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Thursday, March 2, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

By Michael Wong

Clearwater, Fla.--The Philadelphia Phillies are now full into their youth movement as 2017 spring training is now in full swing here in Clearwater, Florida.  With Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and the rest of the old guard now out of town, the Phillies are retooling with a young and talented rotation and some hitting pieces that carry some very intriguing promise.  Let's get to the latest fantasy baseball-related issues surrounding the team as the season gets set to open in five weeks.

1.  While not in the same category as the immense New York Mets rotation, the Phillies have built themselves a nice stable of young arm as well huh?  They certainly have as Jered Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, and Aaron Nola all are on the right side of 30 and carry very impressive stuff that point to them becoming front-line starters.  In terms of 2017 fantasy baseball, the smart play would be to rank the three 1. Nola 2. Eickhoff and 3. Velasquez in terms of their potential impact for the upcoming season.  We are tremendous boosters of Nola on this site as the righty pitched like an ace the first two months of 2016 with an ERA of 2.65 and averaging more than a K/IP.  Unfortunately elbow trouble surfaced that no doubt led to Nola getting shelled in a series of start before being shut down.  Now with full health, all the advanced metrics say Nola can be an ace-like starter and his depressed 2017 fantasy baseball draft price make him one of the best pitching sleepers in the game.  Meanwhile the more durable Eickhoff has a vast four-pitch arsenal that is complemented by terrific control (1.92 BB/9 last season).  Eickhoff won't overpower you (mediocre 7.62 K/9) but the kid is as good an SP 5 as there is in the game.  Finally, Velasquez is all power as he put up a 16-strikeout game last season and his fastball goes near 100.  Unfortunately Velasquez has horrible control and his health has been terrible since turning pro.  There are whispers that Velasquez may not be able to hold up physically to starting and that a conversion to a possible closer is in play.  The strikeout upside alone though makes Velasquez one to target in the late middle rounds.

2.  How high does the ceiling go on Odubel Herrera?  We take great price in Herrera as he was highlighted as a prime sleepers in last year's draft guide which few others in the industry went along with.  Already Herrera has shown tremendous speed and an adept bat that can hit for average.  Last season he added 15 home runs but in a massive 656 at-bats.  Ultimately how much more power Herrera will hit for will determine if he joins the top tier five-tool fantasy baseball outfielder but even if he repeats the 15 he swatted last season, the rest of his terrific numbers in runs, steals, and batting average in particular make him a very valuable and top level outfielder 2 with the upside to go higher.  Highly recommended.

3.  The Phillies can't be serious about Jeanmar Gomez at closer again can they?  It is laughable to think that the Phillies believe Gomez and his pathetic 6.16 K.9 rate.  We saw how Gomez got destroyed the second half of last season as he simply doesn't miss enough bats to succeed long-term in the ninth inning.  There are two very capable and much more hard-throwing alternatives in veteran Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris but it seems this will be Gomez' show for now no matter how ugly it may get.  Draft Benoit and/or Neris as it is only a matter of time before one of them will be finishing games. 

4.  Tommy Joseph was a nice story in 2016.  Can he work as a starting fantasy baseball first baseman?  The answer is "No" to being a starting first baseman but a UTIL or CI option is possible given what we saw in his 2016 debut when Joseph slammed 21 home runs in just 347 at-bats.  The thing is that Joseph never showed this type of power in the minors and he likely caught opposing pitchers in the majors by surprise given the lack of familiarity with him.  Also Joseph's .257 average shows the limitations here which means he should ideally be drafted as a backup first baseman.

5.  Maikel Franco already has 3 home runs this spring.  Is 30 in his future?  I think so as Franco cracked 25 last season and his .255 average was depressed by a very unlucky BABIP.  Only 24-years-old, Franco seems destined for 30 home runs this season with a .280 average and around 100 RBI.  With a draft price that is very affordable right now, there is immense value at play with the kid. 


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