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2010 Philadelphia Phillies Handicapping Preview

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2010 Philadelphia Phillies Handicapping Preview
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Hard to believe, as many of us watch the snow fall outside, that the Boys of Summer are almost back. But it’s true; teams have reported to 2010 Major League Baseball training camps and it’s time to start our team-by-team baseball gambling previews for the year.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it’s mildly damaged, tweak it.

That was the apparent philosophy for the Philadelphia Phillies this off-season. After a World Series title in 2008 and a loss in the Fall Classic in 2009, Philly clearly remains a force. Instead of being complacent, however, the Phillies made a couple of key moves to keep pace with the Yankees and maintain their hold on the National League East.

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There’s a reason why the Phillies could afford to part with prospects Michael Taylor and Kyle Drabek in the Roy Halladay deal; they’re a stacked team built to win now. Pitching wise, Halladay replaces Lee atop a formidable rotation. It’s scary to imagine just how many games Doc may win this season considering how dominant he’s been over the last decade pitching (a) for mediocre Blue Jay teams; (b) against the DH in the American League; and (c) against the Yankees and Red Sox in the powerful AL East. What’s the over/under for Doc’s wins this year? 24.5?

Halladay also doesn’t have to be a one-man show. Cole Hamels struggled last year but he’s still just 26 years old and highly talented, armed with one of baseball’s best changeups. Like Florida’s Ricky Nolasco, his peripheral stats also suggest he was a bit unlucky; his control remains spot on. Joe Blanton as a reliable mid-rotation innings inner capable of being an above-average pitcher in stretches and J.A. Happ is a promising young lefty.

While the Phillies may not have the depth of 2009 now that Pedro Martinez is gone, they have a great top four.

The Phillies’ lineup is the NL’s answer to the Bronx Bombers. Ryan Howard’s career 162 game averages are 49 homers are 142 RBI. That’s absolutely staggering power in the middle of the Phillies’ order. Howard has plenty of support; Chase Utley is both a phenomenal hitter and one of baseball’s smartest baserunners; Jimmy Rollins adds Gold-Glove defense, solid pop for a shortstop and great speed. Joining that elite trio are 30-homer bats like Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez.

Even Placido Polanco, the only new addition to the lineup, could have a nice year given his penchant for hitting .300. All that and I still haven’t mentioned speedy, defensively superb Shane Victorino.

If the Phillies have room for improvement anywhere, it’s clearly in the bullpen. What happened to Brad Lidge? A year after his perfect, 48-for-48 season, the Phillies closer imploded. His went 0-8 with 31 saves, 11 blown saves and a 7.21 ERA. It’s amazing that Charlie Manuel gave Lidge such a long leash. If he struggles at all out of the gate, Ryan Madson should get the call.

For anyone seriously considering their 2010 MLB futures bets, there are few safer plays than the Philadelphia Phillies this season. They have prodigious power, outstanding starting pitching and, arguably, the best defense in the National League if not all of baseball. Sure, they’ll have to shore up their relief pitching, but few positions are easier to fix via trade. Expect 95 or more wins from this powerhouse franchise.

Phillies Prediction: First, National League East

This article also appears on the Cappers Picks MLB Handicapping Blog.

 

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