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Phillies ace Aaron Nola should be taken high in fantasy drafts

We’re now pushing further into the month of March and that means just one thing. What? March Madness? Okay, okay…two things. At least for fans of fantasy sports and baseball, this is draft month.

While in most seasons those fantasy baseball drafts take place around the third or fourth week in the month, this year could be a little different. If your league counts the two Japan Opening Series games between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners on March 20-21, then your draft could be as soon as mid-month.
There are many more resources available these days to fantasy sports fans than when I first began playing fantasy baseball and football in the late 1980’s. What used to be largely opinion and educated guess-work presented in magazines – which you can still buy today – has grown into real-time, detailed information available on the internet.
It has become more and more difficult to separate yourself from the other competitors in your league in the area of information-gathering. At least those who are willing to put in the work.
One potential source of unique information comes from resources within each individual city or fan base. It is very possible that the people who are following a particular team on a regular basis have better information and insight than folks who are trying to follow 25-30 teams in a particular sport, sometimes dozens of teams across multiple sports.
That is where I am coming from with this piece. As someone who follows and reports on the Philadelphia Phillies on a regular basis, I’m going to help out my fellow fantasy baseball fans.
The following is a ranking of every current 2019 Phillies player who might be able to help your fantasy team in the coming season. I am also including a very brief reasoning behind each ranking. There won’t be any “which round” you should take most of the players, because there are so many different draft formats that nothing is truly “standard” these days.
  1. Aaron Nola – this might be a bit of an upset pick to some folks. But when you consider that Nola can help your fantasy pitching staff in every single category used by most leagues, it is tough to back that argument up. Turning 26-years-old in June, he is just now entering his prime. Grab this true ace while some still undervalue him. Note: you can probably steal him in the second, and he may even slip to the third round of your draft.
  2. Bryce Harper – when you are already an NL MVP candidate who has averaged 32 homers, 93 RBI and 100 runs scored over the last four years, you are a potential first or second-round fantasy baseball draft candidate. When you combine that with being just 26-years-old and now beginning your prime years and also that you are moving into a home ballpark that should be tailor-made to your power stroke? Well, you won’t hear me argue if you flip-flip my #1 and #2.
  3. J.T. Realmuto – the catcher position is a truly difficult place for fantasy players to plan on getting any difference-making offensive statistics. Realmuto is one of the few exceptions. The NL Silver Slugger Award winner at the position a year ago is in his prime as he turns age 29 in mid-March. He now moves into the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park with a vastly improved lineup surrounding him.
  4. Rhys Hoskins – just 26-years-old on St. Patrick’s Day, Hoskins produced 34 homers and 96 RBI last season with little real help surrounding him. Another year of experience under his belt, with a number of weapons now joining to support him in the lineup, and returning to his more natural position at first base? Hoskins has NL MVP potential.
  5. Jake Arrieta – this is another pick that some might question. I am basing it on two things. First, Arrieta was outstanding for the Phillies last year over his first 10 starts: 5-2, 2.16 ERA, 230 BAA. He struggled after that, but we later learned that he was trying to pitch through a knee injury. That was fixed by off-season surgery, and he has looked strong so far this spring. I’m expecting big things from a healthy Arrieta with an improved club behind him.
  6. Jean Segura – like Hoskins, the new Phillies shortstop has a St. Patrick’s Day birthday. He will turn 29-years-old and having averaged more than 27 stolen bases per season over the last six years should bring that consistent threat to the team. His 2016 career-high numbers of 20 homers, 64 RBI, 41 doubles, 102 runs and a .319 average are repeatable now that he has traded Safeco Field for CBP as his home park.
  7. Andrew McCutchen – he is no longer an NL MVP candidate in his prime, but at age 32 the Phillies new left fielder could still provide a 25 homer, 85 RBI, 90 runs scored type of campaign as part of a strong lineup in a good home hitting park.
  8. Nick Pivetta – this is the 26-year-old wildcard of the Phillies starting pitching rotation. He has strikeout ability demonstrated by 328 K’s over the first 297 innings of his big-league career. While most would answer “Harper”, the true answer to the biggest steal by the Phillies from the Nationals may end up being Pivetta, obtained straight-up for Jonathan Papelbon at the 2015 trade deadline.
  9. Seranthony Dominguez – he appears to be the guy who the club has earmarked to be the future closer. In his rookie season a year ago, “Sir Anthony” surrendered just 32 hits over 58 innings with a 74/22 K:BB ratio and 16 Saves. If the 24-year-old gets a chance to close from the outset and continues that level of production, he becomes one of the top closers in the game.
  10. Maikel Franco – color me bullish on Maik. Still just 26-years-old but with three-and-a-half years of big-league experience, Franco has been expected to hit in the middle of a poor lineup in his first few seasons. That will no longer be the case. I can see his production soaring with the stronger lineup. Pencil me in for a 30 homer-30 doubles-90 RBI season should he remain healthy all year.
  11. David Robertson – could the new Phillies reliever see consistent closing opportunities, rather than Dominguez? Manager Gabe Kapler has anointed no one, and may not do so at all. The club has a number of solid options. In any event, the veteran Robertson produces strong numbers almost every single year.
  12. Cesar Hernandez – let’s preface this with an important point – I’m not a fan of Hernandez. This ranking is based largely on the fact that, at this point, Kapler has hinted that Hernandez has a shot to lead-off frequently. If he stays healthy, and if he starts regularly, and if he playing to his full potential, it is possible that Hernandez could produce solid numbers at virtually every category. That is a lot to hope for, but many in Philly are doing so.
  13. Odubel Herrera – some point to his career-high 22 homers and 71 RBI a year ago as a good thing. But those same folks fail to point out that his doubles dropped from 42 in 2017 to just 19 a year ago. His average, OBP, and OPS all dropped for a second straight season. Now he is missing key spring time due to a hamstring injury? Who knows – but he has offensive potential, if he can get and stay healthy.
  14. Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez – these two fellas clearly own the #4 and 5 spot in the current Phillies starting rotation. Assuming that everyone stays healthy and no one is added from outside the organization, they are likely to hold those roles when the club heads north. Starting pitchers with a guaranteed spot are always worth something in fantasy.
  15. Scott Kingery – one of my favorite players on the team, someone who I see as having solid potential as an everyday player. He is slated to be a super-utility guy in 2019, seeing time at nearly every infield and outfield position at some point. He could even open the year as the starting center fielder if the other options are not healthy. One day, Kingery should help you as a fantasy and the Phillies as their real second baseman. It doesn’t seem as if this will be that year.
  16. Hector Neris – if you are looking for a relief pitcher who can give you big strikeout numbers over consistent innings, this is your guy late in your draft. He was the club’s closer in 2016-17 but lost that role due to a horrendous first half a year ago. After a brief minors stint, he came back like gang-busters. But now he has Dominguez and Robertson to contend with for Saves.
  17. Nick Williams – right now he appears to be on the outside looking in following the signings of Harper and McCutchen. He isn’t really a center fielder, so is likely to see most of his innings as a backup on the corners. He especially could get looks against certain tough righties if Kapler wants to give ‘Cutch’ a blow. But if there is an injury or he gets traded, Williams could provide a 20 homer-80 RBI season over a full campaign.
  18. The Field – if it’s the end of your draft and you are just looking for shots in the dark, there are a few Phillies who might be worth picking up, at least until you find a better option. As potential starting pitchers should injuries crop up you have Jerad EickhoffDrew AndersonEnyel De Los Santos and Ranger Suarez. In the bullpen, Pat Neshek could provide solid veteran numbers. Outfielders Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr are an injury-risk and a true backup, respectively. Both could be worth a pick-up if healthy, and if injuries to the others open an opportunity.


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