If there was a bounce back “team” this season it would be the Fightin’ Phils. They have more guys who underperformed or battled injuries in 2012 than you can shake a stick at. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and new addition Michael Young come to mind. But the one guy whose bounce back season could be the key to winning for both the Phillies and your fantasy roster is Roy Halladay.
Last spring, Halladay suffered a back injury that caused him to tweak his mechanics. This tweak may have led to the shoulder injury that eventually sidelined him in late May. He has been a perennial workhorse and 2012 was the first time he did not pitch 200 innings since 2005. Always the competitor, Halladay may not have been totally upfront about the original back injury and while we all knew something was wrong, it was hard to point to any one explanation until the shoulder injury surfaced. Fantasy owners who paid top dollar for Doc’s durability and consistency were plenty disappointed, and whispers could be heard that 2012 was the beginning of the end.
This is where savvy fantasy owners take advantage of a potential bargain. Going into 2012, Halladay was still considered one of the best starting pitching options and was drafted accordingly. Now, after the shoulder injury and an ERA that ballooned to 4.49 in 2012, he has fallen out of that discussion and can be had for a discounted price. I’m choosing to look at Doc this year not as a huge risk, but as a proven veteran. From 2010-2012, Doc was a top 10 starting pitcher in quality starts, K/BB ratio, and WHIP. There is an opportunity here for ace production without having to pay a premium ace price.
Halladay, now 35, has reportedly changed some of his conditioning and warm-up routines in an effort to maintain his health. Doc knows how to get batters out without overpowering stuff, but getting some mustard back on his fastball would help this year. He has already hit 91 MPH in spring training, which is a sign that his velocity drop last season may have been mostly injury related. It’s reasonable to expect the same low BB and HR rates that we have seen from Halladay in the past, and the 4.49 ERA in 2012 is not quite as scary when you look at the more reasonable FIP of 3.69 that accompanied it.
Doc may not be the pitcher that he once was, but he is not the pitcher we saw last year either. Without structural damage to his shoulder and a new focus on staying healthy, I don’t see him as an injury risk for 2013. In fact, I see him returning to some great ratios and a healthy number of wins on a Phillies team that still has some gas left in the tank. The window may be closing on the Phils’ aging superstars, but it hasn’t shut yet. When drafting this year, don’t be left out of the bounce back festivities in the City of Brotherly Love, and don’t snooze on Halladay. He may just be the life of the party.