Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Finding Keepers: Philadelphia Phillies

(In a COSFBA first, this article is coming to you by someone other than me. A unique opportunity presented itself to me via Twitter and I pounced. Writer Paul Boyé offered up his services to compose this edition of Finding Keepers and I couldn't be happier with the results. Paul currently writes for Be sure to check out his body of work there and follow him on Twitter @Phrontiersman.)

In making the NLCS for the third consecutive year, the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies further cemented their status as one of the Senior Circuit’s top clubs. Their defeat at the hands of the eventual champion San Francisco Giants, however, seemed to expose some flaws in their armor. In the offseason, OF Jayson Werth flew the coop for a huge contract with the Nationals and, suddenly, with all of the incumbent players a year older, things seemed a little dubious for the Phils and their top-tier status.

Then along came SP Cliff Lee, and things didn’t seem quite so bleak anymore. Sure, questions still remain about their future, but for 2011 and 2012, you can find keeper-quality players in plenty of places.

One of the no-doubt-about-it keepers on this team is SP Cole Hamels. The 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP followed up a rough 2009 campaign – one compounded by both sub-par stuff and bad luck – with an excellent 2010, and at 27 years old, he’s entering his prime years. Playing in Citizens Bank Park as a flyball pitcher means Cole will always give up more than a homer per nine innings, but he gives you enough everywhere else – high-strikeout, low-walk numbers, along with wins if the offense supports him – and durability isn’t a problem. He could be a top-20 SP in 2011, and should be just as good for the next few seasons.

Similarly, you can earmark SP Roy Halladay for a keep. You know how good he is, and he’s showing no signs of slowing. He’ll still be elite in the N.L. for the foreseeable future. The rest of the rotation, with SPs Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt, are probably keepers, too. Watch out for lingering back injury issues with both, but don’t let it bother you too much when deciding whether to hang on to either.

Offensively, 2B Chase Utley is likely a top-2 second baseman, C Carlos Ruiz is an underrated player in a thin position (beware low RBI totals from the end of the lineup), and 1B Ryan Howard will always give you big numbers in fantasy stats, even if his real-world value seems to have slipped. Top prospect OF Domonic Brown could break out at any time, even in 2011, so he’s worth holding on to for a few seasons to see if he’ll reach any of his lofty expectations.

After this season, hang on to RP Ryan Madson. Even if it isn’t with the Phillies, he’ll be a closer in 2012.

Best of the rest but not keepers:
  • 3B Placido Polanco – A nice player, but he won’t provide you with enough offensive production (good AVG aside) to justify being a high pick at third base.
  • SS Jimmy Rollins – While he’ll never be the player he was in 2007 again, he’s not as bad as he was in 2010, either. Still, this definitely feels like beginning of the back end of a good career.
  • RP Brad Lidge – He’ll get saves, and he had a nice second half in 2010, but something still isn’t right with Lidge. Plus, a balky knee and elbow could limit his innings.
  • OF Raul Ibanez – Struggled mightily out of the gate in 2010, and though he salvaged some decent fantasy numbers, his age 39 season doesn’t seem likely to feature some big power surge.
The Phillies have a lot of really good, if aging, players on their roster and, for once, their pitching is more valuable than their hitting. Assuming 130-game health for the hitters and 30-plus starts for the SPs, they have plenty of top fantasy players. Some keeps would be a bit riskier than others, but the sheer number of potential keeper-quality players on this club is noteworthy.

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