The Phillies have a number of strong fantasy picks, including a few elite-level hitters. While their home ballpark helps their hitters put up even more impressive numbers, it also has a tendency to inflate ERA’s, dropping pitchers a little as fantasy options.
The Top Tier:
Ryan Howard (1B): Pure power. While his high K’s make me doubt he’ll maintain his .300+ batting average, his power is incredible. It’ll be hard to match last season’s totals, but on the other hand, he’ll be 27, putting him about where most players are entering their primes. He’s a good bet for another 50 HR this year, and has an outside chance of reaching 60. Without Abreu’s on-base percentage, and the likelihood that pitchers will become increasingly cautious with him, I’d expect a dip in his RBI totals from last year, but he’ll remain among the leaders. He’s a first round pick, and only behind Pujols on the first base charts.
Chase Utley (2B): After a breakout year in 2005, Utley performed even better in 2006. With Soriano losing his eligibility at second base, Utley reigns as the clear choice for the best at the position, and nobody’s even particularly close. His progression last year was a nice step forward, but it was a typical progression for a 27 year old, not the dramatic type of improvement that has career-year written all over it. He’ll hit about .300, with about 30 HR, drive in and score 100 runs each, and steal about 15 bases. That’s a nice line at any position, and at a scarce position like second base, it’s a mid to late first round pick.
Jimmy Rollins (SS): He’s always been a solid fantasy option for his speed, but last year he added significant power to his game, making him one of the best power/speed combinations around. His age and the fact that he’s always shown good extra-base power make me believe the power gains are real. A move to the number two spot to take advantage of his power would help his RBI totals, but leading off he managed a respectable 83 last year. He’s worthy of a high draft choice for his all-around skill set, and is a player who still has the potential to improve his value.
The Second Tier:
Brett Myers (SP): Not quite a top tier pitcher, but close. He strikes out plenty of hitters and has enough talent that he could make the step to the next level, but given his established level and his ballpark, it’s more likely his ERA/WHIP keep him at the “very good, but not a fantasy ace” level. He should be good for about 15 wins and a little under a K per inning, and provide above average but non-exceptional numbers in the rate stats.
Tom Gordon (CL): As long as he can stay healthy and doesn’t totally collapse, Gordon should collect some saves and remain a viable fantasy closer. He had nice strikeout rates last year, so his stuff’s still there despite his advancing age, but nonetheless, the 39 year-old relief pitcher had some injury issues for parts of last season, and his age makes him a risk.
Freddy Garcia (SP): At the very least, Garcia will provide a lot of competent innings and double digit wins. He’s no longer much of a strikeout threat, though he should see that number rise a bit as he gets to beat up on NL pitchers. What will be interesting to see is how Garcia adjusts to the new environment. On one hand, he’s moving to the easier league, which should help improve his numbers. On the other hand, he’s moving to a small ballpark that could give him trouble, as he does give up his share of homeruns. I wouldn’t expect a drastic change in his numbers, but it is a factor to consider.
The Third Tier:
Pat Burrell (OF): Burrell’s the type of player who’s an effective hitter, but maddeningly inconsistent. He did start out strong last year, but struggled in the second half, in part due to nagging injuries. If you draft him and just let him play while ignoring his ups and downs, he’ll reward you with a solid 30 HR and 100 RBI. You take the good with the bad with Burrell, though, which means not a great batting average and no speed.
Aaron Rowand (OF): Rowand’s bat’s a little light for an outfield position, but he has enough power and enough speed that he does have some value. Don’t expect a return to his 2004 form, but a .270 batting average with about 15 HR and 15 SB isn’t bad for a guy who can be drafted late as a backup. His value’s a little higher in leagues that divide the outfield positions, as he’s a centerfielder.
Question MarksCole Hamels (SP): Hamels had a fine rookie season, posting a better than average WHIP and ERA, while striking out over a batter per inning. There’s definitely a lot of upside potential there, and he’s valuable even if he just repeats last year over a full season. Be cautious, however, as there is risk involved with Hamels. He’s young, and at the age where he’ll be tested as to whether he can handle a Major League workload. More concerning, he’s had some injury troubles, which is always a cautionary flag with young pitchers. Don’t take him too early, but he’s a good high-risk, high-reward type to keep in mind.
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