arrival is difficult to gauge. The Phillies shouldn't have trouble making way for him as soon as he proves ready, but the indefinite timetable makes him a draft-and-stash better left for NL-only formats. ... Ethan Martin could technically win a job in spring training but was so unimpressive in his audition late last year, suffering from his own control issues, that Fantasy owners shouldn't put much faith in him. ... Cesar Hernandez has proven to be a prolific base-stealer in the minors, but getting him in the lineup isn't a priority for the Phillies. If he wins a reserve role, he could matter in NL-only Rotisserie leagues. ... Shortstop J.P. Crawford, the team's first-round pick in 2013, has gotten plenty of love from talent evaluators, but at age 19, he's more tools than polish and several years from reaching the big leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite ..

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Player News
Dodgers' Zack Greinke tweaks mechanics in minor-league start
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:13 pm ET) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke made a mechanical adjustment in the fifth inning of his minor-league start Wednesday that led to a potential breakthrough, as he induced an inning-ending ground ball and struck out the next four batters, MLB.com reports.

"I tried something with a pitch and it came out perfect," Greinke said.

Greinke allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings while striking out nine and throwing 85 pitches Wednesday.

"Not many guys can make one pitch and completely turn their game around," catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "He was like, they're not going to hit me anymore. It was a mechanical thing, [pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] said something with his face or the way he was looking."

Greinke's next start will come April 7 against the Padres in his regular-season debut.


Astros pitcher Mark Appel to start year in Double-A Corpus Christi
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:06 pm ET) Astros pitching prospect Mark Appel is expected to begin the season with Double-A Corpus Christi, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Appel, who was the team's 2013 No. 1 pick, has yet to pitch in the majors.


Report: Mets place Cesar Puello on waivers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) The Mets have placed outfield prospect Cesar Puello on waivers, ESPNNewYork.com reports.

Puello isn't in line to make the Opening Day roster and is out of options, so he'll need to pass through waivers before the team can send him to the minors. He went 9 for 36 with no extra-base hits this spring.


Athletics' Jesse Chavez hints he's headed to the bullpen
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:35 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Jesse Chavez told reporters that "the writing is on the wall" and indicated that he'll likely start the season in the bullpen.

"I think they had their minds made up from the beginning. But we'll see what happens," Chavez said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Chavez allowed one run on three hits and one walk while striking out six over six innings of work on Wednesday against the Angels. He posted a 4.50 ERA, a 1.75 WHIP and 12:4 K:BB ratio over 16 innings this spring. If he is demoted to the bullpen as a long reliever and spot starter, the A's will likely go will left-hander Drew Pomeranz as their fifth starter.


Brewers choose to have Michael Blazek open season in bullpen
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:33 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Michael Blazek has won a spot in the bullpen to open the season, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Blazek was being stretched out this spring in prep for a starting assignment at Triple-A Colorado Springs, but he pitched so well the team opted to keep him on the roster.

“I don’t think it has completely hit me yet,” Blazek said Wednesday. “It probably won’t until I get (to Milwaukee). We’re still in spring training so I’ve still got that mind set.”

Blazek has held opponents to a .226 average and has struck out 18 batters in 17 1/3 innings this spring.

“They just said as of right now, you’re coming up there with us,” he said. “That’s all I really needed to hear. I know I’m going to be somewhere in the 'pen. I’m going to keep the same mind set and take it one day at a time.”


Athletics OF Josh Reddick feels fine after minor-league at-bats
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:32 pm ET) Athletics manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday that outfielder Josh Reddick took three at-bats in a minor-league game Tuesday and felt fine physically, MLB.com reports.

Reddick is recovering from an oblique injury that will cause him to open the season on the 15-day disabled list, but he may be able to return soon after the season begins.


Athletics hoping Coco Crisp (elbow) can play Opening Day
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:25 pm ET) The Athletics remain hopeful that outfielder Coco Crisp (elbow) will be healthy enough to play Opening Day, MLB.com reports.

"I think it depends on how he feels tomorrow," manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday. "I think it's going to be a pretty good indication on what we need to do."

Melvin said that Crisp was sore Wednesday, and the team will decide Thursday if he'll need to open the season on the disabled list. It's possible he'll play during the team's three-game Bay Bridge Series against the Giants, starting Thursday.

"He's really the one guy on our team that we're not worried too much about at-bats," Melvin said. "If he could play in the Bay Bridge Series, we'd be good with that. Whether he's not, I really don't know yet."

If Crisp does open the season on the disabled list, the Athletics will likely carry outfielder Billy Burns on the Opening Day roster.


Mets SP Bartolo Colon finishes spring 0-3 with 7.02 ERA
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:24 pm ET) Mets starting pitcher Bartolo Colon took the hill Wednesday against the Cardinals for one final spring outing before he starts in the season opener Monday against the Nationals. Colon allowed three runs on six hits and one walk in five innings. He struck out two in a 5-4 loss.

Colon finishes the spring with a 0-3 record and 7.02 ERA. He went 1-4 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts against the Nationals last season.


Tigers' Kyle Ryan coughs up three runs in two innings vs. Astros
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:23 pm ET) Tigers pitcher Kyle Ryan got the start and logged two innings of work Wednesday night against the Astros. Ryan, who is competing for a bullpen role, allowed three runs -- two earned -- on four hits and no walks while striking out two in a 3-2 defeat.

Ryan owns a 6.23 ERA this spring. If he fails to break camp with the club, he'll be inserted in the Triple-A rotation.

"I know there's a chance," Ryan said, per MLive.com. "All I can do is go out there and be myself and do what I do."


Blue Jays' Drew Hutchison tosses three scoreless innings
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:20 pm ET) Blue Jays pitcher Drew Hutchison allowed three hits and one walk in three scoreless innings while striking out one in his team's 9-7 win over the Red Sox Wednesday.

Hutchison's fine spring finale gives him a 1.50 ERA and 12:5 K:BB ratio in 18 spring innings. His next start will come against the Yankees Monday on Opening Day.


 
 
 
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