Our team-by-team preview of the 2012 MLB season from a fantasy perspective continues today with the Philadelphia Phillies. Make sure you check out Kenneth Arthur's spotlight on various Phillies players. Our series will continue tomorrow with the .
2011 in Review & 2012 Outlook
The Philadelphia Phillies assembled one of the greatest rotations in recent memory in advance of the 2011 campaign, and the moves paid off, as they finished with 102 wins, capturing the NL East crown for the fifth straight year in the process. They were then eliminated in the NLDS by the eventual champion St. Louis Cardinals, a series they were heavily favored to win. Depending on your perspective, this either demonstrates the awesome power of the playoffs, or it affirms how ridiculous it is to have a 162 game season wiped out by a 5 game series.
Over the offseason, they lost one of their "aces," Roy Oswalt, though recent rumors suggest he may re-sign. Additionally, Ryan Howard will miss at least a couple of months due to a torn Achilles tendon, suffered during the last out of the division series. Nevertheless, the Phillies will still be considered one of the favorites to grab the pennant in 2012.
Citizens Bank Park has long been considered a bandbox, though in recent years the numbers have begun to slink back to neutral. Indeed, if one were to use HR/OFFB instead of HR/FB when calculating park factors (a theory that is gaining some traction), the numbers would actually say that park favors pitchers. It certainly helps that Philadelphia does boast a rather stout rotation, but a trip to the Bank shouldn't be considered an automatic death sentence for opposing pitchers.
Manager & Coaching Staff
Charlie Manuel is entering his eighth year of a very successful tenure as the Phillies' manager. Smart and well-respected by his players, Manuel is a pretty hands-off manager when it comes to in-game strategy. He's not afraid to use a platoon, so expect John Mayberry to get some help from somebody like Jim Thome if he does in fact earn the job.
Expected Position Battles
The biggest question mark on the Phillies concerns who will replace Ryan Howard at first base until he can return. John Mayberry appears to be the frontrunner, though Ty Wigginton and returnee Jim Thome will be in the mix. There's also the case of Dominic Brown, who was under a lot of pressure to produce for a contender last year. GM Ruben Amaro is on the record saying he thinks Brown could use some more development, but a few games of Laynce Nix in left field will surely be a test of the organization's patience. (Or could NRI Juan Pierre work his way into the picture?) Finally, Vance Worley is the frontrunner for the #5 spot, though Kyle Kendrick and Joel Pineiro will attempt to make their case.
Projected Lineup & Rotation
Jimmy Rollins - SS
Shane Victorino - CF
Chase Utley - 2B
Hunter Pence - RF
Placido Polanco - 3B
John Mayberry - 1B
Carlos Ruiz - C
Laynce Nix - LF
Manuel switched back and forth between Rollins and Victorino in the leadoff spot freely in 2011, but he preferred to use Rollins there more often (108 games vs. 66 for Victorino). Pence is expected to take over at the cleanup spot, which usually belongs to Howard.
By far the best top 3 in the league. Joe Blanton slots in behind Cole Hamels if he can return from his elbow impingement with no setbacks.
Amaro flirted with the idea of keeping Ryan Madson around before eventually dumping him for the much more expensive Jonathan Papelbon, who with the move to a 100-win team in the National League should be one of the top two or three closers off the board. Hope you enjoy waiting a minute and a half between pitches, Phillies fans. Though he won't vulture too many save opportunities, Antonio Bastardo is a fine set-up man with good fantasy stats across the board otherwise.
Potential Fantasy Sleeper
My definition of sleeper and yours may vary. I use the term to refer to a player who may be undervalued, no matter his current or expected draft position.
Hunter Pence is currently being drafted 14th among outfielders, and he was ranked 16th by Ray Guilfoyle in his first iteration of outfield rankings. That's nothing to sneeze at, but I think he's in a great position to outperform even that rank. After being traded from Houston at the deadline, Pence swatted 11 homers in 54 games and put up a .954 OPS. He's 29, so he's still in his prime, and he'll be hitting behind Rollins, Victorino, and Utley, giving him plenty of RBI opportunities. We could be looking at a .300/30/100 season with double digit steals and upside for more than that. Not bad for the 43rd player off the board overall.
Spring Training Storylines to Watch
As I mentioned before, I'm very interested to see how Amaro and Manuel handle the Dominic Brown situation. Will the freedom to play with the big club away from the bright lights of Philadelphia give Brown the confidence he needs? If he does produce, will they be able to justify keeping him at AAA while they field an already incomplete lineup? Alternatively, will Juan Pierre, Scott Podsednik, or some other dark horse candidate step up and fill the void? If Brown can earn himself a job, the sleeper title definitely applies. Thanks to an already elite walk rate, he gets on base enough to score runs, and if he can find a way to hit for average like he has at every other level, a breakout season is a possibility.
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