Midseason Update: Pitchers – Up, Down, and Inbetween

Last part of the series on midseason updates after looking at players off the list on Tuesday and hitters on Wednesday. This time it is pitchers, a position that has become and org focus in the past few years. With quantity comes some quality, but also some players that have dropped off.

Up:

Ben Lively

2.12 ERA 93.1 IP 26 BB 75 K

I still have reservations about what Lively is in the future. However, it is impossible to deny what Lively has done this year in terms of making improvements to his command. Lively still does not have an overwhelming arsenal, but he might have 3 average pitches to go along with solid deception and average command. That is less exciting in a Phillies system that has some higher upside pitching around Lively, so he might not get a chance in the majors for this org. But that does not really affect his value as he could be a good piece in a trade.

Elniery Garcia

1.97 ERA 59.1 IP 17 BB 46 K

Elniery Garcia just cracked the Top 30 last year as a “soft tossing” lefty with the potential for three average pitches. This season his fastball velocity took a large step forward and he is now 91-94 T95 instead of 89-92. He has done this while keeping his walk rate constant and raising his strikeout rate from 13.1% to 19.5%. Right now Garcia’s ERA is below 2, which somehow put him behind Tyler Viza and Thomas Eshelman on the promotion schedule. Garcia has also shown that he can handle a high workload despite his smaller frame. Garcia might only be a #4 starter, but he has made the likelihood of achieving that much greater this season. Garcia is only 21 so he still has some potential growth, especially in his secondary pitches, but for now he has firmly established his claim as the top lefty starter in the org.

Nick Pivetta

3.27 ERA 82.2 IP 30 BB 74 K

There is a lot of evidence that Nick Pivetta should be a reliever, he has a power arm, two pitches, and some control problems. Pivetta is doing his best to prove he can start. He is still mostly a two pitch pitcher, he will show a changeup and slider, but he is really fastball and curveball. The fastball will run up to 96-97, and he will sink it for ground balls when he needs. He recently pitched a 9 inning shutout and he has the body to carry that kind of workload. Pivetta may well be a reliever (and potentially a very good one), but he is making a run at being some sort of starter right now and at very least that should make him a better pitcher overall. I don’t think his actual rank in the org will change too much, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t made improvements.

Down:

Tom Windle

5.79 ERA 28.0 IP 11 BB 27 K

Tom Windle had a rough 2015 season, but in the Arizona Fall League he flashed impact stuff from the left side. While many prospects have stepped up as full time relievers, Windle has stumbled. His walks are down and his strikeouts are up, but he has been victimized by the long ball and hard contact at a high percentage this year. Windle could bounce back becuase he has the raw stuff. However, when we are talking about relievers performance is king struggling in AA pushes a player down the ladder. If Windle can regain his form he will rise back up just as much.

Alberto Tirado

10.2 IP 10.97 ERA 15 BB 17 K

Alberto Tirado has amazing stuff, even this year he was in the mid to high 90s with a good slider. He needs to throw strikes and after failing to that after starting low-A, he found himself in Extended Spring Training getting stretched out. I don’t think the Phillies are giving up on an arm like Tirado, and I am not giving up either, but it is time to make some adjustments to the risk profile. At this point I am pretty sure if Tirado gets it he will be very good in a relief or starting role, if not he is never reach AA. That has to drop him behind arms like Alexis Rivero and Miguel Nunez who are now in AA and almost showing the stuff that Tirado has.

Tyler Gilbert

68.0 IPP 4.10 ERA 17 BB 56 K

In Williamsport last year Tyler Gilbert showed good stuff from the left side to go with solid control. That combined with 6th round pedigree earned him a spot in the Top 50. This year he is getting hit, walking more, and striking out less. His stuff is solid, but not overwhelming which means command is important for him. There is still a chance he can rebound as a starter, if not he still has a future as a reliever.

Stable:

Franklyn Kilome

53.0 IP 5.09 ERA 28 BB 48 K

It has been an up and down season for Kilome. His first 3 games were as bad as you could have imagined, his velocity was down and his command was poor. His fastball command is still not great, but the velocity is back up to touching 97. Kilome is a bit rawer than I thought coming into the year, but the upside is undiminished, so when balancing the added risk with the safety of half a year of development we find something fairly in the middle. Kilome is going to need some time, there is ability, but he is not going to go flying through the minors like we might have dreamed about.

Thomas Eshelman

59.1 IP 3.34 ERA 11 BB 64 K

Eshelman’s season has been far from a disappointment, and it is easy to forget that we are now at a year since he was drafted and signed his first pro contract. Rather Eshelman has been exactly what we thought he was, a guy with 3 average pitches and a good idea of where to put them. On nights where is command was off, his results suffered, when the command was there he was dominant. He is now in AA which is his first real step in showing whether his stuff can step up (at this point it is more movement than velocity) or whether he can keep increasing his command to a point where he always has hitters off balance. If Eshelman can keep hitters off balance he has a major league future in a rotation, if not it is time to reevaluate his major league future.

Hurt:

Mark Appel

38.1 IP 4.46 ERA 20 BB 34 K

Mark Appel was all over the place before he got hurt. His fastball was up to 96-97 in some innings, it topped out at 90-91 in others. He struggled from the stretch and he was dominant in the windup. It does not look like there is any long term harm to Appel and the Phillies are taking it slow with him. I think Appel is a major leaguer, it just might be as a reliever, but there is something there and he battles. Appel will drop because he is in AAA and any doubt on his ability to start will drop him down the rankings, but that doesn’t make him a non-prospect. I honestly have no clue what to do with Appel, at his best he has had the most dominant innings I have seen from a Phillies starting pitching prospect this year, but flashes are not a career. At this point, trash the 1:1 label and just evaluate the player, and the player has talented.

Jimmy Cordero

From a pure enjoyment standpoint there is no one I would rather see than a healthy Jimmy Cordero, however if we are talking guys that throw as hard as 104 and don’t get hurt that list is Aroldis Chapman. Cordero has dealt with a bicep and shoulder injury, which bodes very ill for the RHP. The injury makes Cordero a lot more risky, but the thought of a player sitting 97-99 T101 is too much to ignore. Cordero should be back mid to late July, and from there we will see what he can do.

Image 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.

3 comments

  1. Bad News Boars

    Any comments on Jake Thompson? He doesn’t have much room to go up, but is he stable in your mind?

  2. Travis C

    I assume for Kilome it is supposed to be “His fastball command is still not great,”. Shame on Tirado/Cordero/Appel. Can’t say I was that high on Windle/Gilbert anyway. Overall seems more good than bad.

  3. Mpls Phils Fan

    Any idea when Appel is supposed to be back off the DL and if he will remain a starter or will he be converted to relief duty as you suggested? I agree relief work might be his best path to the majors