Phantasy Philes: Report Cards

With the first 50 games of this season in the books, I thought now would be a good time for a progress report on some of the Phillies' "Big Guns." Each player will get a letter grade, based on his performance thus far. In addition to that is our non-Phillie of the week, so let's get down to business.

Starting things off is the biggest of the Big Guns, Jim Thome. After a predictably slow start in April, Jim has begun to pick it up with a .253/6/17 line in May so far. Though his ten homers this season is three bellow his three-year average for April and May, Thome's 36 RBI comes in at two better than his average over the same span. With that said, it's obvious that the former Indian is on par with his usual output at this point. Luckily, the league change has not seemed to have an effect on Thome in the first two months of this season, so I doubt that will all of the sudden play a factor in the coming weeks. It would be nice if his batting average was a bit higher, but other than that, it's hard to complain about what Thome has done as a Phillie. As of now, the first baseman is eighth in the NL in walks (34) and has a five game hitting streak going. More than all this couldn't really be expected of him, considering his annually weak Aprils at the plate. Fantasy owners in need of a powerful bat should target Thome, especially if his current owner is unaware of his early season reputation. Look for Jim to continue with his yearly trends, as he posts another season in the .280/40/110 range. Grade: B

Next on our list is the Phillie that has caused more frustration, and ulcers for Larry Bowa than any other this season. Stating the obvious would be to say that Pat Burrell has had a horrible start to his fourth season in the majors, but is there hope for a turn around? I still say yes. A large part of that answer may be wishful thinking, but common sense tells me that Burrell simply has too much talent to continue at this pace. Despite the stinky start, Burrell is, surprisingly enough, on pace for 32 home runs. However, that won't be enough to satisfy the high expectations of the off season. If Burrell is going to prove worthy of the high (or is it low? I always get that confused) pick that fantasy owners used to get him, 30 dingers and a .210 average just isn't going to cut it. The most depressing thing about Burrell right now is that he still hasn't shown any signs of coming out of this funk. As he did in that series against the Mets last week, Pat will have a big game, only to follow it up with a couple hitless days. Fantasy owners that still have faith in the young slugger might want to take the gamble and trade for Burrell now. His price will certainly be cheap, so it could pay huge dividends if a turn around does occur. Unfortunately, his grade so far matches that price tag, but both should rise as the season goes on. Grade: D+

Moving right down the batting order to Bobby Abreu, we find another guy who isn't exactly playing up to expectations. The decrease in stolen bases wasn't a surprise, since the addition of Thome made it clear that the focus of the offense had shifted from speed to power, but it still hurt Bobby's fantasy value nonetheless. The days of 30 steals are now over, although, seeing more at bats in the five hole could result in a respectable 15-20 by season's end. Another promising recent development for Bob has been a hot bat. Over the last seven days, Abreu has a line of .353/1/3/1, which could be the beginning of a nice hot streak. Bobby's seven homers and 31 RBI put him on pace for 23/100 on the season, which is right in his usual range, so it hasn't been all bad for Mr. Abreu. Getting that average up above .300, and keeping the steals in double digits are clearly keys to Abreu's fantasy worth. The good news for owners is, both goals should be reachable. Grade: C+

On the mound, Kevin Millwood has stepped up to the challenge of being the ace of the club's staff. You really can't say enough good things about Millwood's performance in his first months as a Phillie. He's currently among the top ten in the NL in eight different categories, and only has one loss to go with his seven wins. If it weren't for the great pitching of Millwood, the Phils could very well be under .500 right now, and even further back from the division leading Braves. While he may not end up with an ERA under 3.00 like he has now, Kevin should still finish as one of the top pitchers in the league, as he makes a run at the Cy Young award. Call me crazy, but I think Millwood is proving to be the better player in that trade for Johnny Estrada. Grade A+ + + + + + + + +

This week's non-Phillie comes to us from across the state. It's been a while since he's been on the fantasy radar for most owners, but it finally looks like Aramis Ramirez is coming around. At a thin position like third base, Aramis could become the answer for someone who put too much stock in a guy like Joe Crede. Ramirez currently has a ten game hitting streak going and is 18 for his last 35, with ten RBI over that span. The power numbers still aren't there, just two homers all season, but that should come around sooner or later. In 2001, Aramis flashed what he's capable of by posting a line of .300/34/112. Even if this isn't the year where Aramis picks up where he left off in '01, it'll be nice having a guy with such a fun name to say. So it really is a win-win situation.

That'll do it for this week folks. Remember that I'll be more than happy to answer any and all fantasy baseball questions you may have; whether it's a trade you need an opinion on or whatever. I also take requests for future Phantasy Philes topics, so feel free to send those in as well. Just send them to qwaz21@aol.com with "PBN" in the subject line.


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