Phillies: Building the Starting Rotation for 2017 and Beyond
2016 left plenty of questions in the Phillies rotation. Someone has to start games for the team next year, and hopefully they find long-term options.
Phillies starters performed rather well collectively in 2016. Their 12.7 fWAR ranked 11th among all teams in baseball. The starters’ 4.14 xFIP was tenth. Jeremy Hellickson and Jerad Eickhoff were solid pieces while Vincent Velasquez flashed success.
However, the rotation still has some hole left to fill. For all the success Velasquez had, there are still some questions about his longevity as a starter.
Injuries also hampered the rotation with Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin both suffering season-ending injuries. Nola is making his way back from a low-grade UCL sprain– slowly but surely – but if he feels any pain in his arm, surgery could be in his future. Eflin underwent surgery to repair both his knees, and there hasn’t been any news on his recovery since.
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The prospects that debuted this year in the rotation had middling results. Jake Thompson, who was a consensus top-five prospect in the system prior to this season, posted a 5.70 ERA in ten starts with the Phillies. Eflin pieced together a nice string of starts after his rough debut, but he also did struggle prior to the aforementioned injury.
Turning towards 2017, the Phillies still need to fill out a starting five by Opening Day.
I would call Eickhoff and Velasquez locks with the seasons they had. If Nola and Eflin can return healthy from their respective injuries, they should be in the rotation as well. Thompson would likely return to Triple-A to hone in his stuff after a rough debut.
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This would still leave one spot open in the rotation if the four mentioned above return. In-house, the team still has Adam Morgan and Alec Asher available to be a durable, if unexciting, fifth starter. Ben Lively would provide more excitement considering his excellent 2016 minor-league campaign, but some more time in Triple-A wouldn’t hurt either.
Some expect the Phillies to bring in a veteran starter into their otherwise young projected rotation next year. The team is expected to extend a qualifying offer to Hellickson, but some say he will turn it down in favor of a longer deal somewhere else.
Our own Joseph Piazza named several candidates for Klentak & Co. to pursue, including Andrew Cashner of the Marlins and Edinson Volquez of the Royals.
The farm system could still turn up potential rotation pieces for the coming years, none more intriguing than Franklyn Kilome. The 21-year old already has a plus fastball-curve combo with a changeup that could be just as good. He has all the tools needed to be mid-rotation piece. Ricardo Pinto had a rough 2016 in Double-A, but he too has a solid arsenal to work with.