Predicting the Philadelphia Phillies’ 2014 Starting Rotation
Starting Rotation and Spot Starter Preview and Predictions
The 2014 Season is upon us! An offseason full of hype and excitement have fans on the edge of their seat for the new season. As fans descend upon Clearwater and Bright House Field, the Philadelphia Phillies’ starting rotation is a piece of the team that demands a lot of attention.
Two years after boasting one of the best starting rotations in baseball history, the Phils’ staff imploded last season. The consistently reliable Roy Halladay fell apart due to injury, unlikely stalwart Kyle Kendrick was up and down all season, and the 5th spot in their rotation was constantly in flux. The Phillies finished the season as one of the worst statistical rotations in the majors.
Sensing the need to begin refreshing the team a bit, General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. went out and signed The Fettuccine (Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez) to help bolster the starting staff heading into the future. A few more offseason signings (one coming as late as February) have the Phillies looking somewhat respectable again. However, this is no 2011.
The injury bug already struck when the team announced ace Cole Hamels would miss the first couple weeks of the season. Luckily, due to the schedule, the Phillies won’t require a 5th starter until April 16th at the earliest, giving Hamels some buffer time to heal before having to find a replacement for him.
The following is a prediction of who the top five starters should if all are healthy. As we know injures arise, included as well are the handful of starters that could be called upon for spot starts in order of priority.
1. Cole Hamels
Regardless of injury, Cole Hamels is still the leader on this pitching staff. The 2008 World Series MVP is entering his age-30 season and is primed to be a Cy Young contender.
2. Cliff Lee
Everybody’s favorite free agent signing is back in 2014 after another stellar season in 2013, Cliff Lee will look to follow up on yet another season with a sub-3.00 ERA. If the season goes south, however, Lee will be trading bait candidate number one. It is imperative for the team that Lee pitch as well as possible if they want to get the best return for him in July.
3. AJ Burnett
The aforementioned February signing came partially because of local ties and partially because of the Hamels injury. AJ Burnett defied his age last season and had a fantastic season, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to the playoffs for the first time since the early 1990s. Burnett is also a player that could be dealt at the deadline if the Phils are sellers due to his convenient one-year contract.
4. Kyle Kendrick
Hard to believe KK was the #2 starter on their 2007 playoff rotation, isn’t it? Kendrick is filling the traditional Joe Blanton #4 spot in the rotation that he seems to have been born for. He is not a flashy pitcher, and his floor can be rather low. However, he can be solid to outstanding on occasions as well and typically gets you at least 5 innings, precisely what you want out of your 4th starter.
5. Roberto Hernandez
Former Fausto Carmona, Hernandez was signed in the off-season with the hopes that he could revive his career in the back end of the Phils’ rotation. Known for his ground-ball rate, he gave up an astounding career high of 24 home runs last year in Tampa and was promptly booted from the rotation. It is unknown how long his leash will be this season, but with numbers like that the team will be forced to replace him.
The only ‘Baby Ace’ to reach the majors from the much heralded Lakewood staff a few seasons ago (Trevor May, Jarred Cosart, Julio Rodriguez are gone, Brody Colvin tenuously remains), Pettibone pitched competently last season in 18 starts, sporting a respectable 4.04 rookie ERA. Pettibone was hoping to fill that 5th spot on his own, but the signing of Burnett and Hernandez, along with injury problems of his own, have all but left him out of the mix. Once healthy, he will be the first person to get a chance at the spot start.
Martin received some spot starts last season and failed to impress. He seemed to implode like clockwork in every fifth inning he got to as a starter. He has since moved to the starter where he appears to have a better chance to succeed and make the club. However, his experience as a starter gives the team flexibility where in an absolute crunch, he could start a game and give the bullpen at least a few innings of relief before they inevitably take it over.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez
The Fettuccine continues to be an enigma. Once originally thought to be signed for 6 year, $48 million commitment, he is now likely headed for Lehigh Valley for honing barring an unforeseen spring where he amazes everybody. He needs to prove something before he’s given a shot.
Nowhere near as heralded as top prospect Jesse Biddle, Buchanan is out of the mold of former emergency call-ups Kendrick, JA Happ, Vance Worley and Pettibone. Depending on how he performs with the Iron Pigs, he could see opportunities in the second half of the season if spots become available following the trade deadline.
Token veteran who will likely leave Clearwater and receive a spot in Lehigh Valley’s rotation. If Hamels is forced to miss more just a few starts in April, it could come down to Manship and Martin as to who will fill the spot in the meantime.