The Phillies are coming off 5 consecutive NL East titles. Last year they assembled one of the greatest SP rotations in recent memory. Though they lost Oswalt (for the time being) their starting rotation is still their prevalent asset. The team is getting older with both Rollins and Utley losing a step, which will decrease their running game drastically unless Podsednik or Pierre step up and dominate in spring training for the left field spot. Besides the Howard injury/return, the biggest question will be if Dominic Brown can finally put it together like the 5 tool player he was projected to be a couple of years ago. The loss of Madsen and the overpriced signing of Paplebon is nearly a wash.
Jonathan Paplebon RP
Paplebon should get more save opportunities than any closer in baseball this season. The Phillies starting rotation will keep them in every game. Paplebon also has no problem going 3 days in row on multiple occasions. Over his career Paplebon has been a lights out closer…major stud…in five of the last six seasons he has absolutely dominated. That he pitched in the toughest division in baseball is only added experience in my book. There are no questions about his make-up, his stuff, or his health. I could see him topping 50 saves this year. He will not be the 1st closer off the board (Kimbrel will). Once the first closer goes you need to take Paplebon if you get a chance.
Ryan Howard 1B
The latest on Howard’s injury is “ahead of schedule” according to the Phillies organization. Manuel stated if he is back at the end of May he would be happy. The fact is someone with his size and that type of injury he will be out 10 months. There is also a greater risk of re-injury if you do not rehab to the full extent. If you are going to try and be sneaky in your draft and pick up Howard in maybe the 7th or 8th round you are fooling yourself. Look for a return after the All-Star game especially if Philly has a lead in the AL East. I would not draft Howard until at least the 15th round and then maybe even not. Your best bet is to talk up Howard to your league mates that you expect him to return in May once the weather warms up. Let them waste a draft pick on him this year.