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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2015 SPRING TRAINING AROUND THE CAMPS: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

By Eric C. Wright

Clearwater, Fla.--The Philadelphia Phillies could be in the running as one of the worst teams in the major leagues in 2014, especially when you factor in payroll.  The rebuilding plan is in full force in the City of Brotherly Love as the team has pretty much tried to sell off anything that is not nailed down.  The cleaning of the clubhouse began in the offseason as the team's all-time hits leader in SS Jimmy Rollins was jettisoned to the Los Angeles Dodgers and outfielder Marlon Byrd to the Cincinnati Reds.  The Phillies have also pretty much tried to give away fading 1B Ryan Howard, closer Jonathan Papelbon, and ace lefty Cliff Lee but to no avail so far due to the massive contracts of all three.  Flat out this team is in salary hell right now and Cole Hamels will be the big fish they will likely move to get the prospects needed for a rebuild.  With that said let's check in on the teams as a whole as the 2015 gets closer.

LINEUP

1.  Ben Revere
2.  Freddy Galavis
3.  Chase Utley
4.  Ryan Howard
5.  Domonic Brown
6.  Cody Asche
7.  Grady Sizemore
8.  Carlos Ruiz
9.  Pitcher

ROTATION

1.  Cole Hamels
2.  Cliff Lee
3.  Aaron Harang
4.  Chad Billingsley
5.  Jerome Williams

CLOSER

Jonathan Papelbon

5-STAR PLAYERS

Cole Hamels:  There is a ton of trade rumors surrounding the veteran lefty but for now Hamels will be toeing the rubber for the only team he has ever known.  Hamels often gets forgotten when the discussion turns to be top ace power pitchers in baseball but that is a clear oversight as the guy is as good as hurler as anyone out there not named Clayton Kershaw.  In fact Hamels did wonders for his trade value in coming off his BEST season ever in 2014 when he pitched to a career-low 2.46 ERA and 1.15 WHIP while striking out 198 batters in 204.2 innings.  While the occasional injury may crop up and while the guy tends to struggle in April, Hamels is deserving of being the ace starter on any fantasy baseball roster.

4-STAR PLAYERS

Jonathan Papelbon:  Everyone tried to write Papelbon off prior to 2014 due to decreased velocity and an increased hit rate going into the season.  A blown save in very ugly fashion right off the bat only fueled the talk.  However we went on record fully buying in on the value Papelbon provided prior to last season and were rewarded with arguably one of his best seasons ever as he recorded a 2.04 ERA and 0.90 WHIP while closing out 39 saves in 43 chances.  The K rate has come down sharply as Papelbon starts to age but his offspeed stuff is still tremendous.  If he gets dealt, even better for his still closer 1 value.

Cliff Lee:  Lee is one of the toughest players to gauge heading toward 2015 fantasy baseball due to the fact he comes off a season in 2014 ruined by injury.  A flexor strain in his pitching elbow was the cause and Lee rehabbed the issue instead of opting for surgery which is always risky.  Now aging at 36, there is a big question about whether Lee can hold up for a full season anymore and whether the drop in velocity we have seen from him will make the guy that much more hittable.  There are too many question marks here for us to recommend Lee at this stage of the game.

3-STAR PLAYERS

Chase Utley:  Tremendous career no doubt as Utley at one time was a first round fantasy baseball pick with his power/speed game.  However like pretty much every other big-name Phillie, age has robbed Utley's game.  While Utley was not bad in 2014 in hitting .270 with 11 home runs and 10 steals, he is now 36 and in one of the most injury-prone players in the game.  Salute the career but this is a stock heading south quick.

Ben Revere:  Revere is the classic speed demon stolen base specialist but he is certainly excellent at it.  It actually is selling Revere short as bit as well since hit at or near .300 each of the last three seasons with solid run totals to go with all the steals.  A one-trick pony Revere is not and he makes an solid outfielder 3 who will provide your squad a major dose of stolen bases.

Ken Giles:  We place the fireballing Giles here due to our belief that it is only a matter of time before Papelbon is dealt and thus he moves into the closing chair.  Giles was unhittable at times in his 2014 rookie debut and his stuff has the classic high K potency that will make him a perfect fit for the ninth inning.  Absolutely worth drafting as a handcuff and future value stash.

Domonic Brown:  Not a fan of Brown in the least as he got exposed in 2014 just as we said he would.  We correctly predicted that opposing pitchers would no longer feed Brown fastballs down the middle of the plate due to his horrible plate discipline and very high K rate.  The result was an abomination last season with a drastically reduced home run rate and awful average.  The book is out on Brown now and it is up to him to adjust.  So far there has been only one good season out of the guy and many bad ones.  Go with the trends in avoiding him altogether. 

2-STAR PLAYERS

Aaron Harang:  Harang is back with yet another team after he pitched reasonably well with no one paying attention in 2014.  The days of 200-K's are long over and now Harang really is only a stream guy at best who won't supply much in the way of strikeouts or ratios. 

Ryan Howard:  Yes 23 home runs and 95 RBI was a nice haul for the perpetually injured Howard in 2014 but they were joined by a pathetic .223 average.  Howard is a tremendous average liability now as he continues to age in ugly fashion.  While he can still drive the baseball, the home runs will only top out at 20-plus which is a drastic drop from his 40-plus heyday.  Again avoid aging players whose name brand outpaces their results.

Cody Asche:  Asche is just keeping the seat warm for top third base prospect Maikel Franco but he was decent enough last season to be worth a small look.  The kid can pop a few homers and steal the odd base but there is a clock here that is moving toward the Franco arrival.

Maikel Franco:  We put Franco in the 2-star realm due to not knowing how long until he gets promoted.  The kid can hit with power but he was clearly not ready when given a chance last season.  Look for a June arrival and get ready to add him to your squad in quick fashion if you can. 

1-STAR PLAYERS

Grady Sizemore, Carlos Ruiz, Jerome Williams, Chad Billingsley, Freddy Galavis, Darin Ruf

HEARD AROUND:  The Phillies will give away Papelbon and Howard if they can.....Look for the talks between the Phillies and Brewers to be rekindled soon and finally complete the swap for Papelbon....The plan is for Franco to be up sometime in May or maybe June 1 depending how he does early on in the season. 


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