Phillies Fantasy Impact: the Infield
The 2015 Philadelphia Phillies fantasy options will be a mix of old and new. No longer is the man affectionately known as “JRoll” manning the shortstop position as he has for the past 15 seasons. Rollins logged over 2,000 games at short for the Phils, and is the owner of 4 NL Gold Gloves, a 2007 NL MVP, and 3 NL All-Star Game nods.
So how might the Phillies infield look around the horn this year without JRoll? Per MLB.com, the early candidates for Opening Day are as follows: 1B – Ryan Howard, 2B – Chase Utley, 3B – Cody Asche and SS – Freddy Galvis.
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Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a wide array of opinions on who should actually start. Some have top prospect Maikel Franco penciled in as the starting 3rd baseman as soon as Opening Day. And the rumor mill has begun discussing the possibility of Cuban defector Yoan Moncada, a top middle infield prospect, being seriously considered by the club. If he did sign, whether he could start as soon as 2015 remains to be seen.
For the purpose of helping you make decisions on Phils players in the fantasy realm, I will mainly focus on the four players listed above as likely starters by the MLB.com site.
Ryan Howard, who turned 35 years old this past November, enjoyed his first full season since 2011. Howard hit 23 homers and produced 95 RBI, but also hit for just a paltry .223 batting average, and he recorded the worst slugging percentage of his career in any of his full seasons, a pedestrian .380 mark.
To put that into context, light-hitting centerfielder Ben Revere slugged .361 and had 21 fewer homers. Simply put, if Howard is going to continue hitting for a low average, he must improve upon his power numbers to be an impactful player at 1st base, in either fantasy or real ball. Until he does that, I wouldn’t add him as a fantasy starter. However, he could be worth taking near the end of your draft as a backup.
Chase Utley, despite now reaching the age of 36, is still one of the better 2nd basemen in the majors. His last five seasons have seen a decline in power from the previous five, but his 2014 slash line of .270/.339/.407 is still very respectable.
At this point in his career, I think Chase is in the 10-15 range when ranking big league 2nd basemen. He’s a guy that I would suspect you could nab in the middle rounds of your draft, once guys like Robinson Cano, Jose Altuve, Jason Kipnis and Dee Gordon come off the board. If they go early, you may have to reach for Utley a bit sooner than would be ideal.
Chase is still a guy you would want starting for you in a 12-team or more format. The Phillies will need a replacement at 2nd sooner or later for the aging Utley, but barring an unforeseen injury it shouldn’t be this season or next.
At 3rd base, Cody Asche didn’t have a particularly great season in his first full-time gig. Still , it wasn’t all that bad. A 4th round pick out of the University of Nebraska, the man known in Lincoln as “Smasche” is more of a serviceable-type player. Cody is probably somewhere near the bottom third of MLB 3rd basemen in terms of fantasy impact. However, he is a guy that is easy to root for and a guy you like to have on your roster for depth.
Cody Asche is a true roll of the dice for 2015 fantasy players.
(Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)
There seems little doubt that Asche is keeping the hot corner warm until Franco is ready, which could be as soon as Opening Day. Personally, I’d like to see the Phillies gradually move Asche out to left field. He has a good enough bat to sustain a decent MLB career, and having a guy like him who can play a few different positions is invaluable over the course of a 162-game grind.
If Asche can successfully transition to left field, it will open the door for Franco to step in and potentially be a key infield cog for years to come. Is Franco ready for a full season in the majors yet? I don’t think he’s quite ready to step in and become the starting 3rd baseman just yet, but he could be ready by the All-Star break. Franco has a high ceiling, but he could use a little more seasoning in the minors to start out his 2015. Both players are little more than fantasy rolls of the dice for 2015.
That leaves us with the man who has the unenviable task of replacing JRoll at short, Freddy Galvis. Freddy appears to be ready to take on an everyday role and become Chase Utley’s new double play partner in MLB. But he is more of a light-hitting defensive shortstop that really isn’t a guy who will be much of an impact, fantasy-wise. Of course, Galvis is only keeping the spot warm for top prospect J.P. Crawford anyway, but Crawford likely will not be ready until 2016.
The Phillies infield is a real question mark, as far as fantasy baseball production for the 2015 season. Can Utley squeeze out another useful year? Can Howard drink from the fountain of youth, and regain the stroke that made him one of the most feared sluggers in the last decade? And what can players like Asche, Galvis, or even Franco provide? All but Utley would appear to be fantasy backups at this point.