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Answering the Philadelphia Phillies biggest question: The Fifth Pitcher Spot

The biggest question mark for the Philadelphia Phillies is who will be the fifth man of the pitching rotation. One may guess the rotation this year will consist of mainstay ace Aaron Nola, Free agent signing Zack Wheeler, last years breakout player Zach Eflin, Jake Arrieta and either Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta.  That 5th and final rotation spot is a really competition between Pivetta and Velasquez, but we are going to look deeper at several candidates!

Potential Fifth Pitchers in Phillies rotation

Vince Velasquez

Vince Velasquez is most likely considered the number one contender for this job. Last year, Vince appeared 33 times, finishing with a 7-8 record with a 4.91 ERA, 117.1 Innings Pitched,130 strikeouts and 43 walks. It is worth noting Velasquez’s starting and bullpen splits.

Starting: 46 earned runs, 80.1 innings pitched, 5.17 ERA, 77 strikeouts, 23 Walks.


Bullpen: 18 earned runs, 37 innings pitched, 4.31 ERA, 53 Strikeouts, 20 Walks.


Just by looking at the statistics, its clear to see Vince is more effective as a pitcher. When the Phillies acquired Pitchers Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas, it allowed the Phillies to see more Velasquez’s effectiveness, who is at worst the 5th man and at best a fairly effective relief guy who can get you a lot of innings out of the pen.


Nick Pivetta

Nick Pivetta was everyone’s Breakout candidate last year. (Due to the advanced analytics) He returned that honour with a not so breakout season. Nick Logged 30 appearances with a 4-6 record, 93.2 innings over 13 starts logging a 5.38 ERA, with 89 Strikeouts and 39 walks. He, like Velasquez saw experimental bullpen time as well.


Starting: 70 innings pitched, 44 Earned runs, 5.66 ERA, 60 Strikeouts, 25 Walks.


Bullpen: 23.2 Innings Pitched, 12 Earned runs, 4.66 ERA, 29 Strikeouts, 14 Walks.


Once again, this is a tale of two different pitchers. Like Velasquez, Pivetta benefited greatly from bullpen pitching. He saw his strikeout rate rise and his ERA lower by a full 100 points. Plain and simple a 5.66 ERA as a starter is not serviceable. However, his 4.66 ERA while pitching from the bullpen is which why I make the case Pivetta could be an effective bullpen arm.


Ranger Suárez

Last season, Ranger Suárez played in his first full big league season as one of the Phillies top Bullpen arms. Ranger appeared out of the pen 37 times, logging 48.2 innings, a 6-1 record with 42 strikeouts, 12 walks and a 3.14 ERA. Suárez has a mixed history starting ball games. From 2014-2017 in minor league ball, Ranger’s ERA starting games ranged from 0.65-3.82, depending on level of ball being played (3.82 was at high A). After that stint, he moved to AA, where over 12 starts he had a 2.76 ERA. After moving up to AAA and recording an ERA of 2.74 over 9 starts, he was the fit for the Phillies rotation.

His promotion as a starting pitcher lead to a 5.40 ERA, and his demotion lead to a 5.68 ERA out of the bullpen. His mixed track record, while starting makes him a gamble but he has not had many chances to start games in the majors. But like the others, he has proven to be an arm that is a effective bullpen arm but lacks success as a starting pitcher.


Spencer Howard

Spencer Howard currently ranks as the MLB’s number 34 and the Phillies number two overall prospect, just behind slugger Alec Bohm. Howard is someone that most people believed with another month or two of strong performances, could be called up to the majors in the 2020 season. It seemed a given until the season was put on hold. Much like Alec Bohm, nobody is sure whether this speeds up or delays this process of them being brought up.

During his 2019 season, across four level,s Howard put up an impressive 2.03 ERA with 94 strikeouts and just 16 walks. Depending on how the season plays out, Howard could end up being the 5th man late in the season, at the start of the season or even have his debut delayed until 2021 where he would likely start the season in Philadelphia.


Honorable Mentions: Enyel De Los Santos, Adonis Medina

Medina currently ranks as the Phillies number five Prospect., behind two pitchers, Spencer Howard and Francisco Morales. While Howard is featured on this list, Morales is much younger, has a lot to prove and is very raw. Medina is also very raw and has had middling success at in high A and double A. Medina needs more time but with a full season was thought of as a potential September call up with that likely out of the question Medina seems very unlikely.

De Los Santos has been successful everywhere he threw in the minors, all as a starter. Much like Suárez, Enyel De Los Santos posted a 2.63 ERA in double A and seemed like a rotation fixture soon. However, in the Majors, albeit a short stint, in fives games he posted a 7.36 ERA. In short, he clearly wasn’t ready. He still has potential and a year starting at AAA would benefit De Los Santos. Therefore, as a 24 year old it may be viewed favorably to give him more time with this new season look. A year at AAA as a 24 year old and Majors at 25 would have been ideal for the Phillies and Enyel. However, that perfect world timeline is currently shattered leaving, De Los Santos’s MLB participation up in the air.

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