When he took the Phillies’ job, Dave Dombrowski made it his mission to acquire pitching depth for the Phillies, leaving no stone unturned. After reinforcing the bullpen with the acquisitions of Jose Alvarado, Sam Coonrod, and Archie Bradley, DD went after upgrades to the backend of the rotation. The rotation was wildly inconsistent behind their top three starters, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin, in 2020. The team was definitely in need of some depth behind them.
Ask and you shall receive, Phillies’ fans.
Signing Matt Moore and Chase Anderson for a combined $7 million were very shrewd moves to address rotation depth, but both come with their own risks. While Moore performed well over in Japan last year, his recent MLB performance hasn’t been good. Some will question if he can carry the success he had in Japan over the pond. Anderson has been one of the more consistent arms in the Majors from 2014-2019, but is coming off a down year in 2020 where he was absolutely pummeled by opposing hitters. He gave up 11 HRs in only 33.2 innings (though five of them were in a span of six batters against the Yankees).
While both are solid veterans who will help this team in 2020, neither have a rotation spot written in stone. In my estimation, Moore is likely to be in the rotation to add a lefty into the mix, something the Phillies haven’t had full time since 2016. However, Vince Velasquez, non-roster invitee Ivan Nova, Ranger Suarez, and top prospect Spencer Howard are looking to state their claim for a rotation spot.
Who will be pitching behind the top-three of Nola, Wheeler, and Eflin in 2021?
I think that it is kind of a trick question.
While I do expect that Moore and Anderson starts the season in the rotation as the fourth and fifth starters, respectively, I believe the team is going to take an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to pitching this year.
Vinny Velo has gotten plenty of opportunities in the rotation over the years. He hasn’t shown consistent results in the rotation, but will probably be called upon to start games at some point during the year. He seems like the most logical candidate for being the long man with his 2021 contract, but should stay stretched out in case he is needed in the rotation. Ivan Nova is hopefully just a body to have in camp and moving forward, but has plenty of experience starting in the Bigs, if needed.
Ranger Suarez will be pushed back to the rotation this season, according to multiple reports from within the organization. He is a real darkhorse to steal one of the spots with a strong Spring Training. He’s coming off a 2020 to forget, pitching to a 20.25 ERA, but I am sure it wasn’t easy dealing with the lingering effects of COVID-19. A version of Suarez closer to 2019 would immensely help this team in the upcoming season.
That brings us to Spencer Howard. The No. 2 ranked prospect in Full Scale Philly’s top-15 prospects list probably gets pushed to Triple-A with all these moves. That might be a blessing in disguise for the Phillies. Howard is only 24, but he is still incredibly raw in the rotation, having thrown only 211.1 professional innings before making his Major League debut last season. All that Howard needs moving forward is experience, and getting meaningful innings to start the season in Lehigh Valley is so valuable for a young pitcher. Not only is he is still getting innings, but starting in Triple-A will help the Phillies limit his workload.
A fresh Spencer Howard starting games down the stretch is a real weapon for this team to have in their back pocket. The Phillies will need all the weapons they can get to compete in the bloodbath that will be the NL East.
Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater in only nine days. Who’s ready for some baseball?