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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
Red Sox's Henry Owens impresses during camp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:19 am ET) Red Sox pitcher Henry Owens impressed during batting practice recently, according to the Boston Herald

Owens hadn't faced big league hitters since last spring training, and had something to prove. While Owens didn't have great fastball command during the session, his changeup was spot on. 

"Great deception, hard to pick up," catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "He got me on the changeup today because you can’t see the spin. It looks just like his fastball. That’s a huge advantage."

Pitching coach Juan Nieves agreed, but said he wasn't sure whether Owens was ready for the majors just yet. "Is anybody ready to come to the big leagues?" Nieves said. "I don’t know. We don’t know until they get there and experience the competition."

The 22-year-old Owens enters the year as the team's second-best prospect according to Baseball America. He posted a 2.94 ERA over two minor-league levels last year. 


Brewers GM confident Jean Segura will bounce back
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Brewers general manager Doug Melvin expressed confidence Saturday that shortstop Jean Segura will bounce back after a subpar 2014 season, the Journal Sentinel reports.

"I'm pretty confident he's going to bounce back," Melvin said. "He had a very good September. He had a lot of stuff going on last year. But everybody says he's a much happier person and everything. He's a good, athletic player that we need."

After delivering a .294 average, smacking 12 home runs and stealing 44 bases in 2013, Segura hit just .246/.289/.326 with five home runs, 31 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 513 at-bats in 2014.


Brewers' Dontrelle Willis making a good impression in camp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Brewers pitcher Dontrelle Willis has made a favorable impression during camp, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

In particular, Willis has impressed manager Ron Roenicke. "He's got a great attitude," Roenicke said. "The things he said are exactly what you want a player to say. He gets it." Willis has also made a strong impression on his new teammates.

Willis, 33, has not pitched in the majors since 2011. He's attempting to make a come back with the Brewers this spring. 


Blue Jays' Michael Saunders: 'No pain' day after surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders said Saturday that he's feeling no pain one day after undergoing knee surgery, the Toronto Sun reports.

"I feel great," Saunders said. "I couldn’t believe it when I woke up this morning and I was walking around just fine. I walked out of surgery just fine. I actually started doing some exercises today and just got checked out by the doctor and he was pleasantly surprised with what he saw. There’s not as much swelling as he originally thought. Everything is checking out so far and everything is good news. No pain. It feels like I banged my knee on a pole and it’s a tiny bit swollen."

Saunders suffered a torn meniscus while tracking a foul ball Wednesday, tripping over a sprinkler head and hearing a popping sound. After initially being told he could need to have the meniscus repaired, a procedure that carries a recovery time of three-to-five months, Saunders had the torn portion of the meniscus removed, which places him on track to return to action within six weeks. While the outfielder is excited to be back on the field in a much shorter time, he indicated he'll be cautious with his rehab.

"I’m going to miss some spring training but it could be a lot worse," Saunders said. "My ligaments are intact. For me this is the best-case scenario. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m ready to go. I’d love to say that I’ll be ready opening day. That’s my goal. But we’re targeting more mid-April, on the safe side. At the end of the day I have to listen to my knee. It’s a long season. I’m going to get this right the first time and not rush back."


Athletics' Doolittle hoping to throw in a week or two
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle is hoping to be cleared to throw in a week or two, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

Doolittle was able to participate in strength tests on Saturday, and the results were positive. He has not been cleared to throw just yet, but is hoping that will come shortly. Doolittle has been sidelined by a shoulder injury during the start of camp. 

The 28-year-old posted a 2.73 ERA over 62 2/3 innings last year. 


Rays release OF Josh Sale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) The Rays have released outfielder Josh Sale, Baseball America reports.

Sale was suspended for use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2013 as well as for conduct detrimental to the team that same season. He received a 50-game suspension last August for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. Before his most recent suspension, he hit .238/.313/.344 with four home runs and 46 RBI in 323 at-bats with high Class A Charlotte.


Yankees' Cashman downplays Bailey's chances of making team
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Yankees general manager Brian Cashman downplayed reliever Andrew Bailey's chances of making the 25-man roster, according to the Journal News.

Bailey, 30, is attempting to come back from a shoulder injury. He has not pitched in the majors since 2013 due to the issue. While Bailey has been able to participate in bullpen sessions this spring, Cashman took a more realistic view of the situation. "It’s one of those things where, non-roster situation, it’s a flyer, and the odds are against it," Cashman said. "And it didn’t work out for us last year. But because of who he is, his makeup, his work ethic, all those things, it made it easier to say, 'All right, let's keep trying,'" he added. 

Cashman stressed that while things look good now, the team wants to see how Bailey will respond in game situations. Bailey, meanwhile, has been optimistic during camp, saying he feels like he's finally over his injury.

Bailey posted a 3.77 ERA over 28 2/3 innings back in 2013. 


Hinch: Astros' Torreyes has 'earned every chance to get a look'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Astros infielder Ronald Torreyes checks in at about 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, but his success at avoiding strikeouts has manager A.J. Hinch ready to give him a chance at showing what he can do this spring, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"You like to see these guys play," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He can look to our starting lineup at the top or hitting first or second and he’ll see a guy who is pretty successful who is not the biggest guy in the world. I see a unique size for this level, but the way he’s hit and the way he’s performed he’s earned every chance to get a look."

Torreyes was added to the team's 40-man roster in November after hitting .298/.345/.376 with two home runs, 46 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 460 at-bats with Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2014.

"He doesn’t look like a ballplayer because he’s little like me, but he’s a young bull," Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. "He hits a lot and plays good defense. Last year they put him on the 40-man roster because he has a good chance to help us. There aren’t many players like him so skinny and little in the big leagues, so when you see him for the first time you say, 'You know he has to be good to be here.' Then when you see him hit you realize the organization has a good reason to give him this opportunity."

Torreyes will look for an opportunity to latch on as a utility player this spring. He's capable of seeing work at second base, shortstop and third base as well as in left field and center field.


Yoga has Twins' Trevor May 'much fresher than ever before'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Twins starting pitcher Trevor May has looked to improve flexibility coming into his competition for a rotation spot this spring by turning to yoga to help repeat his delivery, the Star Tribune reports.

"I’ve been doing yoga for 30 or 40 minutes every morning, and I’m much fresher than ever before," May said. "Every scouting report I’ve ever seen on myself says, 'Has trouble repeating his delivery.' Well, yoga is literally repeating moves, keeping your body under your control. I do the warrior pose, which is [the same as] striding and throwing a baseball. It has to help."

May initially struggled in his major-league debut last season, but he hopes the perseverance he showed and his improvements near the end of the season help set him apart in the battle for a rotation spot this spring.

"Obviously I don’t know exactly what the people who are making decisions are thinking, but showing I can be successful after having my face beat up for two months, showing I can work through it, it’s a trait you have to have," May said. "I take pride in the fact that I didn’t give up. I didn’t let it get me down."


Twins 1B Joe Mauer happy with 'normal' offseason
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Twins first baseman Joe Mauer was happy to have a "normal" offseason after dealing with concussion-like symptoms the previous year, MLB.com reports.

"I had a very productive offseason," Mauer said Saturday. "The last couple years I had a lot of things to deal with, especially last year with the concussion. I didn't really get a good base heading into the year. I feel great this year and I hope it stays that way."

Mauer believes that his vigorous stretching exercises this offseason will help keep him healthy in 2015.

"You have to pay attention to your body. I'm getting older," Mauer said. "I'm finding out what works and doesn't work. Trying to make adjustments."

Manager Paul Molitor indicated that he's noticed a difference in Mauer this spring.

"I think it means a lot for him," Molitor said. "I think coming back last year after what had happened the previous season, you always have those questions. He's got friends that have gone through it with Corey Koskie and Justin [Morneau]. We all know how validated our concern is over concussion issues. I'm sure there was a little hesitancy there. Like I said when I had a chance to visit with him this winter, he's excited to be back and not have to be concerned about those type of things."

Mauer endured a down offensive performance last season, hitting .277/.361/.371 with just four home runs in 455 at-bats.


 
 
 
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