Philadelphia Phillies Team Preview
Posted: Monday March 19, 2007 12:48PM; Updated: Monday March 19, 2007 12:48PM
Trash talk has started early between the Phils and the favored Mets. With a starting pitching staff that goes six deep, a lineup anchored by Chase Utley and NL MVP Ryan Howard, and a solid bullpen, Philadelphia looks like it's in position to challenge for the NL East crown.
"Six and a half feet of power," that's the way one of my SI colleagues describes Ryan Howard, one of the most imposing figures seen on a baseball field in a generation. Needless to say the NL home run and RBI leader has tremendous power to all fields, and he flashes it regularly. He ranked in the top five in the NL in slugging percentage (.659, second to Albert Pujols) and on-base percentage (.425, fourth) and his .313 batting average placed eighth. Just think how good he'd be if his 181 strikeouts didn't rank second in the majors. He's a monster and should be picked at or near the top of every draft.
The Next Big Thing
After three years of watching Cole Hamels's dominant performances intertwined with injury stints, greater Philadelphia finally got to see the best pitching prospect to come out of the Phillies chain in more than a decade. Amazingly, his 23 appearances in the majors were the most he has had on any level as a pro and matched his minor league total for 2004-06 combined. He'll contribute across the board, especially in strikeouts (145 in 132 innings). If you really want to see how good he is, check out colehamelsfacts.com.
Aaron Rowand is a quality fourth or fifth outfielder who provides just enough speed and power to keep him in your lineup. But he's been rumored in trade talks, first to San Diego (which would sap his power numbers), and the latest have him heading back to the White Sox (which would make him useless in NL-only leagues). Since outfielders like Rowand aren't that hard to come by, it's a good idea to let someone else take the chance on where he'll end up.
Do You Feel Lucky?
Two seasons ago Rod Barajas saw an opportunity and seized the starting catcher job for the Rangers, clouting 21 home runs with 60 RBIs. Last year his numbers slipped because Texas wanted to finally transition to home-grown product Gerald Laird. Now Barajas finds himself in another good power park and a chance to play four five times a week, so his power numbers could creep up near the top among NL backstops.
Steals come from...
Jimmy Rollins is one of the most valuable fantasy players around, because of his mix of power (25 HRs last season) and speed (averaging 34 steals per full season). Rightfielder Shane Victorino hasn't run much in the majors, but throughout his minor league career he was a speedster, earning the nickname the Flyin' Hawaiian. Utley and Rowand also add some speed to the mix, as does fifth outfield candidate Chris Roberson, who's in line for the starting spot should Rowand be moved.
If Something Should Happen To Tom Gordon
Earlier this spring trimmed-down staff ace Brett Myers volunteered to close for the Phillies to help alleviate the veteran logjam in the rotation. That's unlikely to happen, though in the 1 percent chance that it does, it gives Myers added value. The top two relievers on the team, Ryan Madson and Geoff Geary, would be the right choices to take over should the 39-year-old Gordon falter. You can count out veteran Antonio (El Pulpo) Alfonseca, who has 121 career saves entering 2007, but none since serving as the Cubs' stopper in 2002. Keep tabs on lefty Matt Smith, who was lights out for five teams on three levels last season but has struggled mightily this spring.
You Need Them Too
Pat Burrell, Chris Coste, Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer
Better Left as Someone Else's Problem
Adam Eaton, Jon Lieber, Abraham Nu˝ez, Carlos Ruiz