Sunday, March 6, 2016


By Michael Wong

Clearwater, Fla.--There is bad and then there are the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies.  While not a game that counts has been played, on paper the Phillies look like they will be right there in challenging for the worst record in the major leagues with the Atlanta Braves.  The purge of veterans began last year as the Phils sent Jonathan Papelbon, Cole Hamels, and Chase Utley packing and 2016 sees them infused with a massive amount of young players who will hold down every day jobs.  Still from a fantasy baseball perspective, there is quite a bit of upside in some of these young players and that makes panning for gold here worthwhile.  As always let's take a look at some of the themes centering around the team.

1.  While the Phils have dealt Hamels and seen Cliff Lee likely go off into an injury-forced retirement, the rotation has some decent young arms huh?  It is in the rotation where the Phillies have some clear building block pitchers, mostly centering on Aaron Nola and Vinny Velasquez.  Nola in particular looks like a real gem as he has terrific control, has a vast array of pitches, and induces a solid number of strikeouts.  Comparisons to former Philly Roy Oswalt are always being thrown about here and Nola is the type of middle round upside grab that can turn into a swell fantasy baseball value.  Velasquez meanwhile has high heat stuff that can induce even more strikeouts than Nola but his control can be scary bad at times.  Both guys though could push themselves to the front of the rotation in 2016.

2.  Is there anyone on the roster who can hit or pitch like a top tier or near-top tier player?  There is one residing at the hot corner in the form of slugging third baseman Maikel Franco who pointed at some immense ability in his injury-shortened 2015 campaign.  Already showing he can hit .300, Franco's power looks to be the type that will result in a run at 25 home runs as soon as this season as he continues with his development.  While third base has been infused with some monster players over the last season or so, Franco could be set to join that group.  Terrific potential value as the others above him in most rankings will get most of the attention. 

3.  Do the Phillies even have a guy worthy of being the closer?  After dealing away both Jonathan Papelbon and then youngster Ken Giles over the last six months, there is no obvious closer candidate on the roster.  If you really had to make a guess, veteran David Hernandez might be the best bet due to his experience as a longtime reliever and semi-closer.  At one time Hernandez was one of the best setup men in baseball who possessed some nasty strikeout stuff.  A series of injuries later have turned Hernandez into quite a hittable and ordinary pitcher as his ERA went over the 4.00 mark in 2015.  If he does end up as closer, Hernandez should arguably be the last off his lost off the board.  Another name to be aware of is youngster Hector Neris who had a nice debut in 2015 and showed good strikeout stuff that is always a plus in the ninth inning.  Long-term Neris would be our bet to emerge but initially it should be Hernandez.

4.  Why is no one talking about Odubel Herrera?  Good question and that is another example of how burgeoning players on a bad team can be stolen at the draft table.  Herrera looks like one of these guys as he comes off a quietly very good debut in 2015 as he batted .297 with 8 home runs and 16 stolen bases.  Yes Herrera strikes out a bunch but the kid is very young and has the type of power/speed game plays always plays very well in fantasy baseball.  Better yet, the draft price is very affordable here which makes Herrera an even better investment.

5.  Anything left to work with regarding Ryan Howard?  Absolutely not as Howard is pretty much just a very gold and injury-marred former star slugger who will be lucky to hit over 20 home runs.  The Phillies may even cut Howard at some point during the season, so desperate they are to get rid of him but the fact of the matter is that he is useless both in real-life and in fantasy baseball. 


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