The 2012 season proved to be disappointing for the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished in third place in the NL East, so it’s not a stretch to say the roster was littered with underperformers. The outfield was no different. The Phillies’ outfielders combined for a .320 wOBA, which was tied for 19th in Major League Baseball. Changes were needed.
The organization began its outfield shakeup last summer, when they traded both Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence to the NL West, and it continued this winter when they moved to acquire center fielder Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins. Needless to say, Opening Day in 2013 will look very different in the outfield for the Phillies than it did a year previously.
Revere will step into the everyday role in center for the Phillies and shouldn’t really be challenged for playing time throughout the season. The Phillies wouldn’t have shipped pitchers Vance Worley and Trevor May to Minnesota if they didn’t plan on giving Revere 600+ plate appearances. For fantasy owners, he should be an attractive play due to the elite stolen base totals, but he’s not in the same class as someone like Michael Bourn. He will turn 25 this season and has yet to hit a home run in over 1,000 plate appearances. His entire value will be derived from his batting average and his stolen bases, as Jimmy Rollins batting atop the order should cull his runs scored totals.
Elsewhere in the outfield, it appears former top prospect Domonic Brown will finally receive a full-time opportunity at a corner outfield spot. He has torched the Grapefruit League this spring, hitting for power and average. He’s always posted solid walk rates, but it’s encouraging to see the 25-year-old flash some of the high-average numbers he consistently produced in the minors. Fantasy owners can target Brown as a potential breakout player for the 2013 season, but they shouldn’t expect more than 15-20 home runs nor should they expect ample stolen bases. He’s only hit more than 20 homers once in his minor league career and only has five stolen bases in 492 career plate appearances at the big league level. Scouts have said Brown can be a 20+ home run guy on an annual basis — and perhaps he will — but it seems far too bullish to expect such a high level of production at this point in his career.
The Philies also signed Delmon Young this winter, and he should see numerous plate appearances in right field once he returns from an ankle injury that could prevent him from playing Opening Day. Fantasy owners know the drill with Young. He’s more valuable in standard fantasy formats because he can deliver double-digit home runs and a decent batting average, but more and more leagues are opting for on-base percentage over batting average. In those leagues, Young is obviously unownable for the most part.
If Young is sitting on the disabled list once the regular season begins, Domonic Brown will likely start in right field and John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix will platoon in left field. Once Young returns, he’s expected to take over starting duties in right, and Brown will transition to left field.
Neither Mayberry nor Nix offer much in terms of consistent playing time or fantasy production. Both can hit opposite-handed pitching and offer some power, but both will be part-time players. If you’re an owner playing in an extremely deep league and you’re amenable to daily streaming in your outfield depending on the matchup, perhaps Mayberry or Nix could be a very late round roster-filler. Other than that, though, neither should be anywhere but on the waiver wire to begin the season.
The interesting option this season is prospect Darin Ruf. The organization is transitioning him to the outfield in hopes of getting his bat in the lineup. He combined for 41 home runs between Double-A and a brief September callup last season. That level of power is obviously attractive for fantasy purposes, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to handle the outfield defensively. Some scouts also question whether his swing will be exposed by big-league pitching. If he’s for real, though, he could be a cheap source of power — whether that’s early in the season or over the summer. Owners would be wise to monitor the situation, even if he begins the year in Triple-A.
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