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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
White Sox P Nate Jones still progressing through Tommy John rehab
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:50 pm ET) Still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, White Sox pitcher Nate Jones is now throwing from 120 feet on flat ground, according to ESPN Chicago. 

Jones had Tommy John surgery last summer and has taken a patient approach to the rehab process. He won't be able to throw a bullpen session, though, until he begins to throw from 150 feet away. 

Likely to stay in extended spring training through May, Jones is taking his continued recovery day by day. 

“You get out of it what you put into it so boom, from the first day I’ve been getting after it for that day and just making sure I get through that day healthy and check it off and move to the next,” Jones said. “[But] you can’t get going too quickly, that’s when problems start. You have to let the biology of the healing of the body take over when you’re going through this rehab. They talked about that too, just stay the course and not get too far ahead of myself.” 


Big Papi working at 1B in prep for season-opening series in NL park
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:50 pm ET) Red Sox DH David Ortiz is working at first base early in spring training in an effort to be prepared for the season-opening series at Philadelphia.

“We don’t want to not cover that and limit his availability to us,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said, per the Boston Herald. “So three games in Philly in the National League, there’s going to be some time at first base.”

Ortiz, who usually plays less than 10 games per season at first base, hasn't made an error since 2009.

“It's something I'm not really thinking about right now,” Ortiz said. “All I'm worrying about now is timing and hitting. First base is something I do occasionally. Mike Napoli's our first baseman. We all know he's getting ready to play first base. Me in my case, it's just a few times. The basic thing that I do when I play first base, everyone knows, that's why you see me out there a few days doing drills but it's nothing we have to worry about.”


Twins' Molitor receiving good reports on Miguel Sano
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:42 pm ET) Twins manager Paul Molitor hasn't watched much batting practice thus far in spring training, but he keeps hearing good reports about prospect Miguel Sano, per the Pioneer Press.

“I just keep hearing how far balls are going,” Molitor said after Monday’s workout. “It’s fun for people to see. I hope he’s working on his whole game.

“He’s a young kid. But he’s doing fine. It’s good to see him healthy. He hasn’t had any issues with that (surgically repaired) elbow, and that’s what we’re trying to make sure we protect against as spring unfolds.”

While Molitor is pleased with how Sano is doing offensively, he really wants to see how Sano is progressing in the field.

“I was working today on the bunt defenses; he’s trying,” Molitor said. “There are things that are going to be a challenge for him. We’ve got to keep an eye on him. He’s a big boy. He carries it pretty well, but you’ve got to have some athleticism. He’s got to keep that … if he wants to play a corner-infield position in the big leagues, especially third base.”


Phillies' Ben Revere learning to bunt for base hits
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:38 pm ET) Phillies outfielder and leadoff hitter Ben Revere has been practicing bunting for base hits, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

Manager Ryne Sandberg said the goal is for Revere to notch 10-to-15 base hits from bunts this upcoming season. A year ago, Revere posted a career-best .306 batting average. Both Revere and Sandberg are hoping if this skill develops that his numbers can increase even more. 

"Just having that is going to put more pressure on the defense," Revere said. "Are we going to come up or are we going to stay back? Because I can slap a line drive right by them that could be for a base hit or a double. The infield won't know what to do."


Kang doesn't see big difference between MLB and KBO pitchers
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:32 pm ET) Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang played three innings at shortstop during Monday's intrasquad game, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He got a putout assist on his one fielding chance and grounded out in his lone plate appearance.

“Step by step, I'm still getting used to it,” Kang said through translator H.K. Kim. “I'm having fun. It'll get better as the spring goes on.”

Kang added he did not see "a big difference" between the pitchers he's hit against in camp compared to those he played against in the Korea Baseball Organization.


Mariners P Jordan Pries impresses manager Lloyd McClendon
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(3:22 pm ET) Though Mariners pitcher Jordan Pries isn't expected to break with the club out of camp, manager Lloyd McClendon had some positive things to say about his start to spring training

“I’ve been impressed,” McClendon said, via The News Tribune. “He’s been a strike-thrower. He shows a lot of poise. I’m excited about him being at the Triple-A level.”

Pries is expected to head to Triple-A Tacoma when spring training is over. In the minors a year ago, Pries went 9-8 and posted a 4.06 ERA.




Mets' Warthen: Matt Harvey could have pitched at end of last year
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:22 pm ET) Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen admitted Monday starting pitcher Matt Harvey could have returned from Tommy John surgery last season, per NJ.com. But the team kept him out all year because there was no point in activating him off the disabled list late in the year.

"I thought that he could have even pitched at the end of last year and I think that Matt thought he was ready," Warthen said. "I think that we made the right decision. It would have done us no good but he was ready to pitch then."

Harvey, who had Tommy John surgery in Oct. 2013, will make his spring debut Friday against the Tigers. He is slated to throw 35-40 pitches.

"That's the best possible time to a little bit longer," Warthen said of a 17 1/2-month timeframe for a return from Tommy John surgery. "And that has to draw into it as well because the guys that have waited for 17 and a half months have been able to go 200 innings and not been hurt the next year and go 200 the next year and the next year and the next year. So that was part of our thinking. And also, we weren't going anywhere. We weren't going to win anything. Don't take a chance."


Mariners P Hisashi Iwakuma hits OF Gabriel Guerrero in batting practice
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:16 pm ET) Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma was forced to throw a modified batting practice since rain canceled a scheduled intrasquad scrimmage. Iwakuma got his work in by throwing to batters that were not allowed to swing since they were in a confined area.

However, Iwakuma didn't live up to his end of the bargain as he accidentally hit outfielder Gabriel Guerrero with a pitch during the session

“It was a split-finger [fastball] that just kind of slipped out of my finger,” Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki, via The News Tribune. “I felt kind of bad for [Guerrero].”

Iwakuma's first scheduled start of spring training is slated for this Saturday against the Diamondbacks. 


Padres' Will Middlebrooks to get reps at first base this spring
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:14 pm ET) Padres third baseman Will Middlebrooks said he will eventually get reps at first base this spring, according to MLB.com. He said manager Bud Black told him to "to take 100 percent of your reps at third and 20 percent at first base."

Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar (elbow) might start season on DL
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
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“If he’s not ready for opening day, it’s going to be real soon afterwards," Yost said.


 
 
 
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