Phillies Rotation: Depth Chart Discussions

The “Big Three” in the rotation will enter what could be their final season together for the Philadelphia Phillies. Both Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels have signed long-term deals, but Roy Halladay enters 2013 in the final year of his contract. The club holds a $20 million option on Halladay in 2014, but for the first time in his career, he’s not a sure thing to earn that payday. Halladay struggled through injuries and decreased fastball velocity en route to his worst season since 2000. For the first time in his career, Halladay is a major question mark. A resurgent year would push the Phillies to sleeper status, but if Halladay is in his decline phase, the club’s rotation looks drops off significantly after two starters.

Cole Hamels has pretty much usurped the top spot in the rotation over Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. While he dealt with a fair amount on injuries throughout the minor leagues, Hamels has stay healthy and consistent since he reached the majors. He’s really become one of the safest starting pitching in fantasy baseball. Lee is a lock for 200+ innings, a bunch of strikeouts and a strong walk rate. If you had to nit-pick, he has been somewhat prone to the long-ball in past seasons. But, even then, it’s nothing to get too worked up about. At age-29, there’s no reason to expect age-related decline to kick in just yet. He’ll be as good as everyone expects again.

Cliff Lee was probably a disappointment in most fantasy leagues based on his low win total. Since you’re reading RotoGraphs, you’re already aware of how unlucky Lee must have been last year. A look at his numbers confirms that he was basically the same pitcher he’s always been. The 24.4% strikeout rate was in line with what he’s done the past two years, and his 3.3% walk rate was stellar. Lee was more susceptible to home runs last year, but has done a better job of suppressing them in the past. Even with the elevated home run rate, he posted a 3.16 FIP. Though he’ll be 34-years-old this season, there’s no reason to be concerned about Lee moving forward. He’s still a fantasy ace who is coming off a tough year. Expect elite production again.

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Roy Halladay entering the year. Halladay was uncharacteristically bad, finishing 2012 with a 4.49 ERA. While his 3.69 FIP suggests there’s reason to believe in a bounce-back, Halladay displayed some worrisome trends. His fastball velocity dropped to 90.5 mph last year, down from 91.9 mph in 2011. Some of that can be attributed to a back injury, which limited Halladay to 156 innings, but there’s also some concern about age-related decline catching up with him. Halladay will be 36-years-old this season. You’ll hear fantasy analysts say you should completely avoid spring training stats, but Halladay has been awful thus far in the spring. And given that he’s had velocity issues already, that doesn’t seem promising. It could be that the narrative is clouding our judgement and we shouldn’t pay attention to his spring struggles, or it could be a sign that things might not get better. Hallday has tremendous upside, but you probably won’t feel great taking him as high as he’s being selected in most drafts.

FIP doesn’t believe in Kyle Kendrick, but he’s posted a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the past two seasons. His strikeout rate jumped quite a bit last year, but he still only struck out 17.2% of hitters. Home runs have hurt him the past couple of seasons, though he doesn’t get himself into too much trouble by limiting his walks. That could be one reason for the disparity between his ERA and his FIP. Kendrick is a fine back-end starter on a MLB team, but he lacks the upside to make him valuable in mixed fantasy leagues.

John Lannan is pretty similar to Kendrick, but with worst numbers. He’s a soft-tossing lefty that relies on contact and ground balls in order to get outs. His 12.1% strikeout rate is unacceptable for most fantasy leagues, and he doesn’t have elite control to offset his lack of punch-outs. He just won’t do enough to warrant a draft spot unless it’s in a deep NL-only league.

Tyler Cloyd was actually alright in six starts with the team last season. Both his 21.7% strikeout rate and 5.1% walk rate were effective. His numbers were ruined by home runs. Cloyd gave up eight home runs in just 33 innings, a staggering rate. If he continues to post a 32.3 ground ball rate, he’ll always have issues with the long ball. That’s not acceptable considering his home park.

The Phillies have two elite pitchers, one huge question mark and two deep-league only guys in the rotation. Halladay remains the major wild card. If he’s back to normal, he could singlehandedly win many leagues based on his low draft position. If not, you’ll have wasted a decent pick on a player at the end of his rope. Just take either Lee or Hamels early, and let someone else take the shot on Halladay.

Early depth chart

Num Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 GB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR
1 Cole Hamels 215.1 9.03 2.17 1.00 43.40% 3.05 3.30 3.23 4.5
2 Cliff Lee 211.0 8.83 1.19 1.11 45.00% 3.16 3.13 3.06 4.9
3 Roy Halladay 156.1 7.60 2.07 1.04 44.70% 4.49 3.69 3.60 2.5
4 Kyle Kendrick 145.2 6.55 2.41 1.24 47.80% 3.89 4.35 4.17 1.2
5 John Lannan 32.2 4.68 3.86 0.00 56.90% 4.13 3.71 4.70 0.5
6 Tyler Cloyd 33.0 8.18 1.91 2.18 32.30% 4.91 5.25 4.19 0.0

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Chris is a blogger for He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

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