Team Previews in a Fantasy Nutshell: Philadelphia Phillies
Projected Starting Lineup
C Cameron Rupp—I think Rupp is a bit undervalued as a Fantasy player. Look at his numbers compared to Stephen Vogt. Are they that different? Vogt goes in Rounds 9 to 11, and Rupp usually goes in Rounds 11 to 13. I will wait two rounds and take Rupp each and every time.
1B Tommy Joseph—Thankfully the Phillies got rid of Ryan Howard and decided to give Joseph the 1B gig full time. If he starts out hot, I think the Phillies brass will be patient with him and give him a long leash, however, if he struggles early on they might be looking for other options quickly. I will take my chances with Joseph as he could be a sneaky source of power (30 HR) in 2017.
2B Cesar Hernandez—I would have to call Hernandez a disappointment last year after he only stole 17 bases when it looked like he had the ability to steal 25+. Supposedly, Hernandez has made 30 SB his goal for 2017. If he gets it, he might just be an interesting player for a team that has decided to tank the power categories.
SS Freddy Galvis—Galvis was only supposed to be a stopgap until minor league phenom J.P. Crawford was ready to play, but Galvis shocked the Phillies by having a terrific season. The team has decided not to rush Crawford, so Galvis will be the starter at least another few months.
3B Maikel Franco—Franco is one of the top young hitters in the NL and should be able to build on last year’s stats if he can just learn to relax at the plate and not try to hit everything out of the ballpark. Keep your eye on him especially in dynasty leagues. He should be able to hit 30/90 this year and maybe even better as he matures.
OF Odubel Herrera—Herrera is a bit frustrating because he mashes RHP but is pretty futile vs. LHP. He’s got a great combination of power and speed, but until he solves LHP, he will not be considered in the upper echelon of Fantasy OFs.
OF Michael Saunders—Can this guy EVER stay healthy? In 490 at bats last year, Saunders showed what he could do (24 HR), but it is not wise to rely on him. In fact, I would rather take Aaron Altherr and wait for the inevitable Saunders injury to happen.
OF Howie Kendrick—At one time Kendrick was one of the top 2B in all of baseball and now he is a journeyman playing a myriad of positions just to make the team. Kendrick’s multiple position eligibility and solid batting average still have its uses in NL-only leagues, but in mixed leagues, he is worth little more than a buck or two at the end of your auction.
Util Aaron Altherr—Instead of wasting a pick on Kendrick or Saunders, I would recommend selecting Altherr very late in reserve rounds of your draft. He has a good combination of power and speed (15/15) and only fell short of those numbers last year due to an injured left wrist. He is supposedly healthy now, and my guess is that it is a matter of time before he is starting again.
SP Aaron Nola—I love Nola, but last year he dealt with some bad elbow issues. So far in spring training, his elbow issues look to be a thing of the past, and the team is counting on him to be the anchor of their rotation. Expect Nola to be shut down after about 175 IP this season, but he still should remain a good buy even with limited innings.
SP Jeremy Hellickson—Hellickson was terrific last year, but I really can’t condone people selecting him any earlier than as their SP6 in 2017. He relies mostly on a great changeup to keep hitters off balance, but he is HR prone, and in a small ballpark like the one in Philly, I can see his ERA spike over 1 point this season.
SP Jerad Eickhoff—Keep an eye on Eickhoff. He needs to learn to pitch better vs. LHB and also reduce his home runs allowed (30 in 197 IP last year). If he figures those two things out, he might be a nice sleeper in drafts this season.
SP Vincent Velasquez—I just love Velasquez but was very concerned when he injured his bicep last season. Luckily, the injury was not long-term, and he came back and performed well. The Phillies cut his season short in 2016, trying to keep his innings down and I think they will do so again in 2017. Velasquez throws so hard that he has the type of motion that might always be a threat to land him on the DL. If, however, he can stay healthy, he might turn out to be one of the top young hurlers in the NL this year.
SP Clay Buchholz—Buchholz struggled in the first half of 2016, but only had one bad start in the second half of last season. If he can build off that success, I like him as a possible sleeper this season. AL pitchers who come to the NL always seem to see their ERAs and WHIP improve in their first year after the switch. The same could easily happen for Buchholz.
RP Hector Neris—If (when) Gomez falters, expect Neris to get the call as the team’s closer. Right now, though, Neris might be more valuable to the Phillies as their Effector than as their closer. Neris should provide a great deal of Ks, and even some vulture wins this season.
Closer Jeanmar Gomez—Gomez has looked pretty good this spring, and the team has said that he will get the first shot to close games this season. Even with all that said, I will pass on him as I think he could be the first closer to lose his job this season.