Around the System–Starting Pitching

Plenty to talk about when looking at starting pitching throughout the organization. Several moves I would consider over the next few weeks.  I am one, that would love to see Aaron Nola in Lehigh Valley for a half a dozen starts before a September debut with the Phillies.  I also share the growing mind set that Jesse Biddle needs to be moved, if for no other reason than to give him a change in scenery and a new voice.   In Clearwater, Mark Leiter is ready for a new challenge with Brandon Leibrandt perhaps just a bit behind as it would be nice for him to get several more High A starts under his belt before moving on to the next challenge.

Lehigh Valley

Phillippe Aumont, 26, Acquired from Seattle in 2010; 12 games (8 starts); 2-3 with a 2.35ERA; 53.2IP 38H 33BB 42K; 2HR allowed; .201 opp avg; 1.32 WHIP; 1.04 GO/AO; 5.5BB/7.0K per 9; .240 vs. LH, .175 vs. RH, .107 opp avg with RISP. 6 May starts, 1-2 with a 2.64ERA, 1.37 WHIP.  Aumont has a line that is both real exciting and at the same time, real troubling.  Often, he cant be hit.  More often, the opposition doesn’t need too.

Jason Berken, 31, Signed as a free agent in 2015; 11 games (4 starts); 3-2 with a 3.89 ERA: 41.2IP 45H 13BB 31K; 4HR allowed; .276 opp avg; 1.39 WHIP; 0.80 GO/AO; 2.1BB/6.7K per 9; .297 vs. LH, .263 vs. RH, .167 opp avg with RISP.  Berken has done just what he was brough in for.  Solid in both the bullpen and in his spot starts.

Adam Morgan, 25, Phils 3rd round pick in 2011; 10 starts, 0-5 with a 5.33ERA; 54IP 67H 19BB 27K; 6HR allowed; .306 opp avg; 1.59 WHIP; 0.78 GO/AO; 3.2BB/4.5K per 9; .304 vs. LH, .306 vs. RH,  .298 with RISP.  It has been ugly all around for Morgan as he attempts to return from a significant injury that cost him most of the last two years.

Joely Rodriguez, 23, Acquired from Pittsburgh in 2014; 11 starts, 2-5 with a 5.76ERA; 59.1IP 75H 28BB 27K; 4.2BB/4.1K per 9; .315 opp avg; 1.74 WHIP; 1.36 GO/AO; .327 LH, .312 RH, May: 5 starts, 2-2 with a 3.69ERA.  His May improved over an awful April but he has been one of the worst starters in the International League.

Anthony Vasquez, 28, Signed as a free agent in 2015; 12 games (6 starts) between Reading and Lehigh Valley; 4-1 with a 1.90ERA; 1 save; 47.1IP 32H 12BB 32K; 2HR allowed; 2.3BB/6.1K per 9; .199 opp avg; 0.93 WHIP; 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA for Lehigh Valley.  Vasquez has been excellent in each role he has been placed in this year for both Reading and Lehigh Valley.  He has been a journeyman, but perhaps time to take notice.


Zach Eflin, 21, Acquired from San Diego in 2015; 10 starts; 3-3 with a 3.38ERA; 61.1IP 53H 14BB 27K 6HR allowed; .229 opp avg; 1.09 WHIP; 1.07 GO/AO; 2.1BB/4.0K per 9; .275 vs. LH, .194 vs. RH; .289 with RISP;  2-3 with a 4.89ERA in May.  One awful start really inflated Eflin’s numbers.  He has been very impressive, but still needs more AA seasoning.

Jesse Biddle, 23, Phils 1st round pick in 2010; 9 starts; 4-1 with a 4.50ERA; 46IP 49H 22BB 32K; 2HR allowed; 4.3BB/6.3K per 9; .274 opp avg; 1.54 WHIP; 1.02 GO/AO; .250 vs. LH, .283 vs. RH, .226 with RISP; 1-1 with a 5.47ERA in May.  The walk/K ratio will simply not allow for long term success.  His command continued to need significant fine tuning.  Count me within the growing faction that believes Biddle should be “promoted” to Lehigh Valley for no other reason than to give him a change of scenery and a different voice to listen to.

Aaron Nola, 21, Phils 1st round pick in 2014; 11 starts; 7-3 with a 1.76ERA; 71.2IP 54H  8BB 54K; 3HR allowed; 1.0BB/6.8K per 9; .214 opp avg; 0.87 WHIP; 0.91 GO/AO; .188 vs. LH, .236 vs. RH, .158 with RISP; Last 7 starts: 5-1 with a 1.34 ERA.  Ill keep this short.  Simply dominant.

Ben Lively, 23, Acquired from Cinncinati in 2015; 10 starts; 4-3 with a 3.79ERA; 59.1IP 60H 16BB 44K; 6HR allowed; .268 opp avg; 1.28 WHIP; 0.73 GO/AO; 2.4BB/6.7K per 9; .293 vs. LHP; .241 vs. RHP; .173 with RISP; 3-2 with a 5.09ERA in 6 May starts.  Lively started very strong and had a difficult May, being victimized by the HR ball often.  Including last years 13 starts at AA in the Reds organization, Lively has now made 22 AA starts.  Should be staying here for a while.

Tom Windle, 23, Acquired from Dodgers in 2013; 10 starts, 1-3 with a 4.44ERA; 50.2IP 46H 30BB 35K; 3HR allowed; 5.3BB/6.2K per 9; .253 opp avg; 1.50 WHIP; 1.26 GO/AO; .227 vs. LH, .267 vs RH, .277 with RISP; 4.23 ERA in 6 May starts.  Windle is going to be stuck at AA until his walk rate dramatically improves.  He has talent, it’s simply a matter of allowing fewer baserunners thru free passes.


Brandon Leibrandt, 22, Phils 6th round pick in 2014 draft; 11 starts, 5-2 with a 3.13ERA; 1CG; 69IP; 56H 13BB 58K; 3HR allowed; .227 opp avg; 1.00 WHIP; 1.15 GO/AO; 1.7BB/7.6K per 9; .232 vs. LH, .225 vs. RH, .341 with RISP; 4-1 with a 3.29ERA in May.  Leibrandt has thrown very well.  Rough one Wednesday night but an excellent body of work.  With Leiter, he is right there as one of the leading candidates for promotion to Reading.

David Whitehead, 23, Phils 34th round pick in 2013 draft; 10 starts, 2-6 with a 4.04ERA; 55.2IP 60H 18BB 48K; 6HR allowed; .276 opp avg; 1.40 WHIP;2.9BB/7.8K per 9;  2.20 GO/AO; .259 vs. LH, .287 vs. RH; .203 with RISP; In May: 1-4 with a 4.78 ERA in 6 starts.  Whitehead has turned in a workmanlike performance over the seasons first two months.  The home run ball has hurt him.

Colin Kleven, 24, Phils 33rd round pick in 2009 draft  10 starts, 4-3 with a 3.40ERA; 53IP 53H 14BB 41K; 8HR allowed; .265 opp avg; 1.26 WHIP; 1.31 GO/AO; 2.4BB/7.0K per 9; .246 vs. LH, .275 vs. RH, .226 with RISP; 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA in May.  Kleven has been excellent as of late, showing command and confidence.  Now playing parts of his 3rd season in Clearwater, the hope would be to see him in Reading before the end of the year.

Victor Arano, 20, Acquired from Dodgers in 2014; 8 starts; 0-6 with a 6.46ERA; 39IP 47H 10BB 22K; 2HR allowed; 2.3BB/5.1K per 9; .303 opp avg; 1.46 WHIP; 0.76 GO/AO; .394 vs LH, .236 vs RH, .282 with RISP; Arano has really struggled all season after missing the first three weeks or so injured.

Mark Leiter, 24, Phils 22nd round pick in 2013 draft; 12 games (6 starts); 3-1 with a 1.75ERA; 1 save; 56.2IP 38H 11BB 53K; 1HR allowed; .188 opp avg; 0.86 WHIP; 0.78 GO/AO; 1.7BB/8.4K per 9; .186 vs. LH, .190 vs. RH; 1.34 ERA in 5 May starts; .263 with RISP.  Leiter has been as dominating as any pitcher in the organization since he returned to the starting rotation.  At 24, simply no reason to pigeon-hole him at Clearweater.  Challenge him at Reading, even if it means the bullpen until a rotation spot opens up.


Ranfi Casimiro, 22, Signed as a free agent in 2010; 9 starts, 2-4 with a 3.17ERA; 54IP 48H 10BB 31K; .240 opp avg; 1.07 WHIP; 0.85 GO/AO; 1.7BB/5.2K per 9; .259 vs. LH, .227 vs. RH, .217 opp avg last 30 days; .256 with RISP.  After 25 starts in Lakewood last year, Casimiro has begun to show real improvement.

Elneiry Garcia, 20, Signed as a free agent in 2010; 8 starts, 2-5 with a 3.65ERA; 44.1IP 46H 14BB 28K; .274 opp avg; 1.35 WHIP; 1.63 GO/AO; 2.8BB/5.7K per 9; .167 vs. LH, .310 vs. RH, .298 with RISP;   His splits against lefties and righties is what is noticeable here.  Just 20, Garcia has work to do and the potential to do it.

Chris Oliver, 21, Phils 4th round pick in 2014 draft; 8 starts, 2-4 with a 2.93ERA; 46IP 48H 18BB 22K; .273 opp avg; 1.43 WHIP; 1.40 GO/AO; 3.5BB/4.3K per 9; .303 vs. LH, .250 vs. RH, .186 with RISP; In May: 5 starts: 2.90 ERA, 1.39 WHIP.  The ERA looks very nice but the peripherals are less nice. For Oliver to have sustained success he will quite simply need to walk fewer and strike out more hitters.

Ricardo Pinto, 21, Signed as a free agent in 2011; 9 starts, 5-1 with a 2.68ERA; 57IP 51H 13BB 54K; 3HR allowed; .239 opp avg; 1.12 WHIP; 1.04 GO/AO; 2.1BB/8.5K per 9; .203 vs. LH; .255 vs. RH; .158 with RISP; 3-1 with a 2.90 ERA in May.  Pinto has been consistently outstanding.  Having not thrown more than 69 innings in one season, I think the Phils will try to keep Pinto around 110 this year.

Josh Taylor, 22, Signed as a free agent in 2014; 9 starts, 2-4 with a 5.48ERA; 44.1IP 52H 16BB 50K; 4HR allowed; .291 opp avg; 1.53 WHIP; 1.42 GO/AO; 3.2BB/10.2K per 9; .257 vs. LH, .299 vs. RH, .294 with RISP; 1-3 with a 7.25 ERA in May.  Other than a very good start last Saturday, Taylor had a very poor May.  His K rate is one of the highest in the organization, however he is still learning “the art of pitching”.

Tyler Viza, 20, Phils 32nd round pick in 2013; 9 starts; 4-1 with a 3.23ERA; 53IP 45H 14BB 42K; 6HR allowed; .226 opp avg; 1.11 WHIP; 1.04 GO/AO; 2.4BB/7.1K per 9; .185 vs. LH, .254 vs. RH; .290 with RISP; 0-1 with a 3.04 ERA in 4 May starts.  After going 3-17 with an ERA over 5 last year for Lakewood, Viza has been one of 2015’s early success stories.  Still just 20, he is showing the potential the Phillies apparently saw as they continued to run him out there last year.


18 thoughts on “Around the System–Starting Pitching

  1. Looks pretty solid up and down I say Nola and Biddle get promoted to LHV. Leiter and Ledebrant take their place and Pinto and Casimiro go up to CLW

  2. I don’t see any reason to think that the Phils will promote Biddle or that he, in any way, deserves it. Send one of the roving Pitching coaches to talk to him if he needs a fresh voice. But, I don’t think his problems are coaching. I root for him, but at some point he has to step up his game, but he just keeps falling down the prospect list.

    1. Agreed that Biddle probably doesn’t deserve to be promoted, but in the long run, it’s not really about what he deserves but, rather what will best facilitate his development. I think a change of scenery would help him and perhaps some different coaching. I highly doubt he’ll be less effective in AAA than he is in AA – he needs to settle in, feel good about himself and get on a roll. The underlying stuff is still there although, obviously, the longer he struggles, the less likely it becomes that he makes it as a regular in a major league rotation. I would promote him and give it a shot – Leibrandt or Leiter can take his place in the AA rotation.

    2. I remember when Carlos Carrasco had to repeat Reading a few times, and was still struggling, the Phillies decided to challenge him by promoting him to Lehigh Valley years ago.

  3. Of everyone listed above, I’m most impressed with the improvement of Tyler Viza.

    Pinto and Leiter are right behind in exceeding my expectations.

    Lively is the one with whom I’m most disappointed.

  4. You could be right on Biddle, Catch. I hope he does well, but it just seems that his development has lost all traction. Fallen behind Nola, Lively and Eflin, in my opinion. If challenging him at AAA, or just getting him to a different place helps, I am all for it. Leibrandt and Leiter both deserve promotions.

  5. I saw Charlie Manuel this morning on Comcast. They asked him about the pitching talent in Reading. He said they have “three or four guys who will be in the Majors.” Interesting. Not 4-5? I think we have a reasonable idea about the first 3 (Nola, Elfin and Lively) but CM isn’t sure about one and one isn’t going to make it.

    For what it’s worth, Charlie said he was excited with the bats from Crawford and Quinn but I was a little surprised how positive he was towards Knapp.

  6. Many of these guys have possible futures in philly in a reliever role. I think someone like Taylor could excel in that role since he’s been very good the first time through. Arano also possibly. As a starter, I obviously like what I see from Pinto and have high hopes for Garcia. I’m off Biddle for now but Eflin and Lively both look to me like they could be future big league starters at some point. Nola is a given. Leibrandt and Leiter are good stories and I’d like to see how they do in AA but neither throws hard enough to get me excited yet.

    1. You think Morgan will be let go?
      He has struggled.
      Maybe the Phillies will give him a little more time.

      1. Either that or the bullpen. Rodriquez is too young. Vasquez is flashing something that says keep him around. Aumont could get shifted to the bullpen.

        Either way you need to free up two rotation spots so that Biddle and Nola get the call every five games.

        Eflin and Lively should be pushing to start in AAA next year or late this year if Nola moves up to Philadelphia.

        You could move Morgan/Aumont to the pen and then back to the rotation when Nola gets the call if either Eflin or Lively are not ready to move.

      2. I don’t think Morgan is in danger as long as his fastball is still a reasonable velo. It’s the first time he’s pitched in two years and he’s only made 10 starts. I’m still more concerned with his health than his results at this point and I imagine the Phillies are too.

  7. With the amount of pitching behind them and the respective ages of Aumont and Morgan there is pressure to either get up to the majors or find themselves out of the organization.

    Vasquez knows that this year is pretty much his final shot; after this year he becomes org filler in the eyes of teams.

    1. I think Vasquez is pretty much already org filler. Maybe he gets back to the majors in a Cesar Jimenez kind of role. Being 3 years older than Morgan and possessing inferior stuff to Aumont puts him behind both of those guys for me.

      Not saying there’s no pressure on the other guys, especially Aumont, but I don’t think they’re in any immediate danger even if Nola gets promoted soon. Berken should be the first to get forced out of the rotation.

  8. I admire the Phils continue to allow Biddle to try and figure it out as a starter, but his path to the majors is out of the pen. He has the capability to be a late inning power arm from the left side. One scout told me he thought the Phils should move him to the pen now, and he’ll be in the Phils pen by September . Let him have success in 2016 in Philly out of the bullpen, and then consider trying him again as a starter in 2017.

    1. I’m rooting for him, but i’m beginning to think that he’ll never get it together, and be a bust. Hopefully he’ll start to pitch better soon, and make it to the Phillies as a starting pitcher, which would be my preference.

    2. I think what affects Biddle will be waiting for him in pen if they go that route. I think we are just dealing with player who doesn’t think he can throw enough strikes.

  9. Where are the key? Disappointing that only Taylor exceeds 1 per inning. Others not are not even close to that benchmark.

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