A Look at the Phillies’ Fifth Starter Candidates
The Phillies are set at every position except for the #5 spot in the starting rotation, making it the only interesting battle going on in spring training. After his latest setback, Cole Hamels is unlikely to make his 2014 debut in April. As a result, the Phillies have pushed everyone up in the rotation. Kyle Kendrick is now a #3 and Roberto Hernandez is now a #4, not exactly the plan they had when spring training began in mid-February.
Over the next two weeks, the Phillies will be putting their fifth starter candidates to the test to see who is capable of treading water until Hamels is ready to return. Just who are these mysterious candidates?
The Phillies took Buchanan in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. The 24-year-old has spent four seasons in the Minors and got his first taste of Triple-A competition briefly last season, making six starts with Lehigh Valley. His numbers weren’t anything special — 14 percent strikeout rate, seven percent walk rate — but he did average six innings per start, which is always nice.
Buchanan uses a four-seam fastball that sits in the low 90′s along with a looping curve and a below-average change-up.
(Click on each picture to watch an animated .gif of his pitch)
As Eric Longenhagen noted to me in an email, Buchanan has “direct and simple” mechanics.
So far this spring, Buchanan has tossed six innings, allowing one run on three hits and a walk while striking out three. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes that Buchanan is one of the top two candidates to win the last spot in the rotation.
Manship, 29, has spent five years at the Major League level between the Twins and the Rockies. He has a 6.42 career ERA and 4.54 xFIP in 116 1/3 innings. He has struck out batters at a 14 percent rate and unintentionally walked them at an eight percent rate.
Manship is a four-pitch pitcher, using both a four- and two-seam fastball, a slider (MLBAM classifies it as a curve), and a change-up.
His four-seamer ranges from the high 80′s to the low 90′s, with the two-seamer between 1-2 MPH behind. The change-up comes in at 82-84 MPH and the slider 81-82.
Manship has allowed one run on four hits in seven innings of work in the spring thus far, striking out six and walking one. Zolecki has Manship as the other candidate, along with Buchanan, likely to win the final spot in the rotation.
O’Sullivan, 26, has pitched 218 2/3 innings in the big leagues with a 5.89 ERA and 5.23 xFIP. He has, by a hair, struck out more than he has walked unintentionally, 103 to 82. He has five pitches, mostly relying on a fastball, a slider, and a change-up:
As you can see, towards the latter half of 2013, he introduced a cutter which has slightly less velocity than his fastball. In 115 innings with Triple-A Tucson, the Padres’ affiliate, O’Sullivan’s struck out batters at a 20 percent clip and only walked batters at a six percent rate. In limited action with the Padres, he had better results despite continuing to walk batters at an ugly rate and not racking up nearly as many strikeouts.
O’Sullivan had thrown six shutout innings in the Grapefruit League before the Braves got to him on Tuesday afternoon. In his second inning of work in the fifth, Dan Uggla hit a solo home run. In the sixth, the Braves hit four singles, a triple, and a home-run for a five-run inning. The outing ballooned O’Sullivan’s spring ERA to 7.04. In seven and two-thirds innings, O’Sullivan has struck out six and walked one.
Hollands, 25, is a 6’5″, 205-pound left-hander taken in the tenth round of the 2010 draft by the Phillies. The lefty posted decent numbers last year between Single-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading, finishing with an aggregate 2.86 ERA with 114 strikeouts and 32 unintentional walks in 132 innings. He has reached Triple-A before, but only racked up 12 2/3 innings there in 2012.
Hollands has four pitches: a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a curve, and a change-up. The four-seamer sits in the 88-91 range while the two-seamer is in the low- to mid-80′s.
As you can see, he hides the ball well, which is one reason why his otherwise pedestrian stuff can play up at times. Long term, he might be a better fit in the bullpen, but it’s tough to see him consistently fooling Major League-caliber hitters. In Grapefruit League play thus far, Hollands has allowed one run — a long Dan Uggla home run — on four hits and three walks while striking out five in six and one-third innings of work.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez
The Phillies made their biggest splash into the international scene, signing Gonzalez to a three-year, $12 million deal last August. He has only made two appearances in the Grapefruit League thus far, allowing five runs in two and two-thirds innings, walking six and striking out two.
The Phillies haven’t used him since March 7, but could use him in today’s game against the Orioles. It’s safe to say his chances of ending up at the back of the rotation are slim. He’ll start the season in the Minors and if he performs well enough, could get a taste of the big leagues later in the season.