Thursday, February 16

Philadelphia Phillies: Any Pitching Yet?

Head back to the home discussion

Starting Pitching:

The Phillies still need an ace. As of right now, their ace is someone out of: Brett Myers, Jon Lieber, and Cory Lidle. Not exactly a combination of pitchers to strike fear into the hearts of opposing hitters. Their lineup looks to be good, but they'll have to be. Poor Pat Gillick just can't seem to find any luck finding an ace. Lieber didn't have a bad season - 17-13, 4.20 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and was 4-1 in his last 5 starts of the season. It's just probably a little much to count on him to serve as a staff anchor again. Maybe as a 1.5, but not a 1.

The back end of the rotation will be formed by some combination of Ryan Madson, Robinson Tejada, and Ryan Franklin. Of those, Madson has the most interesting story, as he's a converted reliever. It could be interesting to see the potential impact he'll have on games - and possibly just as important, how deep he will be able to perform, especially early in the season. They have a serviceable 6-man rotation (serviceable being about the nicest thing you'll hear about Franklin this year, most likely), so if someone struggles, they'll be sent to the 'pen.

Rough Rotation Guess:
Ace: Jon Lieber
2nd: Brett Myers
3rd: Cory Lidle
4th: Ryan Franklin
5th: Ryan Madson / Robinson Tejada

Fantasy Value:

Again, you know how I said that there's a hard time determining an ace? Well, you've got Myers and Lieber as the top 2 draftable people. I'd go with Myers, personally, and let someone else figure out what's going on with Lieber. Lidle wasn't too bad last year, and actually evidently should have outperformed his stats, odd as that sounds. At some point, I'll go into why I said that, but for now, just roll with it. Madson, Tejada, and anyone else, I'd stay away from.

Additional Information:
(Maybe that's a cause for concern)

Closer / Bullpen:

With Billy Wagner gone, Tom Gordon slots in as the new closer for the Phillies. He's spent the last few years working as a setup man for Mariano Rivera in New York, so it's not like he has recent experience in dealing with the pressures of closing. The biggest problem that he'll have is an utter lack of depth in the bullpen ahead of him. The Phillies' potential pitching problems extend beyond the staff. Besides Rheal Cormier and Julio Santana, can anyobdy even name who's in the 'pen for the Phils this year? Of course, whomever loses out on the 5th starter role will get shipped over here to do spot-starting work and function as a long reliever. Beyond that, though? Got me.

In addition, the Phils also acquired some more bullpen help from Cleveland, trading Jason Michaels for Arthur Rhodes. This fixed a couple of their problems: the logjam in center with the acquisition of Aaron Rowand and the need for another arm with the movement of Ryan Madson into the starting rotation.

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Tom Gordon
8th Inning: Rheal Cormier
7th Inning: Arthur Rhodes (?)
Sit. Lefty: Good question. No idea.
Sit. Right: Julio Santana
Mop-up: Whomever's left from Madson and Tejada

Fantasy Value:

Obviously, Gordon's going to have some value. Unlike the Braves' closing situation, Gordon is going in as the closer with no real challengers on the horizon. Beyond that, though, Cormier might provide some value. Maybe. Don't hold your breath on that one. Santana's not going to be much help, either. If you're drafting Phillies relievers, you might have bigger problems this season.

Additional Information:
Tom Gordon


Now we get to the Phillies' strength both this year and last. (We'll conviently ignore the fact that David Bell still plays for them.) Ryan Howard came into his own over the second half of last season while Jim Thome was down with an injury. Of course, this caused a serious problem for Phils' general management over the winter break, and they responded in turn by sending Thome to the White Sox for - among other things - Aaron Rowand. (More on him later.) This took care of their logjam at 1B and their utter lack of a decent, reliable CF. This will be Howard's first full season with the big club, and big things are expected of him. Look for him to ...well, perform a little better than he did last year. If he improves against LH pitching (.148 AVG last year), watch out.

Chase Utley slots in as the starting second baseman - and he had a fantastic year, hitting 28 HR with 16 SB. There aren't really any contenders for his spot, and with Howard needing the occasional day off, Utley will probably move over to spell him, leaving some time for Abraham Nunez and Tomas Perez to fight over playing time. There's a battle to watch.

Jimmy Rollins closed on a 36-game hit streak, hitting .402 with 12 SB during the month of September. In short, it was a pretty good season for him - and he's just now turning 27, which is supposed to be the prime year for hitters. He's quietly one of the best shortstops out there - this could be the year he becomes a household name.

Oh yeah - David Bell sucks. Thank you, drive through.

Mike Lieberthal should - no big surprise here - open and close the year as the catcher for the Phils.

Projected Infield:
C: Mike Lieberthal
1B: Ryan Howard
2B: Chase Utley
SS: Jimmy Rollins
3B: David Bell

Fantasy Value:

Run as far away as you can from David Bell. I was unfortunate enough to own him in a 10-team NL only last year, and I'm not making that mistake again. Aside from him, though, everyone else ranges from decent (Lieberthal) to potential stud (Howard) to stud (Utley, Rollins). Draft accordingly - there's a lot of good to be seen in this infield, especially from the MI positions.

Additional Information:
Ryan Howard
Jimmy Rollins


So now I can finally link to the Aaron Rowand trade. Long story short, Michaels and Kenny Lofton are out, Rowand is in. He was certainly passable in his stints with the White Sox; although I doubt he'll bring the speed to the table that Lofton did last year, he should be better than the combination of Michaels/Lofton would've been this year. (I always thought Lofton was playing over his head all last year.) Plus, he only takes up one roster spot.

As has become typical, Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell will man the corner spots in the outfield. Abreu was - well, is - one of the more athletic performers in the game today, and as such should be a threat for 30-30 this year. As for Burrell, if he can continue his recovery from an atrocious 2003 campaign, then he should hit over 30 HR again this year. If he regresses, watch out. (Side note: I was burned badly in one of my fantasy baseball leagues, since I owned him for that campaign. I'm slightly biased against him.)

Projected Outfield:
RF: Bobby Abreu
CF: Aaron Rowand
LF: Pat Burrell

Fantasy Value:

Abreu? First-rounder. Definitely. No question in my book. Now, where you'd want to draft Rowand and Burrell depends on what you'd expect of them. Burrell's solidly among the second level of OFs right now, which means anywhere from the 4th to the 8th round, depending on how your draft goes; heck, he might go earlier. Rowand slots in as a good 3rd OF choice, or possibly a spot-starter; I'd figure him for back-ends of drafts in smaller leagues. He'll start in most NL-only leagues.

More Information:
Bobby Abreu
Pat Burrell

Extra Stuff:

It's either ironic or not surprising in the slightest that pitching seems to be the Phillies' biggest question heading into the new season. In addition, one of the oddest things I found out this offseason was that the lower half of the lineup (read: the half that contains David Bell) was horrible, too. I'll see if I can find the information on that in the near future, if someone reminds me of it. I make no guarantees otherwise.

In short, they'll put runs up. Don't worry about that. Worry that they'll put up enough runs to win.. That's what I'd be scared of. All in all, I put them kind of like I had the Dodgers a few years back. They'll suck, they'll go on a roll, and they'll end the season within 5 games of .500. Exciting.