Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pitching Projections for 2015

Well, the Phillies have been loosing again, but still hold a near-.500 record in the 2nd half. All they need is four wins (nine games left) in order to achieve a better record than last year, which is attainable given the past few months of games, especially the contributions by the young players & Sept. call-ups. Now, the Phillies were mathematically eliminated from post-season contention during the Padres series, so let's continue with projecting the needs for 2015; this time, I'll cover pitching. Next entry on 2015, will be a game of "stay or go?"; date TBD.

I mentioned the young players are doing very well and the biggest area besides seeing Ruf & Franco is the bullpen. Papelbon, except for last week, has been lights-out. Look for him to be on the trading block, again, but that may be difficult given the suspension & salary ($13MM plus still-attainable vesting option). Bastardo is lights-out 75% of the time but has been relegated to match-ups as of late. That will affect him in negotiating his final year of arbitration. The primary reason for that has been the emergence of Ken Giles, Jake Diekman, & Justin De Fratus. Combined stats: 11-6 rec., 2.62 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, & a 3.60 K:BB ratio. Simply stellar. Let's say all five secured spots on the Opening Day (4/6 vs. Red Sox) roster.

The long men (Manship, Hollands, Martin, & Gonzalez) have been ok... showing promise despite a 5.07 ERA. The reason: being used less and less as the season wore on despite injuries to the rotation. They have the pitches to succeed, just not the playing time... some in the minors & DL, others because of ineffectiveness & the emergence of Giles, De Fratus, & Diekman. They represent 1/6 of the team's innings pitched by relievers & 5.5% of the team's total innings. It looks like Hollands & Manship (contract status?) will get a look next year along with Neris and perhaps Rosenberg, Martin, & Gonzalez... with the latter two probably getting looks for the rotation. One spot will be open for these guys, maybe two spots. It's my thinking that Gonzalez is a lock due to contract (2 yrs., $8MM remaining) and the final spot goes to a veteran free agent, especially if Pap is traded.

Before I go into the rotation, I do want to say that it's been a shame that Mike Adams (completing his 2-yr. deal) had dealt with all those injuries. I liked the intent of the signing by Rube, but it didn't work out. Great guy... I gained a lot of respect for him when he said that (warning: badly paraphrasing a quote from months ago) he's sorry he ended up not earning the $12MM.

Now for the rotation. A.J. Burnett will retire. Kyle Kendrick will sign elsewhere at 2 yr./ $16MM or 3 yr./ $21MM. Lee (60-Day DL with strained flexor pronator tendon) will come into spring training healthy (last guaranteed year of contract). You can give the 4th spot to Buchannan. And that leaves Cole Hamels, who has been absolutely stellar for the Phillies since June 1. I do not think he'll ultimately be traded, so put him in as the No. 1. So far:
  1. Hamels
  2. Lee
  3. OPEN
  4. Buchannan
  5. OPEN
So, you see two open spots vacated by K.K. & A.J. Burnett. The first probably goes to a free agent or, better yet, Jerome Williams (3-2, 2.84 ERA) if he's re-signed. The final spot will be a competition between a(nother) free agent and Miguel Gonzalez if the Phils audition him for the rotation. You'll see some younger guys here competing: 2014 1st Round Pick Aaron Nola (AA), 2010 1st Round Pick Jesse Biddle (AA or AAA), Ethan Martin (AAA), Sean O'Sullivan (AAA), & Jon Pettibone (AAA); ultimately, they'll be competing for positions on the Phillies' depth chart & start the year in the minors (their likely assignments are in parentheses). Expect one of the free agents to be signed to a two-year deal probably, if the Phillies go that route. The free agent market is very strong, even after the top three of Scherzer, Shields, & Lester are signed.

Looks like the Phillies are going in the right direction pitching-wise with the young 'pen holding leads & fresh faces in the rotation expected over next two years. Keep up the great work guys!

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