Results tagged ‘ Philadelphia Phillies ’

Werth to Washington

By R.J. Anderson //

Separating current value from future value is a must in the world of transaction analysis; less so in the fantasy world, where so many leagues go with limited (or no) stability from year-to-year. Understanding that is paramount to understanding the negative reaction to Jayson Werth’s signing in the real world. The common critical points arising are that seven years is too long for someone Werth’s age (31), that $126 million is too much, and that the Nationals will not benefit from this deal when they are nearing competitor status. And yet, none of that matters in the fantasy world.

Werth is one of baseball’s best right fielders offensively or defensively. Over the last three seasons he’s hit .279/.376/.513 while averaging 29 home runs per season, 84 runs batted in, and 8 steals. His ability to steal bases and play defense is important to note. Whereas a player like Adam Dunn – whom Werth ostensibly replaces in the Nationals’ lineup – derives much of his value from hitting home runs and drawing walks – like Werth — receives criticism for his skill set that ages poorly, Werth is more athletic and should age better. That does not mean Werth will live up to that line this season, though, it just means don’t expect a sudden collapse.

What everyone should expect is for Werth’s new ballpark to limit his home runs. Not egregiously, but a few here and there. Citizen’s Bank Park is one of the kindest to right-handed batters in the game. Nationals Park isn’t mean to them, but it’s not nearly as charitable. The other aspect of the Nationals’ organization that may affect Werth is the talent around him. Werth batted behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard last season, sometimes far enough behind that he didn’t benefit fully from their ability to reach base. With Washington, he figures to bat ahead of or directly behind Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman, who both got on base roughly 39% of the time last season.

With young talent like Danny Espinoza, Ian Desmond, and of course Bryce Harper potentially filling out the Washington lineup sooner than later, there’s a chance Werth can continue to knock in 85-plus a season to along with 25 or so home runs and a .275 or so batting average. He shouldn’t rise up your charts because of this signing, but he shouldn’t fall either.

For more on Jayson Werth, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.  

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MLB Season in Review: Philadelphia Phillies Pitchers

By Eno Sarris //

Biggest Surprise: Cole Hamels

We’ll term it a surprise – Cole Hamels did put up a 3.06 ERA a year after having a 4.32 number in that category last year. But if you follow secondary statistics, it was just another year for Hamels. Consider his FIPs (Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that runs along the same scale as ERA, but strips out the park effects, defense and other factors beyond a pitcher’s control) since his rookie season: 3.83, 3.72, 3.72, and 3.67 last year. This year, he finally benefited from some good luck, standing 82.7% of the runners he put on base and thus netting his “surprise” year.

Biggest Bust: Joe Blanton

This was a good year for the deep Phillies staff, but Joe Blanton‘s ERA spiked to 4.85 from the 4.05 mark he put up in 2009. He also ate up the fewest innings since becoming a regular rotation member (175.2), fueling low totals in wins (nine) and strikeouts (136). He did have a 4.34 FIP this year, (4.21 career), so he’s basically somewhere between the 2009 and 2010 versions of himself, though neither is very helpful in fantasy baseball.

2011 Keeper Alert: Roy Halladay

Sure, the Doc is a little older these days (33), but he sure enjoyed the weaker league, as he had the best strikeout (7.86) and walk rates (1.08) he’d ever shown in a full season. The innings totals might be a little worrisome for other pitchers (more than 220 innings for five straight years), but not all innings are created equal. Halladay has averaged just 14 pitches per inning – almost two fewer than Blanton, for example – despite the solid strikeout totals. He’ll surely win some hardware and make a fine keeper this off-season.

2011 Regression Alert: Roy Oswalt

Roy Oswalt is also 33 and also put up his best strikeout rate (8.21) since he became a full-time starter. This, despite hovering under 7 K/9 for most of his recent career. Unlike Halladay, Oswalt hadn’t shown this kind of Cy Youngish performance in years. Asking for another ERA below 3.00 next season is probably asking too much.

For more on the Roys Oswalt and Halladay and other Philadelphia Phillies, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

MLB Season in Review: Philadelphia Phillies Hitting

By Eno Sarris //

Biggest Surprise: Carlos Ruiz

After spending most of his career as a sub-.260 hitter, Carlos Ruiz finally had some luck on batted balls (.335 BABIP this year, .280 career) and put together a terrific and surprising .302/.400/.447 season that would have ranked him higher if he had managed more than 433 plate appearances. Shane Victorino‘s power surge (18 homers, .170 ISO in 2010, .150 career) also qualifies as a nice surprise, but it came from hitting more fly balls and negatively affected his batting average.

Biggest Bust: Jimmy Rollins

It may seem like nicks and cuts are keeping Jimmy Rollins out of the lineup more often these days, but 2010 was the first time he didn’t amass 625+ plate appearances since his rookie year. Given his injury-riddled year, it’s not surprising that Rollins had the fewest home runs and stolen bases of his career, as well as the lowest batting average. He’ll be a 32-year-old shortstop next year, and more years like this will come in the future, even if his BABIP (.246) and ISO (.131 in 2010, .163 career) rebound in the short term.

2011 Keeper Alert: Domonic Brown

This is a great team full of solid keepers, but most of the Phillies’ regulars are also over 30 years old. Fantasy owners looking to the future should consider Domonic Brown, who will most likely replace Jayson Werth when Werth leaves in free agency. Across Double- and Triple-A in 2010, Brown showed power (.262 ISO), speed (17 SB), and a great batting average (.327). His strikeout rate was a little high (21.5%), but he’s an elite prospect.

2011 Regression Alert: Jayson Werth

Werth has been great since joining the Phillies three years ago, averaging 29 home runs, 18 stolen bases, and a .279 batting average over that time. But he’s looking for a paycheck that will most probably take him away from the ever-more-expensive Phillies team. That would be too bad, because he has a .529 slugging percentage in Philadelphia (.481 career), and has benefited both from the hitter-friendly ballpark and a strong lineup conducive to counting stats. With the steals already declining, a few fewer home runs in his future, and a high strikeout rate (28.9% career) that will most likely produce a mediocre batting average, he will be a less exciting fantasy player next year.

For more on Jimmy Rollins and other Philadelphia Phillies, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

Happ in Houston

by Eno Sarris // 

J.A. Happ (pronounced ‘Jay’) is headed south as the centerpiece of the Roy Oswalt deal. Should fantasy owners be interested in the player who is available in 62% of Yahoo leagues?

Judging solely based on ERA, the answer would be in the affirmative. Happ has a 1.73 ERA so far this year, put up a 2.93 ERA last year, and sports a 3.11 ERA for his career. Check, check and check, right? Not so fast – and judging from his availability, it seems most fantasy players these days are savvy to the limitations of ERA for predicting future ERA.

Looking at Happ’s underlying statistics, there are plenty of reasons to worry about him in Houston. Just a peek at his 2010 strikeout rate (5.28 K/9) and walk rate (7.04 BB/9) alone should send the proverbial shiver down the spine. Happ has had some trouble finding the strike zone all year, as he walked 4.1 per nine on his rehab stint too. Granted, he’s pitched only 15.1 innings this year.

Then again, this wildness is not typical of Happ’s career to date, and we also know that walk rates take a while to stabilize (550 batters faced). Happ’s career walk rate is 3.48 BB/9, which is about average (3.33 BB/9 is average this year). The problem is more his lack of a great strikeout rate (6.59 K/9 career, MLB average is 7.03 K/9 this year) or groundball rate (36.5% career, 44% is league average). This package adds up to a mediocre career xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching, a number that strips out batted ball luck, home run luck and other factors, and produces a number on the ERA scale) of 4.65. Happ did put up a 9.2 K/9 in the minor leagues, but until he shows an improved number in that category in the major leagues, we’ll have to go with what we see.

Some analysts might talk about Happ’s move to Minute Maid Park as a reason to avoid the pitcher – and the park does boost home runs for lefties 6% and righties 18% – but that move will actually be a positive one for him. The Phillies’ home park boosts home runs 16% for lefties, and 22% for righties.

Really, given the fact that he’s got an average walk rate and below-average strikeout and groundball rates, there is limited upside for Happ, despite his pristine career ERA to date.
HappGrab.jpg You might even call the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools projection on the right (3.82 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) a rosy scenario for his future. He’s best left on the wire in standard mixed leagues.

For more on other trade deadline movers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

Phillies Promote Domonic Brown to Major Leagues

By Tommy Rancel //

Following in the footsteps of Jason Heyward and Mike Stanton, Domonic Brown is the latest stud outfield prospect to get a call-up for an National League East team this season.

When Jayson Werth‘s name was recently tossed around in trade rumors, Brown was the one commonly expected to be his replacement in the Philadelphia lineup. With Shane Victorino hitting the disabled list, Brown no longer has to wait for a spot to open via trade.

A 20th-round pick in the 2006 draft, Brown shot up the prospect rankings. The 22-year-old started the 2009 season in the lower levels of the Phillies’ organization, but found himself in Double-A by season’s end. In a combined 454 plate appearances, he hit .299/.377/.504 with 44 extra-base hits and 23 stolen bases.

Brown became a hot commodity. He was ranked the #15 prospect by Baseball America this off-season, and was rumored to be a trading chip for Roy Halladay. Credit Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. for not only landing Halladay, but managing to keep Brown in the process.

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Photo Credit: (Miles Kennedy/Phillies)

Brown started the 2010 season at the Double-A level where he continued to mash. In just over 270 PAs, he hit a ridiculous .318/.391/.602. His 15 home runs were one more than he hit in all of 2009. Clearly finished with that level, he was promoted to Triple-A. All he did there was hit .346/.390/.561 with five more bombs in 118 PAs.

Making his major league debut Wednesday night, Brown wasted no time with two hits and two RBI. Although Victorino could be back in as little as two weeks, Brown could force his way in the everyday lineup even if the Phillies hold on to Werth. For a team in need of some offensive firepower with Chase Utley out, Brown could easily replace a struggling Raul Ibanez in the Philadelphia lineup.

If he wasn’t snatched up in your league during the initial rush after his call-up, Brown is definitely worth a spot in mixed leagues, as well as NL-only formats. Act fast.

For more on Domonic Brown and the rest of the NL-East phenoms, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits

Cole Hamels: Still the Same Pitcher?

by Eno Sarris //

By traditional statistics, Cole Hamels has oscillated some in his short time in the major leagues:

2006: 4.08 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
2007: 3.39 ERA, 1.12 WHIP
2008: 3.09 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
2009: 4.32 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
2010: 3.98 ERA, 1.37 WHIP

One
could safely say that he’s been an elite pitcher, a good pitcher, and a league-average pitcher if you use the old statistics. Since we do use
the old stats in fantasy baseball, it’s worth noting Hamels’
depreciated value, represented here by spider graphs from the Bloomberg
Sports Fantasy Tools.
Looks like a mediocre year, especially for a “former” top starter.HamelsGrab.jpg

Coming as it does on the heels of his poor
postseason play last year, his performance in 2010 might seem to show
an early decline for the 27-year-old pitcher, at a time when most are
peaking. Then again, less traditional stats have something quite
different to say about Cole Hamels:

2006: 3.98 FIP, 3.68 xFIP
2007: 3.83 FIP, 3.51 xFIP
2008: 3.72 FIP, 3.63 xFIP
2009: 3.72 FIP, 3.69 xFIP
2010: 4.63 FIP, 3.69 xFIP

FIP
is fielding independing pitching, a number that runs on a scale similar to ERA, while stripping out factors such as batted ball luck and bullpen support to get at the underlying ability of a
pitcher to strike batters out and reduce walks. Meanwhile, xFIP is similar but
corrects for home run rates. For example, Hamels this year has a 1.62
HR/9 rate, (1.21 career), but is giving up the fewest flyballs of his
career (36.1% this year, 39.2% career). For some reason, 17.6% of his
fly balls are leaving the park, when it’s usually only 10% that do so across baseball.
By regressing his home run rate towards where it might be if his flyballs acted more like the average flyball, we find
that Hamels has been pretty much the same guy all five years he’s been
in the big leagues. In fact, his xFIP has been remarkably steady.

Then there’s the fact that, in some ways, he’s been better
this year. He’s sporting the second-best strikeout rate of his career,
and the best groundball rate. Those are the two best outcomes a pitcher
can have, so this is not some insignificant change. His fundamental skills are getting
better.

Looking at his pitching mix, one thing does stand out
as being a little different this year. Hamels is using his changeup at
a career-low level (23.7%, vs. 30.6% career). Considering that the pitch is
his best in his arsenal (+68.7 runs career by linear weights, and the
only positive pitch he owns), it seems a bit strange to back off the
changeup. By some systems, he may be tinkering with a cutter, and most
pitching coaches would want their star starters to own more than a
fastball and a changeup. But Hamels’ cutter has been, to date, a negative
(-3.9 runs). The changeup is his major weapon, and he needs to
throw it more often. ESPN’s TMI blog (pay link) even reported that when Cole Hamels
throws 22% or more of his pitches as changeups, his ERA is 3.67
and the Phillies are 6-1. His ERA this year is 4.50 and the team is 1-4 when he doesn’t reach 22% changeups.

Hamels
has basically been the same pitcher his whole career. While he’s
striking out a few more batters this year, and keeping the ball on the
ground a little better, he’s also walking a few too many. Moreover, he needs to
throw his changeup more.

The full picture is one of a pitcher
that has a put-away pitch and a good idea of what he is doing. If you
can acquire Hamels on the cheap, now is the time to do it. Once the
home runs start to normalize, he will push his ERA down towards the mid-3s, improve his WHIP
and be a valuable, front-line fantasy pitcher.

For more on Cole Hamels and other good buy-low pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits

Shane Victorino’s Strange Season

By Eriq Gardner
By almost any
measure, Shane Victorino has put up a season so far that’s
downright freakish.
The Flyin’ Hawaiian
came into the 2010 season a good bet to be slightly above average in
every major statistical category. Throughout his career, Victorino has
always put the ball into play, striking out just 13 percent of the time.
That’s typically led to a pretty decent batting average (.283 for his
career) and he has buttressed his fantasy value with decent pop (two
straight seasons of double-digit home runs) and excellent speed (61
combined steals in 2008-2009).
This year,
Victorino is slightly off his career batting and speed numbers. He’s
hitting .275 and is on pace for 25 steals, when most people expected at
least 30. 
Then again, we can hardly call
Victorino a disappointment. Right now, he’s slugged 8 HR out of the
ballpark, which gives him two more than teammate Ryan Howard and
puts him on pace for 36. He also has a team-leading 32 RBI and 28 runs
scored, second on the high-powered Phillies offense.
Still, Victorino was drafted as a guy who
could go 12-.290-90-60-30 and right now he’s looking like a
35-.270-110-140-22 player. What in the name of Alfonso Soriano is
going on?
Here’s a graphical look at
Victorino’s season:
victorino1.png
Victorino’s
strikeout rate is up slightly, but he’s been the victim of poor luck
on balls hit in play. Despite possessing ample speed to beat out
infield hits, Victorino’s BABIP sits at .277, where league average
typically hovers around .300. 
His ISO is up,
from .153 to .244, but it appears he’s been the beneficiary of good
luck
in the HR department. Victorino is putting the ball in the air
more, increasing his flyball rate from 33% to 44%, but at the same time,
his fly-ball-to-home-run rate has rocketed from 5.5% to 13.3%.
As
for steals, this depends on one’s viewpoint. His speed indicators –
such as extra-base hits and his stolen base success rate — are all
fairly normal. He’s simply not attempting as many steals as he did in
prior seasons. 
After the Phillies acquired Placido
Polanco
in the off-season, manager Charlie Manuel slotted Victorino
into the seventh position of his batting order — bad luck since that
slot is not known to produce many SB opportunities. But then, Jimmy
Rollins
got injured and in a stroke of good luck for him, Victorino
got time as the leadoff hitter. Victorino actually hit .289 in the
leadoff slot compared to just .161 in the 7th slot, but he didn’t use
his time as Rollins’ replacement at the top of the order to swipe many
bases. Instead, he just knocked one ball after another over the fence.
On
Monday, Rollins was activated from the DL. For one game at least,
Victorino remained in the leadoff spot, with Rollins and his out-making
bat hitting third.

victorino2.png

What can we expect from here on
out?
According to all sensible projections
that adjust for the flukish good and bad luck that Victorino has
been seeing lately, he should be the same batter we expected all along.
(See the graph to the right.) Decent, but not great pop. Good speed.
Nice average. 
Of course, six weeks of very
strange numbers could mean there’s a reasonable chance that Victorino
ends up pushing that highly improbable 20-20 season. Go figure.
For more on
Shane Victorino, check out
 Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits. 

Plan C: The Phillies Turn To Jose Contreras to Close Games

By Tommy Rancel //

Several major league teams have switched closers this season due to incumbents’ ineffectiveness. The Philadelphia Philies, on the other hand, have made multiple changes at the closer spot because they can’t find one player to remain healthy at the position. With Brad Lidge on the disabled list, again, the Phillies went looking for a new 9th-inning man.

Lidge started the season on the disabled list with an injured elbow. He was activated on April 30th and appeared in four games, recording one save. He felt some soreness earlier this week, and now finds himself back on the DL with inflammation of that same pitching elbow.

When Lidge started the season on the shelf, the Phils turned the ball over to his set-up man Ryan Madson. To the naked eye, it appeared Madson struggled in the role with a 7.00 ERA. But much of that gaudy ERA stemmed from bad luck, as Madson allowed two home runs in just nine innings of work. Looking at his expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP), a metric that looks at walks and strikeouts along with a neutralized home run rate, Madson’s xFIP was a sparkling 2.79.

In his time as closer, Madson notched four saves. However, he had two blown saves in six chances. The latter of the two came against the San Francisco Giants. Madson was so frustrated after the game that he kicked a metal chair, injuring his toe. Madson needed surgery on the toe and currently sits on the 60-day DL.

With Lidge on the DL again, and Madson already there, the Phillies have turned to former starting pitcher Jose Contreras to close games – at least for now. Contreras has spent the bulk of his career in major league rotations. Of his 206 career appearances, 175 of them have come in the form of starts. The 15 appearances out of the Phillies pen this year represent nearly half of his 31 career relief outings.

Contreras spent most of 2009 as a starter, splitting time between the Chicago White Sox and the Colorado Rockies. He made 21 starts for Chicago before being traded to Colorado later on in the season. He made two starts for the Rockies before moving to the team’s bullpen. In recent seasons, Contreras was barely average as a starting pitcher. He battled injuries and ineffectiveness for the better part of the last few years.

However, at his listed age of 38, Contreras has re-invented himself as a very good relief pitcher. Since moving to the bullpen, Contreras has seen his strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) jump. Career wise, his K/9 of 6.70 is unspectacular, However, out of the bullpen, he has struck out more than a batter per inning.

contk9.PNG

This season, Contreras has 18 Ks in 13.1 innings; a K/9 of 12.15. While the strikeouts have increased, the walks have declined. Contreras has shown decent control in his career with a walks per nine (BB/9) of 3.25. With just two walks in 2010, his BB/9 sits at 1.35 in the early stage of this season.

In fact, Contreras is the only relief pitcher to have an ERA below 1.00 and a K/9 above 12.0 so far this season. (min 10 IP)

kera.PNG

One potential reason for the increase in strikes is an increase in velocity. As a starting pitcher, a player must condition himself to conserve enough velocity and energy to throw upwards of 100 pitches on his day. As a relief pitcher, he can fire away as his workload goes down to around 15-20 pitches per night. In his career, Contreras has averaged 91.7 mph on the fastball. In 2010, he is throwing almost three miles per hour more at 94.6. He is also getting more swings and misses than ever, with a swing strike percentage of 14.8% compared to 9.3% in his career.

On Saturday, his 206th career appearance, Contreras did something he had never done in the major leagues; he saved a game. With Madson and Lidge unavailable, it appears that Charlie Manuel will give Ol’ Jose a chance to pad that career save total of one.

Given Contreras’ improved skills and the Phillies winning wins, the Cuban righty is worth grabbing in all formats. If you have a free agent bidding budget, invest the extra buck to get him.

For more on Jose Contreras and fill-in closers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits. 

Carlos Ruiz: Breakout Player, or Regression on the Way?

By Tommy Rancel //

Joe MauerBrian McCannCarlos Ruiz? Going into the 2010 season, not many people had Carlos Ruiz pegged as a .345 hitter with a .948 OPS. Yet here we sit in mid-May and Ruiz is exactly that. Welcome to the beauty of early-season sample sizes. However, the hot start raises the question…is there anything to suggest that Ruiz’s hot start is anything more than just that?

ruiz.png

In terms of being a .345 hitter, no. Ruiz is a career .253 hitter. Expecting him to maintain an average nearly 100 points higher is just silly. The inflated early-season average is a result of a ridiculously high batting average on balls in play (BABIP). We talk about BABIP around here a lot, with good reason.

Throughout his career with the Phillies, Ruiz has a .271 BABIP. The average player is around .300, On the other hand, it is not uncommon to see catchers, who tend to be slow, with lower than normal BABIPs. Ruiz’s BABIP thus far in 2010 is a robust, and unsustainable, .403. It is true that a hitter has slightly more control over his BABIP than a pitcher, but not this much control.

Part of the reason for the high BABIP is an increase in line drives, a factor that a hitter can, in fact, control to some extent. Of the most common ways to put a ball in play – line drives, groundballs and flyballs – liners are the ones that go for hits more often than any other. Ruiz has a relatively normal career line drive rate (LD%) of 18.4%; that’s increased to 24.6% so far in 2010. An LD% more than 20% is sustainable, but only four players in the major leagues had a rate of greater than 24% last season.

One would suspect Ruiz’s LD% to settle toward career norms; this would likely create a batting average chain reaction. His BABIP would likely fall, and in turn, so would his batting average. ZiPs updated in season projections have Ruiz with a projected .285 batting average at season’s end. That would mean a batting average of .267 the rest of the way. Even then, a .285 average is more than 30 points higher than his career number, but a lot more believable than the .345 average he boasts right now.

Outside of batting average, the biggest change for Ruiz has come in terms of strikeouts and walks. Since joining the Phillies in 2006, Ruiz has posted favorable rates in terms of walks and strikeouts. His career walk rate (BB%) of 11.6% is decent, and his 12.8% strikeout rate (K%) is more than acceptable. In recent seasons, Ruiz has posted nearly identical K and BB percentages. 2010 has been no different.

ruizkbb.png

What is different is an increase in both numbers. The 31-year-old has increased his BB% to 19.8%, but his strikeouts have also increased to nearly the same level (19.0%). Ruiz is swinging at pitches out of the zone 20.4% of the time, but that is not far off his career number of 17.4%. Pitchers are throwing slightly more fastballs to him, however, nothing that could be considered drastic. More likely, Ruiz has just improved his batting eye in terms of walks, and become more willing to work deep counts, even if it means more strikeouts.

Power-wise, Ruiz has shown decent, not great, pop in his five-year career. His ISO or Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) of .131 in 2010 is very close to his career number of .133. His home run-to-flyball rate of 9.5 is slightly higher than his career number, although easily sustainable.

If you were able to snag Ruiz as your catcher in the later rounds of your draft, enjoy the early-season success. While the batting average is expected to regress, the increase in walks could give him a very favorable on-base percentage, especially from the catcher position; that could boost his runs scored totals in standard 5×5 leagues. In terms of power, expecting Ruiz to duplicate his nine home runs and 26 doubles from last season is reasonable.

If you’re OK with that production from your catcher, then Ruiz is your man. However, if you have a decent back-up option, you might want to strongly consider selling high on Ruiz and his batting average before the potential BABIP regression sets in. Assuming you can get inflated value for him, of course.

*Carlos Ruiz was diagnosed with a right knee sprain on Wednesday. The injury should not require a DL stint. 

For more on Carlos Ruiz and other players with surprising starts, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.

Bloomberg Sports’ 2010 National League East Preview


By R.J. Anderson

This division will likely a two-team race. The Phillies are the favorites, but Atlanta is better than most people would like to acknowledge. Don’t be surprised if both of these clubs make the playoffs, and be prepared for a possible National League Championship Series match-up.


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Atlanta Braves

Jason Heyward is already ahead of schedule, and the season just started. We wrote about him at Bloomberg Sports, calling him a shiny toy, and fretting that he might get sent to the minors. Clearly that last part was a little less than prescient. Heyward made headlines this week by hitting a home run in his first career at-bat, and has become a hot commodity; so much so that he’s probably overpriced as a trade target right now. Brian McCann, Nate McLouth, Yunel Escobar and Martin Prado project as less-hyped but still solid producers who are worth discussion, if you don’t already own them.

The starting rotation offers several interesting storylines. Can Jair Jurrjens repeat his amazing 2009 season? Will Tommy Hanson emerge as a 200-inning ace in his first full big league campaign? The biggest question mark is Tim Hudson. Prior to missing most of 2009 and part of 2008, Hudson had made 25+ starts in every season since 2000. He’s back and looked good in the spring, but he’s no sure bet to stay healthy all year. If his price is reduced due to injury concern, inquire about him; if he’s being priced like the Tim Hudson of old, pass.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies

Cole Hamels might be the only player on the two-time defending National League pennant winners who qualifies as a sleeper. Though his won-lost record and ERA turned much worse in 2009, his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) shows identical 3.72 marks in both seasons, making him a potential value pick. Everyone else is a known commodity, including newly-acquired ace Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth


Ryan Madson is the man in waiting if closer Brad Lidge stumbles once more. Madson has typical closer velocity, checking in last season at 95 MPH, but also uses a cutter and change-up as his secondary pitches, rather than the commonplace slider. Raul Ibanez‘s hot entrance to the National League fraternity is what people will remember from last season, rather than his quick descent back into the real world. A year older, Ibanez has bust potential written all over him. Avoid.

 

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Florida Marlins

The Marlins are in the running for the most top heavy team in baseball. Hanley Ramirez is one of the best players in baseball. Last year, Josh Johnson appeared to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. Bloomberg Sports also loves number-two starter Ricky Nolasco.

After that, things get murky. Jorge Cantu provides some pop. Chris Coghlan is a decent sleeper. Dan Uggla had his name floated in trade rumors for what seems like the umpteenth year without a move happening; he’s a good bet to 25-30 home runs, but his low-batting average/solid on-base percentage is a lot more valuable in real life than in standard 5×5 fantasy leagues. The Marlins do have some strong outfield prospects on the rise. Cameron Maybin and his blend of power and speed potential are already on the major league roster, and Mike Stanton has Jason Heyward-like power potential.

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Washington Nationals

Well, there’s Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Nyjer Morgan and … well … have you heard about Ryan Zimmerman? The good news about teams like the Nationals is that literally everyone besides the superstars qualify as sleepers Ian Desmond can sneak through the cracks. Desmond is the 24-year-old rookie shortstop who had a coming out party last season in Double- and Triple-A, with a .354 batting average in 55 Triple-A games. In National League-only leagues, he’s an intriguing upside play at shortstop – even more so in keeper leagues.


Brian Bruney is someone else we’ve profiled as a potential sleeper, but again, only in deep NL-only leagues, as he’s the closer in waiting for now.

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New York Mets

Jose Reyes could be a good target is his asking price has crashed due to injury concerns. David Wright will probably cost full value though: Bloomberg Sports and other projection systems expect a full recovery, despite last year’s career-low 10 home runs. Assuming Citi Field doesn’t become a wasteland for hitters, Jason Bay should put up solid numbers too. Manager Jerry Manuel’s lineup fetishes will ding his RBI totals, though. Manuel had Bay batting fifth on Opening Day, behind an ugly collection of bats that included Alex Cora, Luis Castillo and Mike Jacobs.

On the pitching side, Johan Santana‘s value depends on his valuation: Do your leaguemates still see him as one of the top three starters in the game, or can he now be had at a discount? Santana’s rotation mates are avoidable in shallower leagues. Meanwhile, Francisco Rodriguez isn’t the dominant closer he used to be; don’t overpay.

For more on Hanley Ramirez and the rest of the NL East, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy baseball kits.

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