The 2014 Phillies appear to be in the dreaded “no-man’s” land. A team too heavily invested to rebuild, but too old to be great. A series of ill-advised big money contracts to several players who have been riddled with injuries have left the Phils with very little flexibility to consistently better themselves. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins have been the offensive cornerstones for the team, but all will enter the 2014 season at 34 years old or older.
Ryne Sandberg took over as the manager last August and 2014 will be his first full season as a big-league manager. The former MVP who is the only Hall of Famer to currently manage in the Major Leagues, will have instant credibility and brings a new perspective to a team that spent the last eight seasons under Charlie Manuel.
The most recognizable names in the Phil’s offensive lineup don’t represent high-ceiling, exciting options for your fantasy team, but there are some dependable low-floor players to consider. Chase Utley is a serviceable option at second base who will give you a decent average and above-average power for the position. Youngster Cody Asche will look to take over full-time at third base and replicate the production he showed in the minors that made him a top prospect.
Outfielder Domonic Brown broke out in a big way in 2013 after years of teasing us and being shuttled back and forth between the majors and minors. In 2014, he will look to build off that success and be a consistent contributor for fantasy owners. Ben Revere will man centerfield, and he represents a good late-round pick or waiver-wire add for cheap steals if you find yourself lacking in that category. Carlos Ruiz resigned with the Phils for three more years behind the plate and is a strong second-tier option at an historically very weak offensive fantasy position.
With limited money to spend, the Phillies biggest offseason acquisition was signing of Marlon Byrd to a two-year deal worth $16M. Byrd has bounced around all over the league, playing for seven different teams in his career, but will look to make his mark again where he made his debut, in a Phillies uniform. He has the look of a mid-level outfielder who could find his way in to your lineup during a hot streak, but don't expect a repeat of 2013's career year.
The biggest news out of Philadelphia this offseason had to be the retirement of Roy Halladay. Injuries eventually got the best of Halladay, and the future hall-of-famer decided to hang up the spikes after failing to bounce back and perform at the same level that allowed him to earn two Cy Young awards in his career. The vacancy in the rotation behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee looks to be filled by rookie prospect Miguel Gonzalez. The Cuban right hander comes to the Phils with a lot of promise, but also some question marks. A concerning physical led the team to revise his initial contract to limit their exposure after doctors discovered elbow issues. Jonathan Papelbon will again close for the Phils, but as his saves were down and blown saves were up in 2013, it's not immediately clear that he will retain the role through the season. A tough NL East schedule will limit the Philadelphia's win totals, and consequently Papelbon’s opportunities to register saves, but he remains a solid mid-level draft-day option at the position.
Keep checking in with us as we approach the season for all your Phillies fantasy news. Up next, we will look more in-depth at the team’s key offensive options and some Spring Training position battles to keep your eye on as you prepare for draft day.