When Jimmy Rollins called the Phillies the team to beat in the NL East, perhaps he should have added "when it comes to Top 20 rotisserie league picks."
For years, Bobby Abreu set the mold for fantasy baseball excellence: good average, nifty speed, plenty of power, lots of runs and RBIs. Isn’t it funny how after the trade, three Phillies have overtaken him in fantasy clout, according to The Sporting News' annual fantasy baseball preview?
Ryan Howard will be taken with the first pick in many leagues, and the reasons are obvious. The reigning National League MVP lead the league in home runs and RBIs, and kept his batting average surprisingly high. Before this season, the first pick was typically an even split between Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols. Now, it’s between King Albert and Deep Six, with A-Rod and Alfonso Soriano hanging in the shadows. Johan Santana is fantasy's top pitcher, and could also break the top three.
Chase Utley's all-around production sets him apart, but the 27-year-old all-star also stands to benefit from a shallow pool at second base. In TSN's mock draft, Utley was taken 10th overall, making him a first-round pick in a 12-team league. The next highest 2B, Dan Uggla, fell way into the fifth round. Next would be Robinson Cano, but after that, the waters grow tepid. One could make a reasonable case for Chase to go between six and 10 in any draft because of the weakness at the position.
After a 25-homer, 127-run effort, J-Roll pushed his way into the mid-second round, right where Derek Jeter, Hanley Ramirez and David Wright would also fall on most charts. Jose Reyes is fantasy's top shortstop, going sixth overall.
Last year’s fantasy season was all about young pitching, and this year there are a number of young arms with high ceilings. GMs who pounced on Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano, Scott Kazmir, etc. did very well. For those reasons, it wouldn't come as a shock for Cole Hamels to break into the top 40. TSN has him going in the sixth round at 68, just behind Brett Myers at 66, but ahead of Kazmir, Verlander, Jared Weaver, and well ahead of fellow Phillie Freddy Garcia (145th overall). Strikeouts are a mighty luxury. Once you find them, you hold them for dear life. By the end of the season, Cole was averaging about 10 per nine innings, one of the highest ratios in the second half by any starting pitcher.
Fantasy owners did pretty well if they took a chance on Tom Gordon last season. The 39-year-old closer went in the 12th round (140 overall) in the TSN draft, but if you have the guts, you can do just as well trolling the waiver pool for the next J.J. Putz. The second-year Seattle closer is now a 6th-round selection (67th overall).
Pat Burrell rounded out TSN’s Phillies selections, going in the 17th round (194th overall). As for Bobby Abreu, he fell to the fourth round (43rd overall). More than one mock drafter wasn’t paying attention.