The Phillies entered the season loaded with starting pitching at every level of the minor leagues. Unfortunately injuries to Vince Velasquez, Clay Buchholz, Zach Eflin, Sixto Sanchez, and Seranthony Dominguez, and Elniery Garcia’s suspension left the Phillies rotations thin at every level. The Phillies prospect depth meant that most levels of the system were also missing org arms to just mop up innings and starts when prospects struggled. This has led to full scale shifts in rotations up and down the organization. Some of this is new pitchers getting a chance to start, but more interesting to us is some starters moving into bullpen roles. The move of starters to the bullpen was always a feature, not a bug of building through pitching with the depth of starters hopefully working to create bullpen depth in the long term. So here are the rotations to start the year and as they currently stand.
Opening Day: Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz, Vincent Velasquez, Aaron Nola
Current: Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively
Buchholz is out for the year and Velasquez is out for a month plus, which means Pivetta and Lively will be around for a little bit, but nothing really else to see here.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs:
Opening Day: Jake Thompson, Mark Appel, Ricardo Pinto, Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta
Current: Jake Thompson, Mark Appel, Thomas Eshelman, Mark Leiter Jr., Cesar Ramos
It has been ugly in Allentown. They got Zach Eflin back, then he went to the majors, and now he is hurt. Lively and Pivetta are up in the majors. The team got Eshelman from Reading, but still has two relievers in its rotation. This is partially because Ricardo Pinto is now a reliever. Pinto was not great in his major league debut, but he has shown a fastball up to 97 and a plus changeup, and that makes him an interesting arm at the next level.
Opening Day: Thomas Eshelman, Shane Watson, Tyler Viza, Brandon Leibrandt, Drew Anderson
Current: Tyler Viza, Brandon Leibrandt, Drew Anderson, Miguel Nunez, Mario Sanchez
Reading has not been as badly hit as the IronPigs and has only seen two rotation spots turn over. Eshelman is now in Lehigh Valley, and the Fightins got John Richy to replace him, but he is now in the bullpen. Miguel Nunez struggled in the bullpen so a move to the rotation is somewhat interesting to see if he can shake things up. Sanchez is just an org arm, and while he is only 22 he really lacks major league upside. The interesting bullpen conversion is former first round pick Shane Watson. Watson has a solid breaking ball and his fastball is touching up to 95, but he lacks a changeup to turn a lineup over and his control has been suspect. A move to the bullpen could allow his two primary pitches to play up and maybe it will allow him to throw more strikes.
Opening Day: Franklyn Kilome, Seranthony Dominguz, Cole Irvin, Alberto Tirado, Jose Taveras, Blake Quinn
Current: Franklyn Kilome, Cole Irvin, Alberto Tirado, Jose Taveras, Edgar Garcia, Jacob Waguespack
Losing Seranthony was a blow not just to the Threshers, but the organization as a whole. The young right hander had been dominant with a fastball up to 99, but shoulder injuries are always concerning. Blake Quinn was dominant as a reliever last year, but his stuff was ordinary as a starting pitcher. Quinn was replaced by Waguespack, who has seen an uptick in stuff. Waguespack has been great in his three starts, but I am still skeptical about him in a rotation, and think he is more likely to end up back in the bullpen. I am most intrigued by Edgar Garcia in the rotation. This is the second year that Garcia has made a mid season move to the bullpen. Last year it went poorly, this year it has been mixed, but mostly positive. Garcia is only 20 years old, and is the second youngest player on the team behind Cornelius Randolph. He has the fastball to start and his slider is a potential plus pitch, he still needs to work on a changeup and his command. Garcia is probably a reliever, but it is intriguing that he is getting run in the rotation.
Opening Day: Sixto Sanchez, Ranger Suarez, Adonis Medina, Bailey Falter, Nick Fanti, JoJo Romero
Current: Ranger Suarez, Adonis Medina, Bailey Falter, Nick Fanti, JoJo Romero, Felex Paulino?
The BlueClaws have had the best rotation in the system, and also the most untouched. They lost Sanchez to a neck injury/innings limitations, but Paulino stepped in and was not great. Paulino has good stuff with an above average fastball/slider combo, but he is not a starter long term. Interestingly Paulino just pitched out of the bullpen in his last appearance, so Sanchez could be back or another pitcher could be coming up from extended spring.
Photo by Baseball Betsy