Positional Overview: Starting Pitchers (Upper Minors)

Depth Chart:

AgeLikely 2015 LevelTop 50
Cole Hamels31MLB
Cliff Lee36MLB (60 Day DL)
Aaron Harang36MLB
Chad Billingsley30MLB (DL)
Jerome Williams33MLB
David Buchanan25MLB
Kevin Slowey30MLB
Adam Morgan25AAA45
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez28AAA33
Jonathan Pettibone24AAA (DL)
Joely Rodriguez23AAA24
Severino Gonzalez22AAA30
Sean O’Sullivan27AAA
Adam Loewen30AAA
Jesse Biddle23AAA6
Ben Lively23AA11
Aaron Nola21AA2
Zach Eflin20AA5
Tom Windle23AA12
Colin Kleven23AA

Positional Overview:
The pitching situation in Philadelphia has changed dramatically over the past few years.  In 2011 they rolled out possibly the best rotation in recent history, at the minor league level they had the “Baby Aces” in Clearwater.  Now three of the big league aces have their careers essentially over, and the 4th is the subject of constant trade rumors and garbage Fangraphs pieces.  Of the “Baby Aces”, one is out of baseball, one is on his 3rd org and can’t master his killer stuff, one can’t crack the Minnesota Twins rotation, and one is still in Philly and coming off shoulder surgery.  Last year the pitching hit rock bottom both in the majors and the minor leagues.  The Phillies have responded by patching together a major league rotation of journeyman old guys who can hopefully throw every 5th day.  In the minors they will sport 5 pitchers in AA or higher who are new to the org.  They will look to hold off rushing anyone to the majors until they are ready, but pretty soon guys are going to be knocking on the door.  The group doesn’t have a true “ace” but most of mid-rotation ceilings giving the Phillies the opportunity to never have to pay or a FA starter to fill out the rotation for years to come.  The one pitcher who’s spot isn’t set in stone is Jesse Biddle who is coming off a good enough spring that he might be able to finally escape Reading.  If he does return to AA he could join what might be one of the most formidable complete minor league rotations with RHP Aaron Nola, RHP Zach Eflin, RHP Ben Lively, and LHP Tom Windle.  Overall it should be a big transition year for Phillies pitching.

Best Prospect: Aaron Nola
By this point everyone is well aware who Aaron Nola is.  The 2014 #7 overall pick of the draft was supposed to be polished and near major league ready, and by reaching AA in his first year he made good on that promise.  The Phillies excluded him from major league camp so he could get ready for the minor league season, which should start with a brief return trip to AA.  Nola could be a decent major league starter right now, but he could use some work polishing up his secondary pitches and working out of a normal rotation, but that should only keep him down until June or July.  At his best Nola brings three plus pitches to go with plus command and a real feel for pitching.  It isn’t a typical ace profile, but Nola could be a solid #2/#3 starter with a chance that he can get the secondary pitches to jump even further.

2015 Impact: Joely Rodriguez
The Phillies received Rodriguez back from the Pirates for Antonio Bastardo.  On the surface Rodriguez’s numbers indicate a pitcher who shouldn’t be near a major league rotation, but his stuff is much better than that.  His fastball has above average velocity, his slider flashes good potential, and his changeup is average.  The first thing you notice is that all of his pitches move, every pitch just dies near the plate, and it causes Rodriguez to be a groundball machine.  He is on the 40 man roster, which has suddenly thrust him into the competition for the 5th starter spot this spring.  Most likely scenario is that Rodriguez goes down to AAA and joins the rotation midseason.

Sleeper: Adam Morgan
Coming into the 2013 season Adam Morgan was prospect 1B to Jesse Biddle’s 1A.  Now two years of shoulder injury and recovery later Morgan appears to be regaining some magic.  In short bursts his velocity is back and he is able to command it in the zone.  His slider and changeup still aren’t back to the pitches that were getting plus grades, but there is feel there.  Morgan continues to make improvements on each of his starts, but he needs more time.  The Phillies added Morgan to the 40 man roster but are more likely to protect him from MLB service until he is ready.  If Morgan can return to his former self he could be a solid #3 starter or possibly a little better.

Player of Interest: Zach Eflin
Eflin was the best prospect the Phillies got back this offseason.  He is a prototype mid-rotation starter with a big frame, two plus pitches and a third average pitch.  Eflin doesn’t miss as many bats as you might want, but between the plus changeup and two seam fastball he is a ground ba machine.  What makes Eflin intriguing is that there is a chance there is more stuff to come.  His fastball is often 91-94, but he has flashed 96 and 97 a couple of times.  At minimum Eflin looks like a slightly better version of what Jonathan Pettibone was 2-3 years ago.

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.

1 comment

  1. Yeah, it looks like plenty of depth–as you mentioned to me yesterday as I was wringing my hands over injuries and the prospect that the big club would take all the good pitchers from my AAA squad. And this is without mentioning the likes of Jason Berken, who has appeared in 110 MLB games, or PJ Walters who’s appeared in 40, or Anthony Vasquez who has 7 MLB starts to his credit and is still coming back from 2012 emergency brain surgery, or Hoby Milner, who may be destined for the bullpen after a reasonable go-round with Reading last season (25 starts). They’re not prospects, of course, but depth with experience for whatever it’s worth.