Fantasy Baseball 2012 Projection: Will Hunter Pence Thrive in Philadelphia?

March 9, 2012 by Eric Stashin  
Filed under Fan News

For whatever the reason, Hunter Pence feels like a player that is often disrespected by fantasy owners. 

Is it that he doesn’t always look “natural” on the diamond? 

Was it that he spent the early part of his career in Houston

I’m not really sure the answer, but the fact of the matter is that he brings consistency that few players do.  If you look at his 2011 campaign it is almost a mirror of the previous three seasons:

606 At Bats
.314 Batting Average (190 Hits)
22 Home Runs
97 RBIs
84 Runs
8 Stolen Bases
.370 On Base Percentage
.502 Slugging Percentage
.361 BABIP

Now in Philadelphia, will he be able to take a major step forward or should we simply expect more of the same?  The first thing to take note of is that the stadium itself should not have a major impact on his performance.  He is going from one favorable park to another, so don’t use that as any reason to push him up your rankings.

The power is a number that is always in question, but at this point he has proven it is for real.  Despite a groundball rate of over 50% each of the past four seasons he has hit 25, 25, 25 and 22 HR.  It’s obvious that he can maintain that mark and we should continue to expect that from him in 2012.

His average was buoyed by an unrealistic BABIP in 2011.  We all know that and it is impossible to think that he is going to come close to replicating it.  He had hit .282 on the dot the prior two seasons and that is a much more realistic expectation for him. 

Could he be a little higher or a little lower?  Absolutely, but I wouldn’t expect him to exceed .300 for a second consecutive season.  Figure that he’ll be in the .280-.290 range.

The other three numbers (SB, RBI and R) are things we need to look at. 

He has never been a major threat to steal bases, with no more than 18, but he had just one in 207 AB after arriving in Philadelphia.  Could the improved lineup around him keep him from running quite as often? 

That’s something that is a very realistic possibility.

Maybe he just needed to get comfortable with his new teammates and surroundings.  With time under his belt it is very possible that he gets a little bit friskier on the base paths.  It’s not like the Phillies are a station-to-station team, as we’ve seen Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley consistently given the green light to run. 

I would go into the year expecting Pence to return to his prior levels (between 11 and 18 SB), though keep in mind that he could fall flat.

Where the move could have a major impact is Pence’s ability to both score and drive in runs.  While we don’t know exactly how the Phillies will craft their lineup, there is going to be some mix of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard (once healthy), Shane Victorino and others joining Pence.  No matter where he hits, the supporting cast is going to be significantly better than he’s had in recent years.

That should lead to more opportunities to both score and drive in runs.  Only once has he surpassed 85 R scored (93 in ’10), but reaching that mark this year is extremely realistic.  If he is hitting third in the lineup, seeing 90+ becomes even more likely.

Whether he hits third, fifth or somewhere else, there are going to be guys on base when he steps to the plate.  Over the past two years he has had 91 and 97 RBIs respectively, and reaching the magical 100 RBI mark is extremely possible thanks to the improved supporting cast.

We put it all together and get the following projection for 2012:

.290 (174-600), 25 HR, 100 RBI, 90 R, 14 SB, .318 BABIP, .345 OBP, .488 SLG

Basically, despite a little bump in R and RBI, I am expecting Pence to be a very similar player to what he has been throughout his career.  That makes him a very solid player and a lock to be among the Top-15 outfielders in the game. 

He certainly should not be ignored, but he also should not be moved significantly up draft boards because he will be playing in Philadelphia.

That potential to be overvalued, as well as the regression in BABIP, could lead to a go opportunity to sell a little bit high on him.  If you own him in a keeper league it is definitely worth exploring.

Make sure to check out our 2012 projections:

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Fantasy Baseball 2012 Outlook: Can Chase Utley Return to Fantasy Dominance?

February 24, 2012 by Eric Stashin  
Filed under Fan News

There was a time when Chase Utley was not only far and away the best second baseman in the league, but he was among the elite players, period.  A former surefire first-round draft choice, injuries have helped to rob him of some of his upside.  Just look at the numbers over the past two seasons combined:

823 At-Bats

.267 Batting Average (220 Hits)

27 Home Runs109 RBI

129 Runs

32 Stolen Bases

.367 On-Base Percentage

.435 Slugging Percentage

.278 Batting Average on Balls in Play

 

Let’s keep a few numbers in mind:

  • He has four seasons with 28 HR or more (including three of at least 30)
  • He has four seasons with at least 100 R (three of at least 110, including 131 R in ’06)
  • He has four seasons of at least 100 RBI
  • He is a .290 career hitter with four seasons above .290 (including one of .332)

We all know that at 33 years old, Utley is not the player he once was.  If you are going to draft him, you just can’t expect the type of production that he gave you from 2005-2009.  That is the past.  The question is, exactly what is the present?  How should owners value Utley heading into 2012?

You have to think that, a year removed from missing the first seven weeks of the 2011 campaign, he would be on the upswing.  Of course, how do you then explain him hitting .245 with seven HR over 241 AB in the second half?

The truth of the matter is that Utley’s knee issues could be a consistent problem for him throughout the remainder of his career.  Last year, Stephania Bell of ESPN posted an article (click here to view) that she concluded with a great analogy on his situation: 

Perhaps the best analogy for Utley’s knee condition is that of a worn tire. You know that if you continue to drive on it, you may be able to get another 20,000 miles out of it, but if the tire blows, it won’t come as a great surprise. And if you put the car in the garage and ‘rest’ it, it doesn’t improve the tire tread.

We all know that Utley is as tough as they come and is going to give the Phillies everything he can, if he can.  The problem is that he may only be able to do so much and his physical ability may simply not be the same that it once was.

There is a ray of light, though, since despite the knee issue he still managed to steal 14 bases in 2011—but that is far from enough.  The leg issues could easily zap him of his ability to hit for power or any general authority. 

Last season he posted a minuscule 12.7 percent line-drive rate, which would’ve been the second worst in the league had he qualified for the batting title (Vernon Wells posted a 12.3 percent mark).  While it’s impossible to expect him to be that bad once again, we also can’t expect him to be slugging the ball all across the diamond either.

Is there still enough there to consider him a starting option at the position?  Yes, but he’s more of a mid-to-back-end option.  He’s not likely to hit .300. He’s not likely to hit much more than 20 HR. He’s not likely to surpass 170 RBI/R.

Just go into the season with realistic expectations.  In other words, don’t expect him to be the player he once was.

What do you think of Utley?  What type of expectations do you have?  Is he a player you are willing to draft?

 

Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings:

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Fantasy Baseball Draft Day Decisions: Has Cole Hamels Emerged as a Top 10 SP?

February 17, 2012 by Eric Stashin  
Filed under Fan News

If you said that the Philadelphia Phillies had two of the top five starting pitchers in the league, no one would bat an eye.  However, if you said that they had three of the top 10, someone may pause momentarily.  We all know that Cole Hamels has developed into one of the better starting pitchers in the game, but has he developed into one of the elite?

To answer that question we first have to look at the numbers he posted in 2011:

14 Wins
216.0 Innings
2.79 ERA
0.99 WHIP
194 Strikeouts (8.08 K/9)
44 Walks (1.83 BB/9)
.255 BABIP

From those numbers, the answer would clearly be a resounding yes, but can we realistically expect him to replicate them? 

Let’s start with what we do know.  Hamels is an elite control pitcher.  While his 1.83 BB/9 was a career best, the prior four seasons he had posted marks of 2.11, 2.10, 2.00 and 2.63.  In other words, his worst BB/9 in a year where he has thrown at least 180 innings is 2.63 (and he’s been at least .50 better than that every other season).  How many pitchers in the game can say that?

You couple that with a solid strikeout rate (he has posted a K/9 of 9.10 in 2010 and has a career 8.45 mark) and you have the makings of a top 20-25 pitcher.  All you need to do is add in a great ground-ball rate and you have a potentially elite option.  In fact, that’s exactly what he did in 2011.

Last season he posted a 52.3 percent ground-ball rate, by far his best mark (second best was 45.4 percent in 2010, the only other season he was above 42).  Before we dub that number a fluke, let’s look at his monthly rates:

  • April – 45.6%
  • May – 57.4%
  • June – 57.8%
  • July – 44.7%
  • August – 56.2%
  • September – 50.9%

In other words, there was no falloff.  He was repeatedly around or better than his previous career best mark.  Maybe it has been the emergence of his cutter, which he threw 20.7 percent of the time in ’11, but it clearly has gone a long way in helping him take the next step.

He now brings the trio of statistics that we look for in any starting pitcher.  He has strikeouts, control and ground-ball ability.  Does that mean his is a lock to be elite?  No, but he has definitely put him in the position to be there.

Obviously, we can’t expect him to exactly replicate his 2011 success.  We can’t expect him to match either his BABIP (.255) or strand rate (78.4 percent).  A regression in the luck metrics will send both his ERA and WHIP to fall, at least slightly.  With the other numbers that he’s shown capable of, however, that regression is going to do little to hurt his potential value.

Instead of a 2.80 ERA, maybe he posts a 3.00 or 3.20.  Would anyone complain about that?

No one posts a WHIP consistently under 1.00, so saying he’s going to regress there is far from earth-shattering.  However, with his control and newfound ground-ball ability is it a stretch to go in expecting 1.10-1.15, at worst (it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the 1.05 range)?  Again, that puts him among the best in the league.

Throw in the potential for plenty of wins, despite not showing it as of yet (career high is 15 wins), and it is clear that Hamels has emerged as one of the better options in the league. 

Heading into the season, I have Hamels ranked as the ninth-best pitcher, but the potential is actually there for him to be so much more than that.  He has emerged as one of the elite and should be viewed as such in all formats.

What are your thoughts of Hamels?  How good do you think he has become?  Where do you rank him for the upcoming season?

Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings:

Read more Philadelphia Phillies news on BleacherReport.com

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Top 5 Offseason Questions Facing the Philadelphia Phillies for 2012

October 13, 2011 by Eric Stashin  
Filed under Fan News

For a team that finished 2011 with the best record in baseball (102-60), you would expect a fairly quiet offseason.  Sure, an early playoff exit may stir up a few issues, but nothing really major.  Such is not the life for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Free agency and injuries have the team facing some major decisions before the 2012 campaign.  After signing Cliff Lee a year ago (as well as trading for Hunter Pence during the year) we all know they aren’t going to shy away from making a splash, but will they have the money to make a similar move?

Let’s take a look at the major questions facing the team this year:

Begin Slideshow

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Fantasy Baseball Digging for Saves: Is There a Closer Controversy in Philly?

April 24, 2011 by Eric Stashin  
Filed under Fan News

Seeing Jose Contreras getting a day off on Friday was not surprising. He is 39 years old and had appeared in four games in five days. According to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer (click here for the article), he had thrown 72 pitches over that stretch. 

He certainly deserved a rest, but is that why he was also not used on Saturday when a save opportunity presented itself once again? Gelb has a quote from manager Charlie Manuel saying, “He’ll be ready to pitch [Sunday].” He also said that Contreras “is OK.”

Now, fantasy owners are left wondering what is going to happen. Ryan Madson certainly has the better pure stuff, but his struggles in the closer’s role in the past led to him being overlooked for the role with Brad Lidge out of action. All he’s done over the past two days is allow one H and zero BB, striking out one, in 2.0 innings of work to lock down two saves.

Could he now start to see a few opportunities? His 1.00 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, along with 10 K, over 9.0 innings of work would certainly justify such a move.

However, what has Contreras done to lose his job? All he has done is post a 0.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, along with nine K, in 8.0 innings to convert five saves.

Are we going to move to a committee situation? Will the matchups dictate who is going to be used? Will one stumble by either pitcher lead to the other getting the next opportunity?

It’s hard to imagine Contreras losing the job, considering that he has done nothing but excel in the role thus far. However, the Phillies may want to see if Madson, 30 years old, has finally matured to the point that he could handle ninth inning duties. 

It is no secret that Brad Lidge is no lock as a closer and, with his contract expiring after 2011 (the team does hold a $12.5 million option that is unlikely to be picked up), the team needs to know if Madson can handle the job in 2012 (though he is also a free agent after the year) or if they need to import another option. Madson will likely command far less than someone like Heath Bell or Jonathan Papelbon.

How this will play out, no one knows, but it has become a difficult situation for fantasy owners. Both Contreras and Madson should be owned in all formats, but unless your league values middle relievers or if you are desperate for saves, both should be on your bench. In a perfect world, if you owned one you would also own the other, but we all know that’s not always possible. Given Madson’s history, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him stumble, but right now he certainly is in a groove.

What are your thoughts on the situation? Who do you think deserves the job? Who do you think will be the closer?

Make sure to check out the Rotoprofessor Closer Tracker (updated on April 24) by clicking here.

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MLB Fantasy Baseball Digging for Saves: Who Will Replace Brad Lidge?

March 27, 2011 by Eric Stashin  
Filed under Fan News

Brad Lidge is the latest closer to go down with an injury and how long he will be out is completely unknown.

The pain in his shoulder has yet to be identified, meaning he could be out a week, a month or maybe more. It was just a few days ago that I questioned if Lidge was even worth owning (click here to view) and now things look even more dubious. 

Obviously, there are two options for the Phillies to turn to: either Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras. The question is, who will it be?

Or, will fantasy owners face yet another “closer-by-committee” situation?

According to Todd Zolecki of mlb.com (click here for the article), the latter does not appear to be in the cards.

Pitching coach Rick Dubee was quoted as saying, “Guys are more comfortable when they’re slotted into a role. It’s preparation. You know when your time is coming. When you’re grabbing at straws, guys are a little leery about what’s going on. You like to have that back end set up.”

So, knowing that it is likely going to be one or the other, which is the player that fantasy owners should be targeting?

Ryan Madson is clearly the more dynamic pitcher. He has the better stuff and you would think that he should excel closing out games. However, he has never seemed extremely comfortable in the ninth inning. It is a small sample size, but in 2010 he converted just five of 10 save opportunities.

Over the past five seasons, he has 19 saves in 35 opportunities.

In Zolecki’s article, Dubee is quoted as saying, “He doesn’t get to the same comfort level. There’s a little anxiety there. The ninth inning is a little different than the eighth. There have been solid eighth-inning guys that haven’t been able to pitch the ninth. One day they learn how to do it.”

Contreras, however, thrived in his brief chance as closer in ’10, converting four saves in five opportunities. In his first season in the bullpen, he posted a 3.34 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 56.2 innings of work. That’s not to mention a 9.05 K/9, significantly better than he did while in the starting rotation.

If Friday’s spring game was any indication, you can tell which direction the Phillies are leaning:

Eighth Inning: Ryan Madson allows one hit in an otherwise clean inning as the setup man.

Ninth inning: Jose Contreras is perfect, complete with two strikeouts, picking up the save.

Should we be looking too much into spring strategy? Of course not, but past success clearly is going to factor into the Phillies thinking. Small sample size or not, you can tell by Dubee’s comments that Madson’s past struggles are certainly going to play a role. 

Obviously, to be safe all Lidge owners should be hoping to stash both Contreras and Madson. You really don’t know exactly what is going to happen at this point. However, if push comes to shove, all signs are currently pointing to Contreras getting the first opportunity to close out games.

Right now, neither appear to be a long-term options, but those looking to steal a few saves early on will want to probably nab Contreras.

What are your thoughts? Who do you think is going to get the save opportunities?

 

Make sure to order your copy of the Rotoprofessor 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, selling for just $5, by clicking here.

Make sure to check out our 2011 rankings:

Top 15 Catchers

Top 15 First Basemen

Top 15 Second Basemen

Top 15 Third Basemen

Top 15 Shortstops

Top 30 Outfielders

Top 30 Starting Pitchers

Top 15 Closers

THIS ARTICLE IS ALSO FEATURED ON WWW.ROTOPROFESSOR.COM

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Fantasy Baseball Digging for Saves: Is Brad Lidge a Closer to Target?

March 23, 2011 by Eric Stashin  
Filed under Fan News

Some closers are safe bets to perform on a year-in, year-out basis. 

We all know who they are and depending on your strategy when it comes to closers, most of us want to own them. 

For those who like waiting until the late rounds to fill the spot, you must realize that all closers are not created equal. Just because someone appears to be a lock to close games out, it does not make him an option worth targeting.

One such closer is Brad Lidge who, since his epic 2008 campaign, has been a fairly big liability. 

On the surface, his 2010 season doesn’t look too badly:

1 Win
27 Saves
45.2 Innings
2.96 ERA
1.23 WHIP
52 Strikeouts (10.25 K/9)
24 Walks (4.73 BB/9)
.243 BABIP

However, when we start digging in, there are a significant number of reasons to be concerned.

First of all, is anyone willing to bet that Lidge is going to stay healthy for the full year? 

Over the past two seasons, he has had three separate trips to the DL:

  • 2009 – Knee
  • 2010 – Two separate trips due to elbow issues

If that weren’t enough of a concern, you also have to look at what has actually been a declining strikeout rate: From 2004-2008, his low K/9 was an 11.82 in 2007. 

In the two subsequent seasons, he has been at 9.36 and 10.25. Those aren’t bad numbers, but they are clearly going in the wrong direction.

The fall could be thanks to a fastball that is clearly losing some zip. At 35 years old, that shouldn’t be a surprise, but is he going to be able to reassess his abilities and adjust? 

This is a player who once averaged 96.0 mph on his fastball for an entire season, yet clocked in at just 91.7 mph in 2010. 

Maybe the elbow issues helped to cause it, but who’s to say that he’s even over them?

Without the zip on his fastball, the control, which has always been an issue, becomes an even greater concern. 

Just look at the walk rates over the past three seasons:

  • 2008 – 4.54
  • 2009 – 5.22
  • 2010 – 4.73

Yes, the results were there in two of the three years, but there was also a lot of luck involved, especially in 2010. 

His .243 BABIP and 82 percent strand rate are repeatable, especially from a relief pitcher who works just an inning at a time, but he also could regress back to the mean.

He is no longer among the elite in the game, not by a longshot. In fact, there’s probably a better chance that he blows up and loses the job as opposed to rediscovering his 2008 campaign. 

The Phillies are trying to win a World Series, meaning they aren’t going to be shy about making a change if need be. 

There is just too much risk involved to select him over other options.

According to Mock Draft Central, he’s currently the 18th relief pitcher coming off the board, before guys like Matt Thornton and Joe Nathan. 

Do those two have risk? Absolutely, but the reward, at least at this point, appear to be higher than Lidge’s.

What are your thoughts on Lidge? Is he a player you would target? Why or why not?

 

Make sure to order your copy of the Rotoprofessor 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, selling for just $5, by clicking here.

Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:

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Fantasy Baseball Draft Day Dilemma: How Should We Value Jimmy Rollins?

January 31, 2011 by Eric Stashin  
Filed under Fan News

It wasn’t long ago that Jimmy Rollins was in the discussion regarding the elite shortstops in the league. 

What a difference a few seasons can make.

Obviously, we all know that Rollins is no slouch, especially at a position that is not one of the deepest in baseball. In our most recent rankings (click here to view), I ranked him fifth, but the real question is if that is a viable spot for him? 

Should he be ranked a little bit higher? Should I back him down a couple of spots?

To answer those questions, we first need to look at the numbers he posted in 2010:

350 At Bats
.243 Batting Average (85 Hits)
8 Home Runs
41 RBI
48 Runs
17 Stolen Bases
.320 On Base Percentage
.374 Slugging Percentage
.246 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Rollins' 2010 campaign was marred by starts and stops with only two months (July & August) with at least 100 AB. Injuries to his calf and hamstring cost him time, both of which are concerning, considering his legs are the key to his fantasy value.

I know he hit 30 HR in 2007, but he had never really shown that potential before (outside of maybe his 25 HR campaign in ’06) and hasn’t shown it since. 

If he can stay healthy could he return to the 20 HR plateau? Most likely, but that’s the type of number we should expect.

For a player who brings speed to the table, Rollins also has never brought an impressive BABIP to the table. Obviously, we all know that his ’10 mark is something we can expect improvement on, but don’t look for a number in the .320+ range. 

For his career, he has a .290 BABIP and has never posted a number better than .309. It’s a little surprising, considering that he used to routinely bring 40+ stolen bases to the table, but his track record is long enough that by now we need to accept him for what he is. 

He’s just not likely to hit close to .300. We are looking at a .275ish hitter and nothing more.

So, we know that the power is not what he showed in ’07 and his average is modest, at best.

What about his speed and run potential? The stolen bases are extremely hard to predict at this point: When healthy in ’09, he stole 31 in 39 attempts; now, two years older (32-years old) and coming off a year that saw him suffer multiple injuries to his legs, can we really expect him to return to his glory days?

I think he could return to 30 SB, maybe a few more than that, but going into the year expecting him to reach 40+ is a stretch. In fact, would anyone be surprised if he fell short of 30? 

The runs are going to be dependent on where he hits in the lineup and how the guys behind him produce. Yes, he is likely to be the leadoff hitter so that is not a concern (though if he struggles he easily could be dropped to the six hole). 

The problem is, do we think that Ryan Howard and Chase Utley can also rebound from “down” years? It’s a fairly safe assumption and one would think Rollins would at least approach 100 runs with a good chance to eclipse it, but he’s not going to be in the neighborhood of his career high (139).

It certainly would seem that we should be cautious when we draft Jimmy Rollins in 2011. I’m not trying to say that he’s a bad option, because he certainly has the upside to be one of the better options in the league. 

Unfortunately, three years removed from what was easily his career year, he’s unlikely to approach some people’s lofty expectations.

He has become injury prone (less than 140 games in two of the past three years) and somewhat of a shell of what he was. 

At a shallow position it’s still more than enough, but keep your expectations in check. I would probably target him around the sixth round of your draft and avoid reaching for him based on position.

What are your thoughts of Rollins? Is he a player you would target? What type of numbers are you expecting from him?

 

Make sure to order your copy of the Rotoprofessor 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, selling for just $5, by clicking here.

Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:

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Cliff Lee Signs With The Phillies: The Fallout

December 14, 2010 by Eric Stashin  
Filed under Fan News

For weeks, the baseball world has been waiting on the edge of their seats for the decision by Cliff Lee.  The assumption had long been that Lee would milk his free agency for every last dollar, likely spurning the Texas Rangers, who he had helped lead to their for World Series just weeks earlier, for the New York Yankees. 

The Rangers held out hope that they could sway him, not only with comparable dollars but also with the proximity to his Arkansas home.  At the end of the day, both teams have been left with a huge void at the top of their rotations.

Indeed, there was a “mystery” team in the mix as rumors indicated.  Lee apparently enjoyed his brief stay in Philadelphia so much, as well as the allure of pitching in potentially the best rotation in baseball, to spurn both the Yankees and Rangers.  The appeal was so strong that he took less guaranteed money in the process.

The Phillies likely have some creative bookkeeping in their future in order to make things work, if it is trading away Joe Blanton or Raul Ibanez or another move we have not yet heard about. 

Right now, those are worries for another day. 

Instead, Phillie fans rejoice what should have come to fruition 12 months earlier.  They have their dynamic one-two punch of Lee and Roy Halladay atop the rotation, and have added Roy Oswalt in the process to make up for their previous gaffe.  Of course, that doesn’t mention the presence of Cole Hamels to boot.

From a fantasy perspective, this does little to change Lee’s value.  Sure, the move back to the NL may aid his numbers slightly, but we all had a good idea of the performance he was going to put on.  That’s not the story for today.  The impact on the baseball world and what it does to two organizations are much more pressing.

With Andy Pettitte’s future in limbo, the Yankees are left with CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and a black hole for the final three spots.  Can A.J. Burnett rebound?  Can they really trust Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre or some other prospect at the backend of the rotation?

The Rangers, meanwhile, have long been a team looking for pitching.  They paid a hefty price in Justin Smoak and other prospects to secure their ace for three brief months.  Were the rewards worth the premium they paid?  They put themselves in position to challenge for a World Series title, so you have to say it was, but that doesn’t bring solace to Ranger fans today.

This isn’t the end of the story.  I wouldn’t expect either team to stop their pursuit of rotation help as they were both clearly willing to pay a hefty sum for an anchor to their pitching staff.  We will hear the ludicrous (Felix Hernandez or Francisco Liriano).  We will hear the more reasonable (Matt Garza or Zack Greinke or Ricky Nolasco).  We will hear about reclamation projects (Brandon Webb).  We will hear about everything in between

Today, however, is not a happy day for Yankee or Ranger fans.  In Philadelphia, things could not look any better.  They are an aging ball club with a small window left for success.  Yes, Lee is a 32-year old pitcher with back problems.  Maybe in three or four years they will regret the contract they just handed out, but in the here and now they can rejoice.  They have positioned themselves for another run at a World Series title and put the rest of the NL on notice.

While the rest of the baseball world struggles with accepting the fallout from this stunning development, the fans in Philly are getting ready to celebrate what many will say is the inevitable.  Luckily, baseball isn’t played on paper, though that certainly is a tough idea to accept.

Make sure to check out Rotoprofessor’s early 2011 rankings:

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Fantasy Baseball First-Round Pick Analysis: Ryan Howard

November 22, 2010 by Eric Stashin  
Filed under Fan News

This is one of the oddest years for fantasy baseball owners, as after the first three picks the first round is extremely wide open.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to see someone selected fifth or sixth in one draft, only to be selected in the early-to-mid second round in the next.  Therefore we are going to analyze all of the potential first-round picks, looking at their pros and cons to determine if they should be selected in the first round or left for later rounds.

Up first, let’s look at Ryan Howard.

2010 Campaign: The Phillies lineup suffered from a lot of injuries, which certainly had an impact on Howard’s production.  Howard himself was not immune from the problem, playing in 143 games in 2010 after appearing in 322 out of 324 games in 2008 & 2009.

The impact was certainly seen in his numbers.  If you didn’t know any better, his line of .276 with 31 HR, 108 RBI and 87 R would look fine.  However, you have to realize that from 2006-2009 his low in home runs was 45, his low in RBI was 136 and his low in runs was 94.

What happened: The injury cost him the majority of August (40 AB), but what is really noticeable is that Howard just never had a “big” month.  He has always been a slower starter, hitting no more then five home runs in an April since 2006.  What he has always been able to do, however, is routinely put up double-digit home run months after that.  Just look at his number of 9+ HR months by year:

  • 2006 - 4 (including a 14 home run August)
  • 2007 - 3
  • 2008 - 3
  • 2009 - 2
  • 2010 - 0

His biggest month in 2010 came in July, when he hit eight home runs.  At 31-years-old, it’s hard to believe that he’s simply lost the power that he once displayed, but there certainly has been a downward trend of sorts.

Obviously, in that ballpark, you have to think that he’s going to continue to hit home runs, even though he has never been dependent on Citizen’s Bank Ballpark for his power stroke.  In 2010, he hit 16 HR at home and 15 HR on the road.  In 2009, he actually hit 27 of his 45 HR on the road.

It also should be noted that Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley also missing a significant period of time didn’t help matters.  Those are two of the biggest and best bats in the Phillies lineup and without them, everyone else’s numbers are going to struggle.

What to expect in 2011: Howard is going to hit for power, I don’t think anyone is going to question that.  The question is, can he return to 40+ HR power?  His HR/FB rate has declined the past three seasons:

  • 2008 - 31.8%
  • 2009 - 25.4%
  • 2010 - 21.1%

He hit 31 HR in limited AB and with a career low HR/FB, so there is plenty of reason to believe that, if healthy, he’s going to come extremely close to that mark.  With only two hitters reaching 40 HR in 2010, that instantly gives him credibility.

He’s also going to pick up RBI and R, especially if the rest of the lineup can stay healthy along with him.  It’s a power packed lineup that’s going to score runs, and Howard is right at the center of it.

The problem is that he strikes out a ton (32.0 percent for his career), which makes it nearly impossible for him to even come close to .300.  In fact, it’s probably more likely that he hits .250 despite all of the power.  At a position where you can find other options who will hit 30-35 HR and are almost guaranteed to hit .285+, that’s a huge negative.

The Verdict: Howard is among the premier power hitters in the game, but he plays one of the deepest positions and has the potential to struggle, potentially dramatically, in the average department.  That puts a huge question mark over his head, making him better suited to be an early-to-mid second round pick in my book.

I’d much rather take a player at a weaker position in the mid-to-late in the first round, like a Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki or Evan Longoria and hope that a Howard, Prince Fielder or Mark Teixeira are available when my second-round pick comes around.  That just puts you in a better scenario all around.

What about you?  Is Howard a player you would consider in the first round?  Why or why not?

Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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