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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
Diamondbacks pitcher Rubby De La Rosa could be No. 2 starter
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:33 pm ET) Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale has named his Opening Day starter, Josh Collmenter, but has yet to unveil the rest of his starting rotation. Because Collmenter and another starter, Jeremy Hellickson, have similar styles, Hale is considering Rubby De La Rosa as the No. 2 when the season begins, reports MLB.com.

"We are in serious discussion about doing something like that," Hale said.

De La Rosa has a 3.75 ERA in four appearances this spring. He's recorded 11 strikeouts with five earned runs allowed in 12 innings pitched.


Padres P Tyson Ross feeling good, ready for start of season
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(7:46 pm ET) Padres pitcher Tyson Ross is feeling ready to get the season under way, according to the Press-Enterprise.

“Physically I felt good,” he said. “It’s been a good spring so far, another step in the right direction … I had a good feel for my sinker today and I was able to get some strikeouts with that, running it back away from right-handed hitters and not just using my slider.”

Ross is working on his changeup and he wants to use it more often.

“It’s kind of hard when the other pitches are working well, but it’s going to be a pitch I need to use the third time through the lineup, to get a little separation (in speed) off the fastball and slider,” he said. “I mixed in a couple today and I’m going to keep working it in.”

Manager Bud Black said that could be what he needs to get to the next level.

“It’s tough, because if you take a regular season game and he’s fighting like heck to keep the other team from scoring, you never want to get beat on your third or fourth pitch,” Black said. “The other two are so devastating, it’s tough not to go in that direction.”

Ross, 27, has a career ERA of 3.70 with 416 stirkeouts and 186 walks in five years of play.


Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta does it all in start Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:43 pm ET) Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta tossed five strike outs over four scoreless innings of work Saturday. Arrieta also added a three-run home run and an RBI double to help his own cause, something he simply called a good work day, reports MLB.com.

"i like it," Arrieta said. "I think it allows us to put a little speed behind me. I feel I can handle the bat well. Depending on the situation, I feel I can put a bunt down efficiently."

Arrieta feels comfortable with the bat in his hand, partially why manager Joe Maddon is considering batting the pitcher eighth in the order.

"It is the pitcher, and it seems like a break in the lineup, but we feel we can do some damage there and help us out," Arrieta said.


Astros pitcher Roberto Hernandez making final staff decision difficult
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:39 pm ET) Astros pitcher Roberto Hernandez is still in the fight for the final spot on the pitching staff. He continued to prove why he belongs Saturday, allowing one run on three hits in five innings of work against the Marlins.

Manager A.J. Hinch continues to like what he's seen from the veteran, who is battling with Asher Wojciechowski, reports MLB.com.

"He had a nice game by getting through some very difficult jams and also getting a lot of ground balls," Hinch said. "I don't know what his total was, but it felt like they were pounding the ball into the ground, which is vintage Roberto Hernandez. There's a reason he's lasted this long in the league and you know what you're going to get and he found a way today."

Hernandez threw 71 pitches Saturday with 43 going for strikes.

"I don't think about that," Hernandez said when asked about his chances of making the team. "I want to continue my work and I never think about, 'Is it my last start?' I'm happy."


Cardinals pitcher Carlos Villanueva expecting to make team
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:29 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher Carlos Villanueva wants to make sure he is on the major league roster this season, reports MLB.com.

After St. Louis announced the trade of Sam Freeman earlier Saturday, it opened things up for another arm to make the team. Villanueva also has an opt-out clause in his contract to be released if he is not on the roster for Opening Day.

"My preference is to stay here with this group," Villanueva said. "After that first game out there, I felt that I've thrown the ball very well. I have no regrets about how I've pitched. It's not like they haven't seen it before. I think what they needed to see from me is what they've seen in previous years. It's a decision that's out of my hands after that."

Manager Mike Matheny still doesn't know what he plans to do.

"It's coming down to the wire," Matheny said. "We probably have more questions than most clubs do late because we've given ourselves flexibility to not have it done halfway through. We're taking our time to watch these guys compete and also allowing for the potential if something doesn't go right."


Indians Closer Cody Allen changes regimen to be ready this year
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(7:15 pm ET) Indians closer Cody Allen has changed his throwing routine in order be ready to go for opening day, reports MLB.com.

The team has mixed in Minor League appearances with his Cactus League play.

"I think what happened the last two springs, I was ready too far ahead in the spring," Allen said on Saturday. "So, when they'd try to pull me back a little bit, I'd lose my rhythm a little bit and then try to get it again before the season started. This year, I've been able to build up to being in that perfect spot right at Opening Day."

Allen has posted an ERA of 1.50 with two walks in six innings of work this spring. Last season he finished with an ERA of 2.07 with 24 saves, throwing 91 strikeouts and 26 walks in 69 2/3 innings pitched.


Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia not concerned with runs allowed
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia isn't worried about how spring training has gone so far. The former Cy Young award winner doesn't care that his numbers, an 11.57 ERA in 4 2/3 innings, look so bad, reports the New York Daily News.

"I don't give a (expletive) what stock (people) put in it," Sabathia said. "It is what it is. I've had spring trainings where I've given up a lot of runs and went out and had a good season. I've had spring trainings like last year where I didn't give up no runs and I gave up five in the first game. Y'all can put stock in whatever you want. I'm not really worried about it."

Manager Joe Girardi expressed a similar mindset.

"The bottom line is that he's right Opening Day," Girardi said. "You try to evaluate his stuff and how you feel about that. What we've seen this year is much more positive than what we’ve seen the last, you know, in velocity, the discrepancy between that and the change up and slider, so now to me it's just ironing out and being more consistent."


Braves P Shelby Miller looking forward to new start
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(7:00 pm ET) After being traded from the Cardinals, Braves pitcher Shelby Miller is looking forward to a new start with his new ball club, reports MLB.com. He spent his first three years with the Cardinals.

"I'm looking forward to a clean start to the season because getting traded over from St. Louis, you never really expect that," Miller said. "It's everything I've known, being drafted by them and coming through the farm system and stuff like that.

"But it's exciting. You're getting traded from a good team to another. I'm excited about the opportunity with my new teammates. I think we have a great chance to do something special here in Atlanta, and I'm looking forward to helping however I can."

Over his career, the right-hander has an ERA 3.33 with 312 strikeouts and 134 walks.


Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes shines again in outing Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:58 pm ET) Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes continues to impress the club with his poise and prowess on the mound, reports the Boston Herald. Barnes was called on with two runners on and two outs after previous pitcher, Stephen Wright, gave up five unearned runs.

He managed to get a groundball and get out of the inning. He finished with four strikeouts and no runs allowed  in 2 1/3 innings of work.

"It was good to be in a situation like that, coming in, especially in the middle of an inning, I haven't done that in a while, starting an inning with a guy on second and having to pitch through that," said Barnes. "I was happy with all of it."


Athletics' Tyler Ladendorf pushing for spot on Opening Day roster
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:51 pm ET) Athletics utility man Tyler Ladendorf is increasing his chances by the day of making the Opening Day roster in Oakland, reports MLB.com.

Ladendorf, who was suspended for 50 games last year after testing positive for a drug of abuse, has turned heads just about every day he's been on the field.

"Tyler's really emerged this year for us," manager Bob Melvin said this week. "To me, he looks a lot more confident here. We put him on a roster for a reason. His versatility stands out, and we're all about versatility. He has a similar versatility to Ben Zobrist. He can play any of the outfield positions, any of the infield positions, and does well defensively, and his bat emerged last year as well. He's one that's stood out."

Ladendorf just hope it translates into a roster spot.

"Any time you got them talking about you," Ladendorf said, "you're doing something right."


 
 
 
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