With Sean O’Sullivan going down to injury and Dustin McGowan not being a major league starting pitcher, the Phillies have made their first reach down for a pitching prospect going with #30 prospect RHP Severino Gonzalez. Gonzalez made a start during spring training, but otherwise he only has three AAA starts under his belt.
How Did We Get Here:
Severino signed out of Panama for $14,000 in April 2011 before spending the next two years in the Venezuelan summer league. Other the two years after signing Severino’s fastball velocity increased about to sit in the high 80s touching the low 90s. He rocketed up through the system in 2013 with a 2.00 ERA across three levels ending in AA on the base of his fastball control. He spent all of 2014 in Reading where the Phillies limited his cutter in order to force the development of his changeup. The numerical results were poor as he continued to throw a lot of strikes, but was unable to miss as many bats as he had in 2013.
What Is He Now:
When he arrives in the majors he will be the 4th youngest player in the National League behind Addison Russell, Oscar Hernandez, and Bryce Harper. Severino will bring a 4-seam fastball at 88-89 touching as high as 91. He will take some off of that for more movement and has a cutter at 85-86. In addition to the fastball varieties he throws a slider, curveball, and changeup. All offerings are fringe average and the curveball can get long and loopy at times. He does have above average control of all of the pitches and will pound them in the zone with enough command to put them where he wants them most of the time. Despite a slight frame Severino has shown the ability to handle a large workload and can hold his arsenal deep into starts. As stated earlier he has plus control and above average command which allows his arsenal to play up above the raw stuff. However, due to the pedestrian nature of individual pitches he can get hit very hard when he misses his spots, as evidenced by his rank at #2 in the Eastern League in HRs allowed. The big concern for me is that Severino lacks a put away pitch. Every year his strikeouts swinging have declined as he has moved up to face better competition. This can lead to long ABs, and he lives around the strike zone enough that the hitter is going to make solid contact eventually.
Right now that means he can go out and start every day and get you 100 pitches worth of innings. He will probably walk less than 2 batters per 9 innings, but I have hard time seeing him struggling to strikeout more than 5 per 9. He may be a bit home run prone, so it will be important for him to keep the ball down. Additionally, up to now Severino has shown pretty stark platoon splits, so it will be up to the changeup to progress to help keep lefties off his fastball.
What Could He Be:
The ceiling for Severino is #4/#5 starter, but that will require the command to be pristine and one of his pitches to take a step forward. Most likely he will either be a long man in the mold of current Phillies RHP Jeanmar Gomez, or an up and down starter who is in AAA until he is out of options, coming up when the major league club needs a starter. He may be able to stick in the rotation for the remainder of the season but he will need to fend off Adam Morgan, Jesse Biddle, Aaron Nola, and Joely Rodriguez all of who have higher ceilings on the major league level. Severino is young enough that he could experience some further growth, but his velocity has platooned the last few seasons and while he is skinny up top, his bottom half is filled out.
What does this mean for others:
Severino is currently not on the 40 man roster so there will need to be a corresponding move. To me the obvious move is either Grady Sizemore or Dustin McGowan, but the Phillies could call up Ethan Martin and put him on the 60 day DL. That would require acknowledging that he will be out for a while and they care more about the roster spot than having him accrue major league service time and receive major league pay. Moves beyond this would be concerning from a roster construction point of view.