Low Minors Starting Rotation Crunch

The Phillies entered the season with one of the thinnest systems in terms of starting pitching in major leagues.  Through the draft, international development, and trades the Phillies have turned this weakness into a strength.  The result has been starting rotations in the low minors that ended the year in 6 and 7 man rotations as the Phillies looked to work everyone into a starting spot as the season winds down.

Here is how the Phillies ended the year:

ClearwaterLakewoodWilliamsportGCL
Victor AranoMatt ImhofMitch GuellerElniery Garcia
Colin KlevenYoel MeciasDavid WhiteheadDenton Keys
Ethan Stewart*Tyler VizaRicardo PintoFranklyn Kilome
Jeb StefanRanfi CasimiroAlejandro ArteagaJason Zgardowski
Mark Leiter JrJon ProsinskiChris Oliver*Sam McWilliams
Jordan GuthYacksel RiosBrandon LeibrandtJosh Taylor*
Kevin Walter*Shane Watson#Feliberto Sanchez*Austin Davis*
Nic Hanson#Drew Anderson#Lewis Alezones

*Indicates a player that spent time in the bullpen
#Indicates a player that ends the year injured

Not all of these names are household names for Phillies fans, and many have real holes to their games (almost all of them are still looking to establish secondary pitches).  However there is real upside here and most of them should be starting in 2015.  The Phillies have shown little indication they will go to a piggy back starting 4-man rotation and have emphasized working their college pitchers onto normal rotation workloads.

Given the rawness and projection left in many of these arms it is hard to slot them in now given that a lot can change between Florida Instructional Leagues and Spring Training.  But it is fairly safe to say that the Threshers rotation will be at least headed by Arano, Imhof, and Mecias.  For Lakewood Tyler Viza is likely to repeat the level and it is hard to see Ricardo Pinto and Mitch Gueller not at least joining him.  The college guys in Brandon Liebrandt and David Whitehead could go to either A-ball affiliate.  That still leaves a lot of upside needing rotation spots.  Of the relievers, Chris Oliver likely gets another time in the rotation, and Kevin Walter’s future could change dramatically if the former prospect gets his feet under him.  The GCL pitchers have all begun to show that they can handle a full workload and in a normal year they should all be in contention for a spot in Lakewood next year.  Overall there is a lot of moving pieces.

Now why should you care?  You should care because there is a lot of upside waiting to break out.  Of the Latin arms, there is a ton of upside in the arms of Ricardo Pinto, Franklyn Kilome, Eniery Garcia, and Lewis Alezones.  This group of prospects might be a year off, but in that year some of these pitchers may be topping prospect lists.

Photo By Baseball Betsy

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

2 comments

  1. Handzus

    My guess at this point:

    Reading- Kleven and Leiter

    Clearwater (rotation)- Arano, Imhoff, Mecias, Leibrandt, Anderson

    Lakewood (rotation)- Viza, Oliver, Whitehead, Pinto, Arteaga

    W-port (rotation)- Keys, Kilome, Davis, Alezones, Garcia

    That would make everybody else a reliever, with McWilliams staying in the GCL. But I could see Gueller, Hanson, Watson (if healthy) Casimiro, Sanchez and Rios maybe splitting time between the rotation and ‘pen, or starting in place of some guys I already listed. I don’t know what to make of Gueller. There’s potential there but at what point do we say that other guys have passed him by? Of course, this doesn’t even include the guys we’ll draft next year. File under “a good problem to have” I guess.

  2. philabaltfan

    Nice article about our pitching depth in the lower levels which will eventually rise and the best performers will be promoted. In two years we may have surplus inexpensive homegrown pitching which is great given the exorbinant cost of Free Agents. This approach will allow us to use Free Agency as filling holes where there is no internal options.