Predicting the Phillies Starting Rotation Order

The 2017 Phillies feel unique among rebuilding teams in that their starting pitching rotation is likely to be 80 percent the same as it was the previous season. Potential building blocks like Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez are all back. For better or worse, Jeremy Hellickson is back as well after accepting the Phillies’ qualifying offer instead of testing the free agency waters. The only difference in the rotation is not the arrival of a top prospect or big free agent intended to vault the team closer to contention. It’s just Clay Buchholz replacing Charlie Morton. At risk of oversimplification, Buchholz and Morton are, in the grand scheme, more or less the same: veteran pitchers with histories of injuries and inconsistency acquired on the cheap.

With that level of similarity between the 2016 and 2017 pitching rotations, it shouldn’t be surprising that manager Pete Mackanin has suggested another similarity between 2016 and 2017: Jeremy Hellickson is the likely opening day starter. This builds on what is a growing trend of boring announcements coming from the Phillies, beginning with the revelation that Jeanmar Gomez would likely be the team’s closer once again. The selection is not without merit. After all, one could reasonably argue that Hellickson was the team’s best starter in 2016, though Jerad Eickhoff has a similarly compelling case and Aaron Nola’s peak performance was undoubtedly better than both. Even if Hellickson is truly the best pitcher on the team–and it’s very possible he is–having him as the team’s nominal number one starter feels somehow disappointing. Continue reading…