2015 Season Previews: Philadelphia Phillies

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Philadelphia Phillies

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 69-93 (5th in NL East, 30th in MLB)

Manager: Ryne Sandberg (93-111 in two seasons with Philadelphia)

Top Three Players: 2B Chase Utley (2.8 WAR), Cole Hamels (2.7 WAR), and Cliff Lee (2.7 WAR)

Bounce-back Candidate: OF Domonic Brown

Brown was an All-Star in 2013, his age-25 season, after posting an .856 OPS to go along with 23 home runs and 67 RBI in the first half; however, it hasn’t been pretty since then, as Brown was quite unproductive in the second half of 2013 (.723 OPS, nine extra-base hits, and 16 RBI over 156 plate appearances) before falling flat on his face in 2014, when he posted a .235/.285/.349 triple-slash (.634 OPS, 77 OPS+). At 27, Brown still needs to prove that the potential (which led to his No.4 overall prospect ranking prior to the 2011 season) is still there for him to be type of player that was present during the first half of the 2013 season. Luckily for Brown, the Phillies possess very little in the way of competition and prospects to push him for his role in right field, as Jeff Francoeur, Jordan Danks, and Brian Bogusevic are the likely backups in the Philadelphia outfield. The talent is there, but, as usual with Brown, the question remains as to whether or not he is motivated enough to reach his potential.

Phillies RHP (and future closer?) Ken Giles
Phillies RHP (and future closer?) Ken Giles

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Ken Giles

With the Phillies in rebuilding mode, the club has been working most of the offseason to deal their closer, Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon, who has a $13 million vesting option for 2016 if he finishes 48 games in 2015, isn’t very valuable to a club that is expected to be as bad as the Phillies are anticipated to be in 2015, and his contract will just hold the club back financially in 2016 if he was to reach his vesting option and stick around another season. If Philadelphia was able to move Papelbon, Giles would likely slide into the closer’s role. Giles, 24, posted a 1.18 ERA and 0.79 WHIP over 45.2 innings, striking out 12.6 per nine over his 44 appearances. He isn’t arbitration-eligible until after the 2017 season, and he could provide cheap saves for the Phillies and fantasy players alike.

Offseason Overview: The Phillies were sellers over the winter, with very little success in dealing off the overpriced parts that they wanted to rid themselves of. They were able to deal Marlon Byrd to the Cincinnati Reds for a decent pitching prospect, RHP Ben Lively, and Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two pitching prospects (RHP Zach Eflin and LHP Tom Windle), but, as of publishing, they weren’t able to move 1B Ryan Howard, LHP Cliff Lee, or LHP Cole Hamels. There are plenty of suitors still trying to come up with the right package to acquire Hamels, who has made it known that he doesn’t want to be in Philadelphia any longer, but Ruben Amaro, Jr. hasn’t budged on his asking price…yet. Beyond the two deals for minor leaguers, the Phillies haven’t done much. RHP Aaron Harang and RHP Chad Billingsley were decent one-year gambles that the club should attempt to pawn-off at the trade deadline for any breathing, controllable player, but they have a long way to go to be competitive again.

The Verdict: Citizens Bank Park will be very loud this season, featuring plenty of booing, screaming, paper bag covered faces, and creative signs regarding the franchise. The core of the team is still an aging group, and counting on Grady Sizemore in left field is an example of the continued ineptitude of the leadership. If the Phillies can get anything for any of their players and start with a blank slate, in similar fashion to the Houston Astros under Jeff Luhnow, it would be a worthwhile move for the future of the franchise. The weight of the $60 million owed to Ryan Howard (including his 2017 buyout), is a burden that Amaro placed on himself, and it should have cost him his job, but he’ll be the one trying to fix the mess that he created this season, as the team is heading towards 100 losses and the right to the No.1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.

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