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2016 Fantasy Baseball: Philadelphia Phillies Team Preview

2015 Year in Review

Let’s not sugarcoat it, the fightin’ Phils are in for a rough season in 2016. After finally unloading a majority of the core that helped bring a World Series title to Philadelphia back in 2008, the Phillies went on to finish in last place in the National League East last year for the second straight year and sported the worst record in all of baseball last by going 63-99. The organization finally decided to move on from franchise cornerstones Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Cole Hamels in 2015, albeit two years too late, and are likely stuck with a declining Ryan Howard for the rest of this coming season as well. Even the bright spots for Philly’s 2015 season came with a bitter aftertaste as the fan base saw Rookie of the Year candidate Maikel Franco go down with an injury for roughly the last two months of the season and breakout closer Ken Giles got shipped off to Houston for an underwhelming prospect package highlighted by a potential bust of a first overall draft pick, Mark Appel.  

2015 was not an easy year to be a sports fan in the City of Brotherly Love, and the Phillies in particular will likely have a hard time competing in 2016 as well. However, each of the moves the front office has made dating back to the beginning of the 2015 offseason are all part of a greater plan for the organization. No fan enjoys seeing their favorite players dealt after succeeding with their home team, nor do they enjoy watching that team get steam rolled for an entire season, but the Phillies deciding to punt on 2016 will certainly pay dividends in the years to come.

Lineup

Freddy Galvis SS

Odubel Herrera OF

Maikel Franco 3B

Ryan Howard 1B

Aaron Altherr OF

Carlos Ruiz C

Peter Bourjos OF

Cesar Hernandez 2B

Pitcher’s Spot

Almost every aspect of the Phillies roster is somewhat arbitrary for 2016. It’s safe to say that Ryan Howard will be the club’s starting first basemen based on how much he’s making in the final year of his contract, and the fact that he’d been such a key part of the team during their five year run of dominance from 2007 to 2011. But other than that it’s really hard to say. Both Franco and Odubel Herrera had solid rookie seasons, particularly Franco who posted an impressive .840 OPS in 80 games before getting hurt. However, at just 23 and 24 years-old respectively, the Phillies will likely see a bit of regression in the pair’s production as the rest of the league makes adjustments.

The rest of the Philadelphia lineup in 2015 posted OPS+ marks below the league average of 100, including Howard, and newly acquired Peter Bourjos has always been known for his glove more so than his bat. 25 year-old outfielder Aaron Altherr may be able to contribute this coming season after posting a .489 slugging percentage with just a 24.4% chase rate, but with just 161 plate appearances in 2015, it’s not really a large enough sample size to wholeheartedly depend on his performance.

Herrera was able to stay on the field for 147 games last year so his .297/.344/.418 slash line may look just as promising as what Franco was able to do in his first season. However, with a 24% strikeout rate and just a 5.2% walk rate he is nowhere near as advanced a hitter as Franco. Herrera is a solid player, but his .389 BABIP makes it seem like that near .300 batting average for his rookie year was a bit indicative of luck.

When it comes down to it, Franco is really the only player in the Phils lineup worth taking a chance on from a fantasy perspective. The third baseman ranks pretty well across the board in all catagories according to scouts, and he is slated at the moment to be the ballclub’s number three hitter come the start of the season. Franco’s 15.5% strikeout rate is almost astonishing for such a young player with his skillset, and the fact that he draws walks at a 7.8% clip means that at least he’s got some plate discipline to work with.

Starting Rotation

Aaron Nola (RHP)

Jeremy Helickson (RHP)

Brett Oberholtzer (LHP)

Charlie Morton (RHP)

Jerad Eickhoff (RHP)

The Phillies’ pitching staff is another “who’s who” of underwhelming options, but at least they’re young for the most part. Jared Eickhoff posted a very good ERA of 2.65 with 1.039 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 in eight starts  last year, so there is some hope there. But Charlie Morton has been abysmal for the majority of his major league career, and Brett Oberholtzer struggled to find success in three seasons in Houston as well. Jeremy Helickson is a far cry from the player he was back when he won Rookie of the Year honors with the Rays, and he saw his HR/9 jump to 1.36 last season with the Diamondbacks.

Former first round pick Aaron Nola will have to anchor this starting rotation as he enters his age 23 season, but he will have to improve on his numbers for the 2016 season. The young right-hander didn’t particularly wow anyone with in rookie season, but he features a lively fastball with a curveball-changeup mix, and reached the big leagues in under two years after being drafted seventh overall in the 2014 MLB draft.

Bullpen

CL David Hernandez

RHP Luis Garcia

RHP Jeanmar Gomez

LHP Elvis Araujo

David Hernandez may not get many save opportunities in 2016, but the job is his for the taking. Hernandez spent the 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and wasn’t great in 2015 feeling the residual effects from an entire year off. However, the right-hander turned in a very impressive 2012 campaign with a 2.50 ERA in 68 ⅓ innings and posted the best WHIP of his career at 1.024. Hernandez is not the definitive closer at the moment as the Phillies will likely have a bit of an open tryout in Spring Training, but with 84 career games finished, his experience definitely makes him the front runner.

Farm System

Finally, the farm system is where the Phillies recent struggles will eventually pay off. Philadelphia leads all of baseball with a whopping seven prospects landing in MLB.com’s annual top-100 rankings, and the ballclub could see the emergence of some of these players sooner rather than later with the current state of the team. Right-handed pitchers Jake Thompson (#55) and Mark Appel (#70); outfielders Nick Williams (#64), Cornelius Randolph (#84), and Roman Quinn (#99); and catcher Jorge Alfaro (#96) all cracked MLB’s list.

The one player that is most likely to contribute to the 2016 club however, is shortstop J.P Crawford. MLB’s fifth rated prospect is the cousin of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford and was the 16th overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft. There were only four hitters taken ahead of Crawford that year, and the young lefty has produced at the plate in every level of the minors. He walked more times than he struck out in Double-A during the 2015 season and could very well find himself in the show if Freddy Galvis continues to under-perform at the plate. Crawford will likely start the year in Triple-A, but if he makes short work of the competition at that level, then there will be no reason why the Phillies won’t call him up to the big leagues.  

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