Phantasy Philes: How Do Phils Starters Stack-Up?

Every good fantasy owner knows that without above average pitching, your chances at a league title are slim. For a real life example, look at the 2002 Texas Rangers. Despite having a power packed lineup that went yard more than any other AL team, Texas wasn't able to get above .500, let alone make the playoffs. Maybe, if the pitching staff could have had an ERA under 5.44 - the third highest in the AL - they would have given the Angels, a team with similar run production a run for their money.

In this week's Philes, we'll sort through the Phillies' starting rotation to see which hurlers are worthy of a fantasy team roster spot. Also, instead of answering reader questions, we'll take a look at some guys from other teams that could make good waiver wire pickups.

The first starter on our checklist is also the team's ace, and probably the most valuable in a fantasy league, especially after that no hitter of his. Kevin Millwood currently ranks among the NL's top ten in wins and strikeouts, which, combined with his 3.63 ERA and 1.24 WHIP is a welcom sight to all of his fantasy owners. If it weren't for that horrible outing against Florida, where Millwood allowed seven runs in less than four innings, that ERA and WHIP would be much better than it already is. With Kevin, you can expect an ERA in the low threes, 18-20 wins (if not more), and 170+ strikeouts by the end of the season. Since Millwood is easily one of the top 10 or 15 starters in the majors, you're not going to find him on waivers. But if wins and strikeouts are big problem areas for you, then trading for the former Brave would be a great move.

Like Millwood, Randy Wolf has gotten off to a great, yet surprising, start. Over the last three Aprils, Randy has a record of 3-7 with an ugly 5.06 ERA, which makes this year's start that much more impressive. Now that the lefty has won four of his first six decisions, it's probably safe to say that he'll surpass his career high of 11 wins, as long as he can stay healthy. One interesting thing that one notices when looking at Randy's career stats is the fact that he's improved his ERA every season he's been in the majors. Does this mean he'll have a sub 3.20 earned run average this season? I doubt it, but he should finish in that range. The only stat that really causes any potential problems is innings pitched. Right now, Wolf has 43 IP for the season (10th in the NL), and 745 IP for his short career. I might be overreacting, but that seems like a lot of miles for a 26 year old to have on his arm already. However, that really isn't something to be concerned with this year. Randy seems to be underrated by many of those that haven't followed his career, so now would be a good time to try and trade for him.

Next on the board is a guy that many people thought would be a bust this season. After a first half out of nowhere and an All-Star appearance last season, Vicente Padilla slipped a bit in the second half, causing concern over his arm strength and whether he could last a full season as a starter. After skipping winter ball (where he usually pitches about 90 innings), Padilla appears to be back on track. Except for his last two starts, Vicente has looked like the All-Star version of himself, which is a great sign for everyone that took a gamble on him in their drafts. At this year's All-Star break, if Vicente has similar numbers to last year, I would look to trade him away. He very well could be better prepared to handle a full season's workload as a starter, but it would probably be best to play it safe and get rid of the Nicaraguan.

Another pleasant surprise on the mound thus far has been Brett Myers. Now in his first full season in the bigs, Brett looks like he was well worth the first round selection back in 1998. Often compared to Curt Schilling, Myers should turn out to be the fourth big strikeout pitcher in the Phils' rotation. Just 22 years old, Myers is another guy that I would look to deal before too long. Obviously, he's going to have his ups and downs this season, and probably won't be as consistent as he will be a few years down the line. If you're in a head to head league, trade Brett for a guy that you know to be more consistent from week to week, but if your league is roto, holding onto him for a while longer to see if he can keep this up wouldn't be such a bad idea. Just be sure to watch him close and pull the trigger if he starts to slip. In a best-case scenario, Myers could end up with about 14 or 15 wins, an ERA in the mid threes and over 150 strikeouts.

Our final Phillies starter, Brandon Duckworth, is the only one that you don't want as a member of your fantasy staff right now. Coming off a stint on the DL for elbow tendonitis, Ducky has yet to pitch more than five innings in his first three starts. Though he has improved with each outing, lets see if he can throw seven or more innings, while continuing to lower his ERA before making the move on him. Brandon's improved ability to strike guys out at a high clip last season (167 Ks in 163 IP) will certainly add to his fantasy value, should he return to his first year form. The key for Duckworth this season will be keeping those homers and walks to a minimum. He hasn't allowed a dinger yet this season, but the walks need to be worked on (he's issued five in 11 IP). This is another guy you should watch closely, because he could quickly turn into a nice addition.

Moving away from the Phillies for a moment lets take a look at a couple other guys that could help your team out. The first of which is ironically, a former Phil. It now appears that Toronto has finally had enough of Kelvim Escobar and his double digit ERA, which leaves the door open for Cliff Politte. Don't cry for Kelvim though, he'll be making his way to the Jays' starting rotation very shortly. Anyway, Politte, who is already one for one in save opportunities, will take on significant fantasy value, as he becomes the new full time closer for the Blue Jays. Since saves are in such low supply, Politte gets my full endorsement for those in need.

If you're alright with saves, but offense is where you need help, look no further than Junior Spivey. I'm sure many of you out there dropped the Arizona second baseman while he was in the middle of his horrible April, so now is the time to grab him back before someone else does. Once the calendar turned to May, it was like a switch went off in Junior's head, prompting him to get in gear with three homers, four RBI and a .333 average in his first 18 at bats of the new month. In addition to the pop he's displayed recently, he also has a good amount of speed on the base paths (he stole 11 bases in '02). Hitting second in the ‘Zona batting order should yield a high amount of runs scored as well, which makes Spivey that much more attractive.

That'll do it for this week folks. If you need a second opinion on a possible trade or some other matter causing you trouble in a fantasy league, whether it relates to the Phillies or not, this is the place to come. So, if you do have a query, be sure to send it to qwaz21@aol.com with "PBN" in the subject line. I'll also take requests for what you want to see in the Phantasy Philes from week to week, so feel free to send your thoughts on that as well. Till next time, I'm out.


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