Team president Andy MacPhail has stressed the importance of pitching ever since joining the team in 2015. Nearly ever deal the team has made with MacPahil at the helm has involved one or more pitching prospects coming to Philadelphia.
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The Ken Giles trade brought back five pitchers to Philadelphia, including Velasquez, who is currently in Philadelphia’s rotation, and Appel, a former No. 1 overall pick. The team also got back Jerad Eickhoff, who is also in the rotation, and Jake Thompson, who was the team’s top pitching prospect before exceeding his rookie limits in 2016, in return for Cole Hamels in 2015.
“After improving the pitching, the next thing we should do is improve the pitching, and then after that, we should improve the pitching. Because look at what we did this offseason. Matt signed two corner outfielders. My experience has been that you can find the hitters. Particularly in our ballpark. And we have resources. When you have to sign pitchers through free agency, they’re fragile, they’re expensive. There’s times when you’re going to have to do it, but the more you can avoid it, the more you should. To me, it’s about pitching.”
While Philadelphia doesn’t have one truly elite pitcher in their system, MacPhail agreed they have a stockpile of “solid” pitching prospects. saying:
“We think our starting pitching, we have a lot of depth through the system. Not necessarily front-end rotation types, but, honestly, I would rather take numbers of solid prospects over the higher valued few. Give me numbers because we know the attrition rate. So I think we’re in good shape there. Our expectation is that we’ll be better than we were a year ago and our expectation is that we’ll continue to introduce new talent onto our major league team not unlike we did last year.”
Some of those solid young pithcers include guys like Eflin, Eickhoff, and Thompson at the major-league level.