The snow has melted in Philadelphia and baseballs are in the Florida air, two facts that mean one thing: The fantasy baseball draft is upon us. For those of us who live and die with the varied success of our clever fantasy team names — bye-bye Spliff Lees, hello The Halladay Inn — that means the time is nigh to sucker our friends into overrating Mets and finding the new breakout stars. Hell. Yes.
To get you ready for your upcoming draft, we've prepared a helpful guide breaking down what to expect from your hometown team's players.
The days of the Phillies' infield producing three first-round picks may be gone, but there is still value to be found around the NL Champs' diamond.Star: Chase Utley.
Utley is money at a position lacking liquid assets. If you have the option to draft him fourth or lower, do so, and consider shelling out big bucks if you're in an auction format.
It sounds odd to call a consensus second-round draft pick a sleeper, but thanks to his two glaring flaws — an inability to hit lefties and breaking balls — that is what the former MVP has become. Fortunately for you, those flaws don't change the fact that Howard has the best pure power in the game and sits in the middle of the best lineup in the National League.Bust: Jimmy Rollins.
We'll give this to the new Mr. Johari Smith — his head is in the right place for fantasy: Jimmy listed his goals for the year as stealing 50 bases, scoring 150 runs and batting .300. Fifty would be nearly 20 more bags than Jimmy stole last year, when his batting average dropped to .250 and his on-base percentage dipped below .300 for the first time in his career. Also: No one has gone for 50, 150 and .300 since Sliding Billy Hamilton pulled off the feat for the Boston Beaneaters in 1897. Seriously.
Thanks to some hometown selecting from Charlie Manuel, all three Phillies outfielders were All Stars in 2009. Here is what to expect from them in 2010:Star: Jayson Werth.
Thirty-six home runs, 20 stolen bases and nearly 100 each of runs and RBI — not bad for your first year as a regular. Werth has talent for days, is hitting right in the middle of a loaded lineup and is playing for a contract. Besides, don't you want that sick beard on your team?Sleeper: Shane Victorino.
His drop to seventh in the lineup might lead you to believe his days as a 30-steal guy are gone, but it shouldn't. If anything, Shane is going to be taking off more, now that he isn't afraid of opening bases for All-Star Row behind him. Pick him up in the middle rounds and expect another All-Star-type deal.Bust: Raúl Ibanez.
In the 72 games after he returned from a groin injury last year, Ibáñez hit .232 with just 12 homers and 34 RBIs. Considering he'll turn 38 in June, we suspect his 2010 will look a lot more like those numbers than his early 2009 line.
They let one former Cy Young walk, traded a second, added a third, and gave a guy who everyone once thought could be a fourth Cy two new pitches. We have much to discuss.Star: Roy Halladay.
Your biggest worry is that his bionic arm is going to bust your league's innings limit. The first 25-win National League season since 1969 is in play; pay what it takes.Sleeper(s): Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge.
If there is a silver lining to the nuclear mushroom cloud that was these two gentlemen's 2009 season, it is how far it has devalued these two.Bust: J.A. Happ.
Coming off a season he ended 12-4, Happ might seem attractive. He's not. Happ managed to rank eighth in the NL in ERA despite a strikeout rate, walk rate and home-run rate right around the league average. That is unlikely to continue. Happ should remind you less of a Cy Young candidate and more of Kyle Kendrick, another pitcher whose stats suggested his rookie year was too good to be true. Kendrick's sophomore year? That ERA jumped nearly two full runs. If you're looking for an average Phillies starter to pick you up some wins every fifth day, pass on Happ, wait a couple extra rounds and pick up Joe Blanton.
E. James Beale never busts. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.