2020 Fantasy Baseball: Philadelphia Phillies Team Preview

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Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies extended their postseason slump to eight seasons. The team’s best run in their history came from 2007 to 2011 when they made the playoff each year with two World Series appearances and one championship. Philadelphia has two World Series titles (1980 and 2008) plus seven trips to the World Series and 14 chances in the postseason over the team’s 137-year history. Their last winning season came in 2011 (102-60).

Last year they scored 97 more runs than 2018 (677), which pushed them to 14th in baseball. The Phillies ranked 22nd in home runs (215) and 15th in RBI (742). They slipped to 17th in ERA (4.53) with 36 saves.

In the offseason, Philly signed SS Digi Gregorius and 2B Josh Harrison to improve their starting lineup. They added SP Zack Wheeler to develop the front end of the pitching staff. RP Francisco Liriano was the only player signed to the bullpen. 2B Neil Walker will compete for a bench role after landing a minor league deal.

The push for the playoffs starts with a much better year from OF Bryce Harper and 1B Rhys Hoskins. Their starting lineup had length and upside if all the pieces come together.

SP Aaron Nola remains their ace while Wheeler takes over as the number two starter. The back end of the rotation has a mix of upside, risk, and veteran arms, with each option falling short of an impact option. They hope their bullpen has a rebound in overall depth after seeing RP Seranthony Dominguez regress and RP David Robertson go down with injuries in 2019.

The Phillies look a step or two behind the top teams in their division, which puts them on the outside looking in again for a playoff appearance.

Starting Lineup

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1. OF Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen saw his season end in 2019 on June 3rd after suffering a left knee (torn ACL). With nine months to recover from surgery, he has a chance to be in the opening day starting lineup. His start over 219 at-bats (45 runs, ten HRs, and 29 RBI) projected over 550 at-bats would come to 113 runs, 25 home runs, and 73 RBI. Both his RBI rate (18) and AVH (1.786) graded well. 

McCutchen had a career-high walk rate (16.4) with a league-average strikeout rate (21.0). He didn’t have a home run over 51 at-bats against left-handed pitching (.294) while failing to find his batting average rhythm vs. righties (.244 with ten HRs and 25 RBI over 168 at-bats). McCutchen was trending forward in May (.282 with 21 runs, five HRs, and 19 RBI over 103 at-bats) with an excellent BB:K ratio (19 to 22). His HR/FB rate (16.7) was his highest since 2012 (19.4), but his swing path delivered a career-high in his ground ball rate (45.1). Speed looks to be a lost tool, and it can’t be expected to be a factor in 2020 after major knee surgery. 

With an ADP of 204, the slackers in the room looked poised to buy his veteran resume. Possible 100-plus runs with a neutral batting average and over 20 home runs.

Fantasy Baseball J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies
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2. C J.T. Realmuto

Last year Realmuto finished 60th in SIscore (1.54), which was 54 spots higher than the second rated catcher in 2019 (Mitch Garver). He set career highs in games (145), at-bats (538), runs (92), doubles (36), home runs (25), and RBI (83). His AVH (1.791) is trending up, along with his CTBA (.357). 

Realmuto saw his strikeout rate (20.7) become a new high with some weakness in his walk rate (6.9). His season ended with eight games to go due to meniscus issue in his right knee that required surgery. He played better after the All-Star break (.278 with 15 HRs and 41 RBI over 230 at-bats). Realmuto split time between second and fifth in the batting order. His HR/FB rate (15.7) was a career-high with growth in each of the past four seasons. His ADP (47) fails in a range similar to 2019 while having better overall stats. 

Volume catcher in at-bats with value in all five categories. An outside chance at 30-plus home runs with 180 combined runs and RBI. Any stolen bases would be a bonus/edge.

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3. OF Bryce Harper

I came into Harper’s profile full of venom for letting me down in 2019, but his only negative stats was batting average (.260). The decline in his strikeout rate (26.1), which moved in the wrong direction for the third straight year, was the reason for failure in this area. His walk rate (14.5) is elite but much lower than in 2018 (18.7). Harper has had a strong AVH (1.960) every year in the majors with flashes of greatness in his CTBA (.377 in 2019 – .441 in 2015). He had better success against left-handed pitching (.283 with 15 HRs and 44 RBI over 197 at-bats). His only impact month came in August (.277 with 23 runs, 11 HRs, 25 RBI, and four SBs over 94 at-bats). 

Harper had the 52nd hard-hit rate (45.6) in baseball while his HR/FB rate (23.5) has been in a tight range over the last three seasons. I love the growth in his RBI rate (20), especially in a down year in batting average. When adding in that Harper lost his leadoff hitter, and Rhys Hoskins failed to live up to expectation, he looks poised to add more value in runs and RBI. Pretty much a first-round player with a second-round ADP (25). 

Buy the rebound in batting average while understanding he could lead the league in runs, home runs, and RBI. For an owner securing a frontend ace, Harper should be the target with the next pick.

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4. OF Rhys Hoskins

A fantasy owner can’t blame opportunity when looking at Hoskins in 2019. He played 160 games with 705 plate appearances, but he made much weaker contact (CTBA – .325) with a higher strikeout rate (24.5). His walk rate (16.5) was exceptional, along with his RBI chances (446). Unfortunately, Hoskins posted a lady-like RBI rate (13). His AVH (2.008) screams 40-plus home runs, which is helped by a massive fly-ball rate (50.4). In 2017 in his hot 50 games, he had a monster HR/FB rate (31.6). 

When out of rhythm, Hoskins hits a ton of infield fly balls, leading to easy outs and some risk in batting average. His HR/FB rate (14.3) was his lowest level since 2015 in the minors. Right-handed pitchers held him to a .215 batting average with 20 home runs and 58 RBI over 432 at-bats. Hoskins played the best in April (.279 with eight home runs and 24 RBI over 104 at-bats) while fading off into the sunset in August and September (.166 with six HRs and 17 RBI over 183 at-bats). His hard-hit rate (38.7 – 191st) isn’t special, but it ranked 22nd in 2017 (45.2). 

In a way, pitchers at the major league level have figured him out, which means pitching higher up in the zone with the idea of weaker contact. Right kind of gamble for runs, home runs, and RBI based on his ADP (112). His minor league resume says neutral batting average. I’ll take .265 with over 100 runs, 35-plus home runs, and 110-plus RBI. With a better overall feeling about his play, Hoskins should even chip in with some steals. Viable target and possible fun pairing with Bryce Harper.

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5. SS Didi Gregorius

Hitting behind Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins is going one of the best RBI opportunities in baseball in 2020. Based on walks alone over the previous two seasons, they were on base 432 times. Gregorius comes off a down season in batting average (.238) while also seeing his contact batting average plunge over his last two years (.310 and .284). He had a great RBI rate (22) over a half of season with strength in that area as well in 2017 (18) and 2018 (16). Gregorius tends to have a low strikeout rate (15.4), but it came in over his previous two seasons (12.3 and 12.1). 

After moving to league average in his walk rate (8.4) in 2018, he lost momentum in walks (4.9 percent). His batting average regressed with each month played (June – .290, July – .256, August – .222, and September – .190) while feeling like the odd man out in the Yankees infield rotation late in the year. His best value came in July and August (25 runs, ten HRs, and 37 RBI over 176 at-bats). Gregorius had a career-high in his fly-ball rate (44.1) with a mid-level HR/FB rate (13.3). 

Decent option at shortstop with some batting average risk. His AVH in 2018 (1.844) and 2019 (1.857) paired with his RBI rate gives him a chance at 30 home runs and 100 RBI if he does hit fifth all year. His ADP (215) does have a wide variance (low – 176 and high – 311).

To view the full starting lineup, which also includes player analysis for Jean Segura, Scott Kingery, Adam Haseley, Josh Harrison, Odubel Herrera, Jay Bruce, Andrew Knapp, Neil Walker, Roman Quinn and Nick Martini, subscribe now to FullTime Fantasy.

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Philadelphia Phillies Team Outlook

Pitching Staff

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SP1 Aaron Nola

After an excellent 2018 season (2.37 ERA and 0.975 WHIP), Nola threw fewer first-pitch strikes (62) with a significant regression in his walk rate (3.6 – 2.5 in 2018) and HR/9 rate (1.2 – 0.7 in 2018). His season started with three straight poor showings in April (15 runs, 25 baserunners, and five home runs over 13.1 innings). He had a correction over his next eights (2.78 ERA and 55 Ks over 45.1 innings) before tripping up again in his first three games in June (14 runs and 26 baserunners over 16.1 innings with 16 Ks). 

Nola rose from the dead again over his next 14 starts (2.21 ERA, .183 BA, and 104 Ks over 93.2 innings) before burying fantasy owners again in September (20 runs and 45 baserunners over 27.2 innings). His arm played well at home (6-2 with a 2.91 ERA and 139 Ks over 117.1 innings) while being a tough start on the road (5.19 ERA). He had almost the same value against righties (.227) and lefties (.240). His AVB (93.5) was a career-high while increasing in each year in the majors. Nola has an elite curveball (.201 BAA) and edge changeup (.192 BAA). Both his four-seamer (.259 BAA) and sinker (.327 BAA) had a lot less value than 2018 (.212 and .189). In division play, Nola draws a ton of top arms, making wins sketchy at times. 

His ADP (49) makes him a viable cheat ace. In 2019, he pitched great in two-thirds of his starts. His career walk rate (2.5) before 2019 suggests he comes back in a big way in 2019. Possible 15-plus wins, a 2.50 ERA, a 1.000 WHIP, and 250 strikeouts. Don’t be shy here.

Fantasy Baseball Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies
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SP2 Zack Wheeler

Even with an improved command (walk rate – 2.3 and strikeout rate – 9.0), Wheeler had regression in ERA (3.96) and WHIP (1.259). His growth in his first-pitch strike rate (66) is sensational if repeated. In 2018, batters hit .255 against him with success against right-handed (.212) and left-handed (.238) batters. Both stats lost value in 2019 (.245 and .275). Wheeler started the year with a massive walk rate (4.3) in April, leading to a 5.05 ERA. Over the next three months, he had a 4.57 ERA with 14 HRs and 100 strikeouts over 88.2 innings. 

After 15 shutout innings with 12 strikeouts, Wheeler struggled over three games (13 runs, 29 baserunners, and three home runs over 56 innings). This season, fantasy owners will be drawn to his final six starts (1.80 ERA and 39 Ks over 40 innings). His AFB (97.0) had more life than in 2018 (96.6). He flashed a developing split-finger fastball in 2018 (.216), but Wheeler only threw the pitch out six percent of the time last year even with success (.205 BAA). His slider (.235 BBA) had the most value, followed by his changeup (.244 BAA) and curveball (.254 BAA). 

For Wheeler to reach ace status, he needs better control in the strike zone. His ADP (120) is favorable. All the tools to post an impactful ERA with a big step forward in strikeouts once he becomes tougher to hit.

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SP3 Jake Arrieta

The sun set on Arrieta’s arm in 2017. His ERA (4.64) has four straight years of regression while adding a rising walk rate (3.4) and a diminishing strikeout rate (7.3). He allowed 21 home runs over 135.2 innings in 2019 with batters hitting a career-high .284 against him. 

Over his first seven starts, Arrieta went 4-2 with a 3.40 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 45 innings. He posted a 5.57 ERA and 1.619 WHIP over his next 11 games covering 63 innings while allowing 13 home runs. His season ended in mid-August due to a bone spur in his right elbow that required surgery. Arrieta had massive issues with lefties (.317 with 14 HRs over 249 at-bats). His FB (92.8) fell in line with his past three years, but below his peak in 2013 (95.1). His curveball (.204 BAA) and changeup (.244 BAA) still have life. Arietta is a ground ball pitcher (51.3 percent) who needs to regain the lost value on his slider and sinker. 

The Phillies will pay him $20 million in 2020, so they hope he rebounds with a healthier right elbow. Pretty much free on draft day (ADP – 501). Only in play if the spring reports are positive.

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CL/RP Hector Neris

Neris somewhat redeemed his 2018 season by stealing back the closing job last year. Over his first 28 games, he looked electric (1.88 ERA, .168 BAA, and 40 Ks over 28.2 innings) while converting 14 of his 16 save chances. Over the next month or so, Neris didn’t belong in the ninth inning (9.75 ERA, 1.750 WHIP, and five HRs over 12 innings). 

His arm rebounded to his early-season form over his final 27 innings (1.00 ERA, 34 Ks, and ten SVs). He has success against righties (.201 BAA) and lefties (.167 BAA), but he did issue 15 of his 24 walks over 108 at-bats to left-handed hitters. Neris still has a high walk rate (3.2) while allowing too many home runs (1.3 per nine – 1.4 in his career). His AFV (94.8) just about matched his previous four seasons. He gains his edge with a plus split-finger fastball (.170 BAA) and four-seamer (.164 BAA). 

Neris has the closing job to start the year with the foundation skill set to get the job done. I’d like to see more strikes and less ball hit out of the ballpark. His ADP (137) required him to keep this job all year. A possible 40-plus saves with a run at 100 strikeouts, but insurance is a must.

To view the full pitching staff, which also includes player analysis for Zach Eflin, Enyel De Los Santos, Spencer Howard, Adonis Medina, Seranthony Dominguez and Vincent Velasquez, subscribe now to FullTime Fantasy.

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Philadelphia Phillies Team Outlook