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5 Big Questions: 2011 Philadelphia Phillies

We here at Baseball Professor think about our readers first and ourselves second—albeit a close second. That’s why we decided to reach out to other bloggers (who follow their respective teams more closely than we do) to give you a deeper look into the important issues every fantasy owner has to come to grips with this season. Our third installment is with the Philadelphia Phillies and comes courtesy of Bill Baer from Crashburn Alley.

For a complete trip around the Majors, check out the other 2011 team previews in this series.

1) Let’s start with the question everyone is wondering. When will Domonic Brown have the full-time gig in right field for the Phillies and how good will he be in 2011 and beyond?

Dom Brown was Keith Law’s No. 3 prospect in his top-100 list, so quite a lot is expected of him. From what has come out of the Phillies organization, the plan is to platoon Brown with a right-hander (Ben Francisco) to break him into a full-time Major League role. Unless he has an incredible spring training and brings that into the start of the regular season (or Francisco is injured), Brown should be splitting time throughout the entire 2011 season. Expect him to get a full-time role starting in 2012. As to how good he will be, I think Law’s ranking of Brown speaks volumes, but for this season, I would expect a triple-slash line around .280/.330/.450 but would not be surprised to see him exceed that.

2) I’ll make this one simple: Do we freak out over Ryan Howard’s sudden dip in home runs and RBI?

It’s a tough question. Ryan Howard is well-known for struggling against lefties, but last year, he actually struggled more (relatively) against right-handed pitchers, and he lost a ton of power even before his foot injury. His isolated power had been in the .290-.350 range over the previous four years, but dropped all the way to .229 last year. He has had plenty of time to rest and will have plenty of time to work on his mechanics so I would expect power numbers more in line with 2006-09.

3) Jimmy Rollins used to be the bastion of health, but only managed to play in 88 games last year. Couple that with his bad luck (.249 BABIP) over the last two seasons and you have a player who is on the verge of fading into fantasy oblivion. Can owners expect any sign of life from the 32-year-old shortstop in his 11th pro season?

I think the doomsday scenarios surrounding Rollins are based on overreactions. Consider that, in an injury-plagued year, Rollins put up a .243/.320/.374 line. The average National League shortstop had a .266/.325/.388 line. That’s right: as bad as Rollins was last year, he was as good offensively as an average NL SS. Assuming even a mild bounce-back year, Rollins is a top-five SS in the NL.

4) Last year, Shane Victorino traded four percent of his line drives for fly balls in an effort to hit more home runs. Well, it worked as he hit 18 home runs, but his batting average (.259) suffered quite a bit. I think I speak for all fantasy owners out there when I say that we want to see the old Victorino back. What do you see happenin’ with the Flyin’ Hawaiian?

I don’t know that he consciously sought to hit more fly balls. After all, his FB% was only 2.5% higher than his career average, and since we know that batted ball data isn’t close to 100% reliable (thanks to Colin Wyers of Baseball Prospectus), that is well within our error range. However, as players age, they do tend to improve their power numbers, so I think you can still expect 15-ish HR and a .160 ISO from Victorino.

5) With four All-Star starting pitchers heading the rotation, will the Phillies have to employ a personal therapist for Joe Blanton?

Maybe if he sticks around past the July 31 trading deadline. The Phillies did try and move Blanton and his contract during the off-season, but GM Ruben Amaro decided not to dump him for nothing and keep him as insurance in case any of the big four succumbs to an injury. However, I think he will be moved by July 31. Whoever he lands with will be getting an underrated pitcher whose performance is similar to that of Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano.

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About the author: George graduated with a degree in Journalism, but instead of walking at his graduation, he walked down the aisle at his wedding. He’s been playing fantasy baseball for over a decade and his interest and knowledge in the sport is as big and growing as his eyebrows are bushy…and growing. (@BaseballProf)

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