KFFL answers some important fantasy baseball questions for each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Philadelphia Phillies?
How will the Phillies replace Jayson Werth?
Domonic Brown, a five-tooler, has huge upside. The dearth of right-handed bats is a pro for Ben Francisco, a solid, low-risk choice for the Phils and in deep leagues, regardless. How do you play it?
The numbers say that one of baseball's top prospects was overmatched after he debuted. Not true. The Phils rarely exposed Brown to southpaws. They rarely played him at all, in fact. He could stand more development time at Triple-A, so if he has a strong spring, his likely to rise price may not reflect his risk. Of course, he does have the ability to stick. Either way, he's a good bet to make an impact in the second half.
What happened to the rest of the offense?
Utley, Phils rebound?
Ryan Howard missed 19 days with a sprained left ankle in 2010. After he returned, it clearly affected his drive from the back of the batter's box. He's much trimmer than people realize, but that leg still bears a burden. Before that? How about his constantly evolving approach in an effort to beat shifts and cover more of the plate? Howard didn't generate much punch. The criticism he receives for whiffing so often may be affecting his aggressiveness. His selection is poor. He'll miss Werth's protection. If he simplifies things, it could be a big year, but you'll want evidence.
Chase Utley, 32, is simply too good of a hitter and athlete not to bounce back. A torn thumb ligament wasn't entirely to blame for 2010's mess; he went without a homer for a stretch of 24 games not long before it. He's streaky, and that missed quarter robbed him of a chance to improve his subpar numbers. Be mindful that the risk is greater because ailments have affected Utley's production for significant stretches in multiple years, however.
The shortstop pools have poor depth, so Jimmy Rollins' reputation will fuel his price. He has been less aggressive in the past two years and has missed long periods of time because of injuries in two of the past three. Good news: Rollins enters a contract year. He has taken a misguided - not poor - approach to fitness and is taking steps to remedy that this offseason. If you can bear the peril, he's a good gamble in 2011.
What's the mood around the bullpen hierarchy?
Brad Lidge seems to have reasserted his position at the top of it. The same dangers remain, though: health, homers, heat. They all affect the effectiveness of his slider; it starts with health. After Ryan Madson returned from a broken toe, he improved markedly on a good 2009. He isn't closer material but could share the burden in Lidge's absence. Jose Contreras is a big key: He was solid in the 'pen and was reliable in save situations. The Phils must conserve him and dispatch Lidge conservatively.
If any of the four horses (whatever Philly wants to call them) goes down, rationing those two will be really hard. The bullpen quickly becomes a glaring concern because there's a couple of OK vets and a lot of inexperience behind Lidge, Madson and Contreras.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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