The time seems to be running out for the Phillies to add a free agent starting pitcher — and even though guys like Jake Arrietta and Lance Lynn remain unsigned, the Phillies are unwilling to give a longterm deal to a 30-something hurler — even if he does have a Cy Young resume.
The assumption right now is that manager Gabe Kapler and GM Matt Klentak will be forging their starting staff from the players currently on the team. So what will the Phils’ starting rotation look like? With pitchers and catchers working out in Clearwater and the rest of the team reporting next week, it’s a good time to pontificate.
Here is our best guess.
1. Aaron Nola
When Nola is heathy, he’s one of the best pitchers in major league baseball. The former first round pick had a slow start last year but hit his groove, going 10-8 with a 3.18 ERA after his first five wasted starts. He went deeper and deeper into games as 2017 progressed, going eight innings in a June start against the Braves and later striking out 10 batters in six innings against eventual World Series champs the Astros. By season’s end, Nola had strung together 10 straight starts of at least six innings pitched and no more than two runs allowed. He’ll be the ace this season at 24-years-old.
2. Jerad Eickhoff
Eickhoff, 27, has a killer curveball. He has killer potential. Last season his 4-8 record and 4.71 ERA is not what the Phillies think the true Eickhoff is. Instead they think he, healthy and confident, can be more like the pitcher who posted a 2.65 and 3.65 ERA over his first two pro seasons. He will surely be in the middle of the rotation when the season starts.
3. Vincent Velasquez
Another pitcher with crazy high potential — we saw it when he struck out 16 batters in a single game in 2016 — Velasquez spent most of last season injured and underachieving. At 25-years-old, he will have at least one more chance to show if he can be a consistent big league starter in 2018.
4. Jake Thompson
Thompson’s 24-year-old power arm could get hi the fourth spot in the rotation. He showed he has big league stuff netting a 3.88 ERA in 11 starts last season. The bottom of the rotation is a little murky, and the No 5 spot it up for grabs between several players.
5. Nick Pivetta/Ben Lively/Zach Eflin/Drew Hutchinson
None of the three in this trio have differentiated themselves with the Phillies last season. Pivetta went 8-10 with a 6.02 ERA in 26 appearances, Lively went 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 15 appearances and Eflin went 1-5 with a 6.16 ERA in 11 games. All three have spent time as one of the Phils’ best pitching prospects in the minors and they’ll each vie for a role in the starting rotation. Hutchinson is a newcomer, having spent most of his time with Toronto. He was a promising big league starter before getting injured and at 27 he’s got a decent resume as he joins the Phillies this spring. This is, of course, assuming no veteran is brought in before camp breaks at the end of March.