The strength of the Phillies system for the past few years has been right handed starting pitching. In 2010 the Lakewood rotation of Trevor May, Jarred Cosart, Brody Colvin, Jonathan Pettibone, and Julio Rodrgiuez were dubbed the “Baby Ace”. Since then, the only guy to survive trades and decline has been Jonathan Pettibone, but he has been joined by some interesting arms.
As I started to write up the right handed pitchers it became clear that their is two sets of right handed starters in the Phillies system, one is more advanced, usually composed of pitchers in the high minors or college pitchers, the other group which will be addressed in the next post are the rawer younger pitchers who still haven’t made it above low A-ball.
Just a reminder that when evaluating any young pitcher that there are many things that can go wrong. We still do not fully understand what causes pitchers to break down and often it can be unpredictable and sudden. Additionally many starter will not develop the necassary control or secondary pitches to stay in a rotation and their future may be in a bullpen.
Ethan Martin (23) – Going into 2012 Martin was a failed prospect, a former first round pick who struggled greatly with his control. Martin rebounded in 2012 and was obtained from the Dodgers in exchange for Shane Victorino. Martin has a fastball that can sit anywhere from 91-97 and has good late life, this is paired with a sharp cutter-like slider, and a changeup that flashes good late life. Martin still struggles with control and his issues can come in spurts where he will overthrow his fastball and fail to keep it in the zone. If he can continue to improve his control Martin could be a mid-rotation starter who could be a #2 if he can also add consistency to his off-speed pitches, if not he has a future has a high leverage reliever with a good fastball/slider combination. Martin will start the year in the AAA rotation and could be ready by late 2013, but it is likely that he will need the whole season before being a contender for a rotation spot in 2014.
Jonathan Pettibone (22) – Pettibone has less upside than any other top prospect in the system, but he has the highest floor of any pitcher. Pettibone’s fastball sits in the low-90s and has good sink, he also has an average slider, and a plus changeup, also late in the season he started throwing a cutter which showed plus potential. Pettibone is durable with a good repeatable delivery that also allows him to have plus command and control. The issue that holds Pettibone back as a starter is his lack of a strikeout pitch, which could limit his upside at the major league level. Pettibone profiles as a mid-to-back of the rotation starter who should provide 200IP a year at his prime, there is a chance that he add enough to be a very good #3 starter. Pettibone should be ready to contribute by Spring Training but it is likely that he goes to AAA to bide his time for a spot to open up for him.
Tyler Cloyd (25) – Cloyd had a breakout 2012, but he did it without a tick up in his stuff. Cloyd’s fastball rarely breaks 90 and he compliments it with a solid cutter and change, as well as an average curveball, but none of the pitches profile as a put away pitch. Cloyd has a good delivery which gives his pitches good movement and above average but not plus command. Cloyd could make a career as a #5 starter but he will always be on the edge of disaster if he is not perfect. Cloyd will compete for the #5 starter position as well as the long man role, if he does not crack the major league staff he will return to LHV to try and refine his command.
Austin Hyatt (26) – Hyatt was supposed to be major league ready as a #5 starter by the middle of the 2012 season, instead Hyatt regressed and was demoted down to AA. Hyatt has an average fastball and slider that he pairs with a plus changeup and control. Hyatt has little margin for error and much of his success has come from deception in his delivery. Hyatt will have to prove quickly that he can still be a #5 starter going forward, if not his future is a move to the bullpen to see if the stuff will play up enough to give him a major league future.
Brody Colvin (22) – Colvin has been a complete enigma the past two seasons, he was dominant in 2010 and has been horrible since. The stuff is still there to be a good starting pitcher with a mid 90s fastball with natural sink to go with an above average curveball and changeup. The problem has been command and control, Colvin has struggled to find the strike zone and when he does, the ball has been crushed. Colvin showed some improvement when moved to the bullpen, but a late season promotion to AA was disastrous. If Colvin can harness is command to be at least below average he could be a back of a bullpen, high leverage reliever with excellent stuff, he will need to make huge strides to stick as a starter, but if he does his ceiling is high as a front of the rotation starter but that is just a far away dream. Colvin will likely start in the Reading rotation in 2013 in what is his last chance to stick in a rotation.
Kevin Brady (22) – A 2012 draft pick, Brady dominated short season ball. He has a mid-90s fastball and a promising slider and changeup, but both are inconsistent at this time. If he sticks as a starter, Brady profiles as a #4 starter, if he struggles to improve his secondary offerings, Brady could move very quickly as a power arm reliever. Brady will likely go to Clearwater to start and will likely have a year or two to prove himself as a starter.
David Buchanan (23) – Buchanan had a good 2011 but a finger injury derailed his 2012. Buchanan has a low 90s fastball and a plus slider but his changeup needs plenty of work. His command has struggled at times and he does not miss enough bats to be really effective. There is a chance that Buchanan could be a back of the rotation starter but his future is likely in the bullpen where he could be a good middle reliever. Buchanan will struggle to crack a rotation because of the better prospects around him in Reading, if he makes the move to the bullpen he could be ready by late 2013 to contribute to the big league club.
Perci Garner (24) – Garner was a raw pitcher when the Phillies took him in the second round of the 2010 draft. In 2012 he struggled with BB rate spiking and his K rate plummeting. Garner has a mid-90s fastball and a sharp curveball, a combination that should play up in short spurts. Garner is destined as a power arm reliever who could have setup upside, the Phillies may keep him in the rotation in 2013 to give him innings to refine his command and off speed pitches. Either way Garner will start 2013 in Reading.
Julio Rodriguez (22) – Before 2012, JRod’s numbers defied his stuff, but he struggled in his AA debut. JRod has a hi-80s fastball with natural cut, a loopy curveball, a hard slider, and average changeup. Unlike most soft tossing righties JRod has average control, but he has consistently missed bats, even when struggling. His delivery has natural deception to it and he has a good feel for pitch sequencing. JRod could be a back of the rotation starter but it is likely that he goes to the bullpen where his stuff might play up and he will have plenty of success if he maintains his strikeout rates. JRod will likely begin 2013 in the AAA rotation but could be moved to the bullpen quickly if he continues to struggle.
Colin Kleven (21) – There is little scouting reports on Kleven except that he sports of a low 90s fastball and that is mechanics have been inconsistent at best. Kleven seems destined for the bullpen where his strikeout rates should tick up enough to be effective. Until then the Phillies are committed to developing him as a starter to get him innings and he will start in the Clearwater rotation.
Will Martin build on his 2012 improvements or will he regress to his previous levels?
Are any of the soft tossers #5 starters or are they all destined to fight for middle relief?
Who emerges as power arm relievers when they are moved to the bullpen?
Can Pettibone succeed without a strikeout pitch?