Key Stats: Up until last year, I’d never been in the position where I have had to watch a pet be put to sleep because of painful suffering. Along came Brandon Phillips last season. A keeper in the league closest to my heart, I was set on Phillips passing Chase Utley to become the best 2B in the game. There was the heart-warming article that discussed how Phillips was not just another player who collected his paycheck and ignored fans. I had found a player to root for.
Going into September, Phillips was in fantasy bankruptcy. In the second half he was stealing a base once every 12 games (compared to one every 4 in the first half) and homering once every 31 at bats (compared to once every 25 at bats in the first half). The greatest amount of agony was caused by the batting average which at .209 from August through September was worse than Jason Varitek during the same time span. Finally, when Phillips had given me 21HR/23SB numbers, Seth McClung injected the needle and the season was put to sleep.
Skeptics Say: The batting average didn’t end great for Phillips and the fact is that he will never be a great hitter for average. He walks in less than 6% of his plate appearances, so pitchers can throw much more stuff out of the strike zone against him.
Peer Comparison: There is a split decision on who is better between Phillips and Brian Roberts. CBS and MLB.com like Roberts, but ESPN and Yahoo favor Phillips. The hot stove gives the nod to Roberts.
Roberts has been ranked 44th and 46th by Yahoo the last two seasons while Phillips has been ranked 107th and 13th. The injury was freakish and did play a part in bringing Phillips down, but the struggles before the injury account for the risk with Phillips if the injury doesn’t. Roberts has drawn walks at more than twice the rate Phillips has the past two seasons.
The two players are really close though. Put it this way if you don’t pick Jose Reyes, Ichiro, Jimmy Rollins, or Grady Sizemore early then a source for runs and steals is Roberts. If you have an Ichiro-type already than Phillips, who will hit fourth, is the better player to take. What’s the likelihood that Phillips will snap out of the end of season funk he was in? Staying with the peer comparison, Roberts hit .237 the final two months of 2007 and ended up hitting a consistent .296 in 2008. Bounce backs have happened before and at 28, Phillips is still in a great position for at least a 20/20 season.
Lineup Outlook: Phillips will hit in an ideal spot between anti-sleepers Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. He had 94 RBI in his career year in 2007 and last season hit just .261 in RISP situations. Usually hitters perform much better in these situations given the stress on pitchers and the apparent signs of weakness, so Phillips should get this figure up. He should set a career high for RBI in 2009.
What They’re Saying: MLB.com: #5 Second Baseman and #40 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #5 Second Baseman and #54 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #30 Overall; Fox Sports: #4 Second Baseman; ESPN: #4 Second Baseman; Yahoo: #4 Second Baseman and #25 Overall
Projection: When it’s all said and done he will be better than last season, but never as good as 2007.
83R 25 HR 101 RBI 22 SB .267 AVG .790 OPS
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