The Philadelphia Phillies are young, brash and can make a bold statement in 2017. But, everything falls on the arms of their pitching staff. If Aaron Nola can stay healthy and provide the Phillies with 30 starts, then the team has a shot. If Clay Buchholz can bring a little of that winning Red Sox attitude and Hellickson and Eickhoff can gain better control of the plate, then the Phillies will be just fine.
But, there is still a lingering hole that must be addressed. There are too many righties in the rotation. Management must find a way to add at least two veteran lefties the to the cast of right-handed pitchers to offset the power of the New York Mets and Washington Nationals lineups.
Here is the Philadelphia Phillies 2017 Projected Starting Rotation
Aaron Nola RHP
Despite the moves the Phillies made this offseason with their rotation, Nola is still the ace. 2016 was a down year for the young right-hander but you can expect a bounce-back campaign in 2017. For starters, the offense is much improved and Nola has another season under his belt. Remember Cole Hamels? His numbers as a Phillie were not that great but as the team began to score runs, Hamels confidence grew. Run support is key and so is health. If Nola can manage 30 starts with the improved offense behind him we should see a 15 win season. Nola is a strike thrower. In 111 innings he had 121 strikeouts. The one improvement I would like to see with Nola is his ability to go the distance. He has yet to pitch a CG or SHO. These are the keys that make pitchers great and give their team chances at the end. If Nola can give the Phillies a few 9 inning games in 2017, he would have earned the right to be called Hamels replacement.
Jeremy Hellickson RHP
Some may pencil Hellickson in as the Opening Day starter. If looking back at 2016 as the barometer, then he has earned that distinction, but it’s something about the power of Nola that sets the two apart. Hellboy is a solid pitcher all the way through. I would love to see him improve on his strikeouts but he’s durable and has the arm to go the distance for the Phillies in any game he starts. More than half of his starts in 2016 were Quality Starts proving that if given the support he could be looked upon as an ace. But, Hellboy is equally as dangerous as the 2nd pitcher and will provide the Phillies with a deadly 1-2-3 punch in the rotation.
Clay will be the Phillies’ secret weapon in 2017. I mean, he’s not new to MLB but this will be his first full season in the National League. The Phillies were short on arms and made the right decision by going with a veteran. Buchholz has pitched in big games, played in the American League East where the competition and atmosphere are playoff-like for a regular season game. This is the type of leadership this young staff needs. If Buchholz can muster close to 180 innings and provide at least 17-18 quality starts he will be of great service in that 3rd spot in the rotation. He’s not much of a strikeout pitcher but he does have the arm strength to give the team 7-8 solid innings a night
Jerad Eickhoff RHP
For all the talk of the young Philadelphia Phillies staff and how they have struggled, let’s take a moment to think about this. Their #4 starter won 11 games, pitched 191 innings and struck out 176 batters. While those are good numbers and his spot in the order gives the team breathing room at the backend of the rotation, Eickhoff still has two glaring issues. One, he has to find and keep his pitches in the strike zone. He walked 42 batters last season and that’s a concern due to the Phillies inabilities to score runs. Their pitches cannot continue to give free bases to hitters. My other concern is the home run ball. Eickhoff gave up 30 dingers in 2016 and that’s way too much even for a backend guy.[Kenny2]
Vince Velasquez RHP
The Philadelphia Phillies will find themselves in a tight spot in 2017. The arms are young but they are one-sided. The rotation does not have one single lefty. If the team is to make a move for the division then a move must be made. For now, Velasquez will man the 5th spot in the rotation. In 2016 the young righty started 24 games while pitching 131 innings with a staggering 152 strikeouts. Velasquez will get knocked around some but he has shown that he can bounce back after a tough inning or bad game. Velasquez is another pitcher that must get command of the strike zone as he walked 45 batters himself. I don’t expect Velasquez to stay in the rotation all season as the Phillies will look to add a lefty to the rotation.