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2017 Philadelphia Phillies Team Outlook

Senior Expert Shawn Childs analyzes the Philadelphia Phillies from a Fantasy Baseball perspective as we approach the 2017 season!

Philadelphia Phillies

It’s been a rough last four seasons for the Phillies. They’ve won 73 games or fewer in each year while missing the playoffs over the last five seasons. Philly scored only 610 runs (15th) with 161 HRs (11th) in 2016. From 2007 to 2011, they made the playoffs each season thanks to a core of star hitters and multiple aces.

Entering 2017, they have one anchor bat to build on in 3B Maikel Franco with mediocrity at just about every position in their starting lineup. They’re hoping J.P. Crawford will emerge as their franchise shortstop soon. SP Aaron Nola has ace upside, but he’s coming off down season due to an elbow issue.

In the offseason, the Phillies released the fading 1B Ryan Howard by buying out his contract for $10 million. They added RP Pat Neshek for bullpen depth. In this insane world of baseball, SP Jeremy Hellickson resigned for $17.2 million. Over the last couple of seasons, the contract for below average talent has jumped dramatically. SP Charlie Morton, RP David Hernandez, and OF Peter Bourjos all became free agents.

Philly traded for IF Howie Kendrick by sending 1B Darin Ruf and OF Darnell Sweeney to the Dodgers. They signed RP Joaquin Benoit and OF Michael Saunders. Their last major move was adding SP Clay Buchholz in a deal with Boston for minor league prospect 2B Josh Tobias.

Over the last few seasons, the Phillies have gone from an average age of over 30 to about 26 years old.

Their pitching staff ranked 12th in the National League in ERA (4.63). They still have issues at the backend of games leading to poor finish in bullpen ERA (5.05 – 28th in the majors) with 23 wins, 28 losses, and 43 saves.

1. 2B Cesar Hernandez

Hernandez fell short of expectation in 2016. His stolen base production was his drawing card coming into the year, but his success rate (56.7) was well below expected value. This led to few chances (30). Cesar lowered his K rate (18.7) with improvement in his walk rate (10.6). Over the first three months of the season, Hernandez attempted eight steals with five leading to failure. His swing was much improved over the last four months of the season (.311 with six HRs, 29 RBI, and 14 SBs over 379 at bats). He stole 14 bases in July, August, and September while being caught eight times. All of his HRs (6) came off RH pitching (.279) with solid success against lefties (.341). Cesar is a ground ball hitter (54.9 percent) with a short fly ball rate (20.7). Over eight seasons in the minors, he hit .294 with 14 HRs, 241 RBI, and 155 SBs over 2396 at bats. His jump in batting average was due to huge spike in his contract batting average (.374) while his AVH (1.335) remains in a low power producing area. Possible edge in batting average with five HRs and 30+ steals, but he could lose some at bats to Howie Kendrick if OF Aaron Altherr hits his way into more playing time.

2. OF Odubel Herrera

The Phillies liked what Herrera offered in 2016, which led to him signing a five-year $30 million extension in December. Odubel had growth in just above every area last season. He set a career high in runs (87), HRs (15), RBI (49), and SBs (25) with improvement in his K rate (20.4) and walk rate (9.6). His AVH (1,467) is trending upward with some regression in his CTBA (.372). Herrera still has risk against LH pitching (.236 with no HRs and nine RBI over 144 at bats). He hit all 15 of his HRs off of righties (.303). Odubel had one down month (July – .227 with three HRs, nine RBI, and five SBs over 110 at bats). He hit two to three HRs in each month with three months of a batting average over .300 (April – .313, May – .324, and September – .306) and only one month with over 10 RBI (June – 11). His RBI rate (12) remains well below a middle of the order hitter. Over eight seasons in the minors, he hit .294 with 13 HRs, 251 RBI, and 128 SBs over 2321 at bats. Next step: 100+ runs, 20+ HRs, and 30+ SBs while offering a plus batting average.

3. 3B Maikel Franco

In his first full season in the majors, Franco finished with strength in HRs (25) and RBI (88). His runs came in short due to lack of depth behind him in the starting lineup. Maikel had regression in his CTBA (.312) and batting average (.255). His K rate (16.8) was slightly higher than 2015 (15.5) with a step back in his walk rate (6.4) as well. He did a nice job vs. LH pitching .286 with eight HRs and 24 RBI over 126 at bats (.524 SLG). Franco hit under .235 in May (.230), June (.233), and August (.224). His RBI production fell in a tight range in every month (between 13 and 18). At the All-Star break, Maikel was hitting .269 with 18 HRs and 52 RBI over 316 at bats. His bat had losing value from that point on (.238 with seven HRs and 36 RBI over 265 at bats). Over six seasons in the minors, he hit .280 with 70 HRs, 362 RBI, and nine SBs over 2167 at bats. Solid RBI producer (17 percent in 2016 and 18 percent in 2015), but he needs more chances to make an impact in RBI. His swing and wrists offer 30+ HR power with a strong enough approach to delivering a .300+ batting average shortly. I’m seeing .280+ with 80+ runs, 30+ HRs, and 90+ RBI. Franco is a much better value in 2017 (ADP of 124) than 2016 when some Fantasy owner selected inside the 5th round in the high-stakes market.

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4. 1B Tommy Joseph

Joseph doesn’t look ready to be a cleanup hitter in the majors, but he does offer the most power. Over seven season in the minors, he hit .255 with 69 HRs, 292 RBI, and one SBs over 1869 at bats. His K rate (19.9) was about league average in the minors with a low walk rate (5.7). With Philly, Tommy struck out 21.6 percent of the time with an uptick in his walk rate (6.3). His bat was dangerous against lefties (.281 with seven HRs and 15 RBI over 89 at bats). He had two down months with the Phillies (June – .204 with five HRs and 10 RBI over 93 at bat and August – .211 with three HRs and eight RBI over 57 at bats). Joseph has a fly ball swing (45.1 percent) with a strong HR/FB rate (18.9). He came through Philadelphia’s system as catcher, but he struggled with some concussion issue due to foul balls off his mask. Let’s think of him as an Evan Gattis type player without the catcher eligibility. With 550 at bats, .260 with 30+ HRs and 75+ RBI. I could see Phillies using another bat with him to create a platoon situation thus lowering his projections.

5. OF Howie Kendrick

Howie had his lowest batting average (.255) of his career in 2016. His CTBA (.317) was well below his previous seasons while his AVH (1.435) did add some length. Kendrick had a K rate (17.7) in line with his career resume with a career high in his walk rate (9.2). He continues to hit a ton of ground balls (61.0 percent) leading to a low fly ball rate (19.6). Howie struggled against lefties (.234 with no HRs and five RBI over 154 at bats) something he excelled at in his career (.291 with 31 HRs over 1487 at bats). Kendrick played poorly in April (.151 with no HRs or RBI over 53 at bats) and September (.190 with no HRs and five RBI over 84 at bats). Pretty much dead in the water as an outfielder in the Fantasy market, but his second base qualification gives him a slight pulse as a middle infielder option in deep leagues. Possible edge in batting average with low HRs and steals. His runs and RBI will fall below starting value for middle infielder.

6. OF Michael Saunders

Saunders had a career high in HRs (24) with strength in his AVH (1.887) and CTBA (.372). He did a bad job was runners on base (11 percent RBI rate), which hurts his chance of hitting in the middle of the batting order. His K rate (28.1) continues to invite batting average risk with strength in his walk rate (10.6). He started the season with a hamstring injury that lingered all year despite not landing on the DL. Michael handled himself well vs. lefties (.275 with eight HRs and 13 RBI over 109 at bats), which make him more than a platoon hitter. After the first four months of the season, Saunders hit .281 with 19 HRs and 46 RBI. His bat lost value in August and September (.186 with five HRs and 11 RBI over 145 at bats). He set a career high in his HR/FB rate (19.5). Any value in speed appears to be lost over the last three seasons. May emerge as the cleanup option. His swing path points 30+ HRs upside, but he needs to improve as a hitter with runners on base. A .250 hitter with a chance to set career high in HRs, RBI, and runs while possibly surprising in steals.

7. C Cameron Rupp

Rupp has a clear path to starting at bats at catcher for the Phillies in 2017 unless prospect Jorge Alfaro is ready to make the jump from AA to the majors. Over 732 at bats in the majors, Cameron hit .240 with 25 HRs and 90 RBI. His K rate (27.2) is well below the league average (20.4) while his walk rate (5.7) regressed in his second year in the league. His bat had the most value against lefties (.324 with four HRs and 20 RBI over 68 at bats – .632 SLG) while hitting 12 HRs vs. RH pitching over 321 at bats. Over the last four months of the season, Rupp hit .247 with 14 HRs and 44 RBI over 275 at bats. His FB rate (34.4) was weaker than 2015 (38.2) with a jump in his HR/FB rate (16.8). I don’t think he’s lock to get 450 at bats. If he does, 20+ HRs with 60 RBI should be a given with more batting average risk. Decent swing as C2 in deep leagues.

8. SS Freddy Galvis

Galvis finished with solid stats in the counting categories due to a full season of at bats. He set career highs in HRs (20), RBI (67), and SBs (17). Both his K rate (21.8) and walk rate (4.0) were weaker than 2015 (17.1 and 5.0). His bat came alive in August and September (.260 with 11 HRs, 28 RBI, and seven SBs over 196 at bats). Freddy struggled against LH pitching (.215 with three HRs and 14 RBI over 144 at bats). His rise in power was due to a career high in his HR/FB rate (12.5 – 8.1 in his career). Over 1657 at bats in the majors, Galvis hit .241 with 40 HRs, 172 RBI, and 29 SBs. His power was supported by his AVH (1.652) prior to 2016 (2012 – 1.605, 2013 – 1.646, and 2014 – 1.810). His minor-league resume (.246 with 25 HRs, 206 RBI, and 73 SBs over 2399 at bats) supports his jump in SBs. Not perfect and his opportunity could change quickly due to his low batting, but a 15/15 season with batting risk seems like a reasonable target with 550 at bats.

BN: SS J.P. Crawford

Crawford looked to be on the fast track to the majors after playing well in the minors in 2014 (.285 with 11 HRs, 48 RBI, and 24 SBs over 463 at bats) and 2015 (.288 with six HRs, 42 RBI, and 12 SBs over 430 at bats). He’s struggled to make an impact at AA (.265 with eight HRs, 47 RBI, and 12 SBs over 487 at bats) over the last two seasons with regression at AAA in 2016 (.244 with four HRs, 30 RBI, and seven SBs over 336 at bats). His walk rate (12.7) gives him top of the order ability while keeping the strikeouts to a minimum (13.4). His game offers more upside than Galvis, but his CTBA (.301) became weaker with each move up in the minors. Player to watch with a 15/20 skill set in couple of seasons.

BN: OF Aaron Altherr

Aaron suffered a left wrist injury in early March leading to three and half months on the DL. His bat never found its rhythm in August (.229 with three HRs and 16 RBI over 105 at bats) or September (.163 with no HRs and four RBI over 80 at bats). Altherr couldn’t touch RH pitching (.190 with three HRs and 19 RBI over 158 at bats). His K rate (30.4) is well below winning value while offering upside in his walk rate (10.1). Over eight years in the minors, Aaron hit .263 with 57 HRs, 333 RBI, and 134 SBs over 2546 at bats. His K rate (21.1) was in a better area with a just below league average walk rate (7.5). Possible 20/20 skill set with batting average risk until his approach at the plate improves.

Bench Options

C Jorge Alfaro – Over seven seasons in the minors, Alfaro hit .266 with 67 HRs, 317 RBI, and 38 SBs over 2092 at bats. He played well at AA in 2016 (.285 with 15 HRs and 67 RBI over 404 at bats) leading to a token call-up to the majors for the Rangers. Jorge had two hits in 16 at bats with eight Ks with Texas suggesting he still needs time at AAA. May emerge as the backup at some point in the season.

IF Andres Blanco – The Phillies resigned Blanco for infield depth in the offseason. Over nine seasons in the majors, Andres hit .264 with 15 HRs, 96 RBI, and four SBs over 1061 at bats. Defensive type replacement with no chance of earning a starting job.

OF Daniel Nava – Philly signed Nava to a minor-league contract. He may emerge as a bat off the bench to cover first base and the outfield. His last and only season of value came in 2013 with the Red Sox (.303 with 12 HRs and 66 RBI over 458 at bats). He’s a career .262 hitter in the majors with 25 HRs, 185 RBI, and nine SBs over 1518 at bats. No upside or path to starting playing time even with an injury.

OF Roman Quinn – Over five season the minors, Quinn hit .276 with 23 HRs, 120 RBI, and 159 SBs over 1394 at bats. His best asset is clearly his speed with a league average K rate (20.0) and walk rate (8.8). Base stealer in waiting who will start the year at AAA.

1. SP Aaron Nola

In his first start of the season, Nola allowed one run over seven innings with no walks and eight Ks while throwing only 95 pitches. He struggled in his next two outings (11 runs and 16 base runners over 12 innings with 15 Ks) before shifting into high gear. Over his next nine starts, Aaron was a huge Fantasy asset (5-2 with a 1.90 ERA and 62 Ks in 52 innings). His arm fell apart over his last four starts in June and his first start in July (13.50 ERA and 2.556 WHIP). Nola landed on the DL in mid-August with a right elbow injury that didn’t require surgery. He finished with a low walk rate (2.4) and growth in his K rate (9.8) while limiting the damage in HRs (0.8 per nine). His AFB (91.3) was in line with his rookie season (9.11), but it did have more life early in the season (April – 91.1, May – 91.8, June – (91.4), and July – 90.2). Aaron had losing value with his four-seam fastball (.300 BAA), sinker – (.321 BAA), and changeup (.333 BAA). His curveball (.167 BAA) graded as plus pitch. Over two seasons in the minors, Nola went 14-7 with a 2.57 ERA 137 Ks over 164.2 innings. Love the upside of his arm, but any elbow injury should be a red flag. With no setback in spring training, his price point (ADP of 218) seems more than fair. Ground ball pitcher (55.2) with a chance with a sub 3.00 ERA and 200+ Ks.

© Brad Mills / USA Today Sports

2. SP Vincent Velasquez

The bounce in Fantasy owner’s step after two starts by Velasquez (no runs over 15 innings with 25 Ks highlighted by an electric start – complete game three-hitter with 16 Ks) was to the moon and back. After eight starts, Vincent went 5-1 with a 2.75 ERA with 61 Ks over 52.1 innings. After a disaster start in late May (seven runs and 11 base runners over 4.2 innings), Velasquez continued on the same path (2.96 ERA) despite being on the DL for two weeks with a biceps issue in his pitching arm. Over three starts in August, he allowed 19 runs, 30 baserunners, and seven HRs over 16.1 innings. His season ended one start into September due to an innings cap. His AVB (94.8) was a step down from 2015 (95.2). Vincent only had one pitch of value (four-seam fastball – .238 BAA), which tells me he still has plenty of work to do before becoming an elite arm. Batters hit .308 vs. his curveball, .279 against his slider, and .322 vs. his changeup. His walk rate (3.1) needs to improve with too many home runs allowed (21 over 131 innings – 1.4 per nine). Moving in the right direction with high upside with better command and development of his secondary pitches. With 180 innings pitched, Vincent should strikeout 175+ batters with an ERA under 3.75. Maybe a year away from making a huge step forward with a possible underlying injury.

3. SP Jeremy Hellickson

After three poor seasons, Hellickson turned in a solid season (3.71 ERA) leading to him signing a one-year deal for $17.2 million. It was a raise of $10 million and more than doubled his previous earnings. His growth was tied to an improved walk rate (2.1) while his K rate (7.3) regressed for the second straight season. Jeremy threw the ball well over his first 11 starts (3.68 ERA with 65 Ks over 63.2 innings), but he allowed ten home runs. Hellickson lost his K ability in June (19 over 30 innings) leading to a poor month (5.40 ERA). Over his last 16 starts, he had a 3.21 ERA with 70 Ks over 95.1 innings. Jeremy pitched well vs. righties (.232) with an excellent strikeout to walk ratio (6.85). His AFB (90.8) was a career low. His success was tied to a plus changeup (.173 BAA) and curveball (.160 BAA). All of his hard stuff had losing value (four-seam fastball - .297, sinker – .301, and cutter - .296 BAA). With any slide in his command, his secondary stuff won’t offer a winnings edge. Hellickson did rely more on his sinker in 2016 while adding his cutter. There’s a good pitch here, but not a great pitcher. His ERA will fall somewhere between 3.50 and 4.00 with a chance of 150+ Ks.

4. SP Clay Buchholz

Buchholz has plenty of peaks and valleys over his ten years in the majors. He’s been an every other year pitcher over the last six season while never throwing over 200 innings in any season. Clay has two elite runs (2010 – 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA and 2013 – 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA) in his career. Last year he lost his command (3.6 walks per nine) leading to his lowest K rate (6.0) of his career. Buchholz still had value against RH batters (.222) with most of his risk coming vs. lefties (.280 with 34 of his 55 walks over 254 at bats). Over the first four months of the season, Clay had 5.79 ERA. The Red Sox pushed him to the bullpen in August where he regained his form (2.86 ERA with 15 Ks over 22 innings). Over five starts in September, he went 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA and 21 Ks in 28.2 innings. His AFB (92.8) was in range with his 2013 success (92.7) while being well below his career high in 2010 (94.5). Batters struggled against his four-seam fastball (.242 BAA), his cutter (.220 BAA), and his changeup (.235 BAA). His struggles came with his curveball (.373 BAA) and sinker (.283 BAA). The move to the NL should work in his favor, and his pitches still have enough value to get batters out, but Clay NEEDS to throw more strike. Late flier with a short leash.

5. SP Jerad Eickhoff

Over 41 starts in the majors, Jerad has a 3.44 ERA with 216 Ks over 248.1 innings. His walk rate (1.9) moved into an elite area, but he struck out fewer batters (7.6 per nine). Eickhoff did allow too many HRs (30 HRs – 1.4 per nine). His downside in HRs came against LH batters (.278 BAA with 18 HRs over 400 at bats). His best success came in June (3-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 33 Ks in 36.1 innings) and September (2.52 ERA and 33 Ks in 35.2 innings). Jerad did lose his feel in July and August (4.66 ERA with 10 HRs allowed over 65.2 innings). Over five years in the minors, he went 44-27 with a 4.14 ERA and 475 Ks over 578.1 innings. His AFB (91.5) is below league average value. Eickhoff throws an edge curveball (.159 BAA) with success with his slider (.234 BAA) and four-seam fastball (.238 BAA). His struggles came from his sinker (.342 BAA and .559 SLG) and changeup (.286 BAA and .500 SLG). He’s outperformed his minor-league resume, but he looks like a winner, and his command will limit his downside in the majors. Tempting for sure, but he may take a slight step back in 2017.

6. SP Alec Asher

Over five seasons in the minors, Alec had a 3.39 ERA and 466 Ks over 520.2 innings. He’s handled himself well at AAA (8-6 with a 3.38 ERA with 85 Ks over 120 innings). His command grades above average with a flat K rate (8.1). In his five starts in the majors, Asher went 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 13 Ks in 27.2 innings. His AFB came in at 90.5. Batter struggled with his sinker (.220 BAA) and a low volume slider (.105 BAA). Alec needs to improve his changeup (.368 BAA). Slow path to majors paints him as a backend innings eater in the majors.

7. SP Jake Thompson

Thompson has double digits wins in each of his last three seasons in the minors leading to a 36-22 record and a 3.06 ERA over 451 Ks over 503.1 innings. He threw the ball well at AAA (2.50 ERA), but he only struck out 6.0 batter per nine. Over his minor-league career, Jake had a below par walk rate (3.0). His success in the minors didn’t translate well over his first 10 starts in the majors (5.70 ERA). Thompson allowed 10 HRs over 53.2 innings with the Phillies with a poor walk rate (4.7) and a weaker K rate (5.4). His AFB (91.7) came below the league average. Not ready to make an impact even with a winning resume in the minors.

CL Hector Neris

Neris threw the ball well in 2016, while his walk rate (3.4) was higher than 2015 (2.2). He struck out 11.4 batters per nine, which is an elite area. Hector handled both RH (.193) and LH (.210) batters. Over the first three months of the season, he had a 2.72 ERA with 51 Ks over 43 innings. Neris looked closer worthy in July and August (1.07 ERA with only three walks and 35 Ks over 25.1 innings). He lost his command in September (11 walks over 12 innings) leading to a disaster month (5.25 ERA and 2.000 WHIP). His AFB (94.8) was above the league average. He threw a split-finger fastball (.158 BAA) as his best pitch. Over six seasons in the minors, Neris went 21-15 with a 3.66 ERA, 398 Ks, and 14 saves over 391 innings. Minimal closing experience with questions with his command in the minors. Intriguing option, but I wouldn’t draft him early as if he has the job.

© Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

RP Jeanmar Gomez

Headed into 2016, Gomez had one major league save with a mediocre ERA (4.16) and short K rate (5.4). By the second game of the season, Jeanmar grabbed the closing job. Over the first two months of the season, he had a 2.33 ERA while converting 17 of 18 saves. Gomez tripped up in June (4.35 ERA and 1.452 WHIP). Over the next two months, he had a 3.09 ERA with 13 more saves. He gave away all of his good pitching in September (17 runs and 26 base runners over eight innings). Jeanmar struggled against RH (.290) and LH (.287) batters. His AVH (93.9) is stronger than his K rate (5.5) represents. Batters hit .299 against his sinker, .308 vs. his slider, and .370 against his split-finger fastball. In his career as a reliever, Gomez has a 3.63 ERA. I wouldn’t write him off, but he’s miles away from my wishlist on draft day.

RP Joaquin Benoit

Benoit battled a back issue last March, which led to a bum right shoulder and a DL stint by the end of April. He pitched way off the Mariners’ roster with a disaster June (7.45 ERA and 1.862 WHIP). Joaquin was traded to the Blue Jays in late July where he regained his form (2-0 with a 0.38 ERA and 24 Ks over 23.2 innings). On the year, he had a poor walk rate (4.5 – 3.4 in Toronto) with a solid K rate (10.4). Joaquin has success against both RH (.188 and LH (.238) batters. His AFB (94.8) still has plenty of life (.231 BAA) while his changeup (.078 BAA) came in as his second-best pitch. Over 15 years in the majors, Benoit has 51 saves with his best opportunity coming in 2013 (24 saves). His resume looks close to Neris in command so I’ll stick with the young option in the 9th. In the mix for sure with his experience being the ace in the hole.

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