Beyond Hamels: The Phillies Future Rotation is Unwritten


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From his MLB debut in 2006 on, Cole Hamels has been a fixture in the Phillies rotation, putting up some of the best numbers in baseball, and in club history. The odds are though that those days are numbered, and that Hamels will end up in a different uniform by the end of 2015, and won’t be here for the remainder of his contract, or next season.

Hamels isn’t alone. If you look at the remainder of the current MLB rotation, it’s highly unlikely that any of the others will be here in 2016 either. Aaron Harang has thrown well enough so far to be traded for a prospect, Chad Billingsley has not shown enough so far (in one start, albeit) to warrant another contract, Jerome Williams was never more than a stop-gap here, and Sean O’Sullivan is quite literally filling out the rotation for now. In other words, fans can assume right now that five spots are open for the 2016 team.

So who can fill them? You have to start by looking at the guys currently on the 40 man roster who are starting pitchers in the minors. Their stats through Friday are:

  • Joely Rodriguez- 6 starts, 0-3, 7.14 ERA, 29 IP, 20 BB, 14 K’s, 2.10 WHIP
  • Adam Morgan- 5 starts, 0-3, 3.90 ERA, 27.2 IP, 6 BB, 11 K’s, 1.59 WHIP
  • Severino Gonzalez- 3 starts, 1-1, 3.57 ERA, 17.2 IP, 2 BB, 9 K’s, 1.25 WHIP (all minor league numbers)
  • David Buchanan- 1 start, 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 6 IP, 0 BB, 5 K’s, 1.17 WHIP (all minor league numbers)
  • Jesse Biddle- 5 starts, 3-0, 4.62 ERA, 25.1 IP, 9 BB, 25 K’s, 1.42 WHIP (Reading)

Buchanan needs to re-group after his demotion, while Gonzalez just had a cup-of-coffee. Morgan is showing some level of promise, while Biddle’s last start really inflated his ERA. Rodriguez is not helping his cause right now, and actually could end up being sent to AA if this keeps up.

Right now it would be hard to see more than maybe two of them working out in next year’s rotation, if that. Beyond these five possibilities though, you get into a very interesting group of options, some of whom have a better chance than others:

  • Aaron Nola- 5 starts, 3-2, 2.27 ERA, 31.2 IP, 4 BB, 21 K’s, 0.92 WHIP
  • Zach Eflin- 5 starts, 2-2, 2.51 ERA, 28.2 IP, 6 BB, 14 K’s, 0.98 WHIP
  • Ben Lively- 4 starts, 2-0, 2.16 ERA, 25 IP, 7 BB, 24 K’s, 1.12 WHIP
  • Tom Windle- 5 starts, 0-1, 5.33 ERA, 25.1 IP, 14 BB, 19 K’s, 1.66 WHIP
  • Phillippe Aumont- 7 games, 3 starts, 1-1, 1.73 ERA, 26 IP, 13 BB, 21 K’s, 1.19 WHIP

Nola remains on a fast track to the majors, in my view by this September, and should go to AAA within weeks. Eflin is a little younger, but is having a fine year and looks like a guy who could arrive during 2016. Lively is somewhat surprising, replicating his great 2014 in the Reds organization a month and a half into 2015. Windle has struggled a little bit with his command in his first AA action, but should still be given time to figure that out. Aumont is enjoying an early season re-birth so far, surprising everyone with his solid performance in AAA. Is it enough to put him back in the picture for this club? No, not at this stage, but it’s worth monitoring as the season goes.

At a minimum, the Phillies will have to grow three to four starters from within for 2016 and beyond. While this off-season has a very deep class of free agents, expecting to sign more than one or two of them is a bit wishful. As things stand, Nola appears to be the strongest candidate of all to win a 2016 rotation slot, but the rest of this field has at least two spots open to them.

With the pitching staff, and indeed the whole team, fans would be wise to view 2015 through the prism of management comments that this team will not compete until 2017. The important thing is much less winning games at any level in 2015 than it is building a competitive, first division rotation of young arms for 2017. In the very early going, the Phillies appear to have enough candidates to potentially do that. You have to temper that positive thinking though, because many of these prospects will prove to be “AAAA” types, or worse. Right now the hope is for Nola and two others to make it to the 2017 rotation. We will monitor that the rest of the way this season hoping to see progress towards that happening.

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