Around the System–Starting Pitching, LV, REA, CW

A look at starting pitching in the upper parts of the organization.

Lehigh Valley

Aaron Nola, 22, Phils 1st round pick in 2014; 16 starts between Reading and Lehigh Valley; 10-3 with a 1.97ERA; 100.1IP 83H 14BB 83K; 5HR allowed; .230 opp avg; 0.97 WHIP; 1.2BB/7.5K per 9;  For Lehigh Valley, 4 starts, 3-0 with a 2.28ERA; .264 opp avg; 1.23 WHIP; .231 vs LH, .288 vs RH.  You cant ask for much more out of Nola.  He has impressed consistently all season long.

Severino Gonzalez, 22, Signed as a free agent in 2010; 9 starts for Lehigh Valley, 1-4 with a 4.38ERA; 51.1IP 53H 12BB 27K; 5HR allowed; 2.1BB/4.7K per 9; .268 opp avg; 1.27 WHIP; 0.65 GO/AO; .282 vs LH, .257 vs RH, .250 last 30 days.  Gonzalez has bounced back and forth between Philly and Lehigh Valley and has taken a beating in the big leagues.  Just 22, he needed this full season to develop in AAA and hasn’t been given that opportunity.

Anthony Vasquez, 28, Signed as a free agent in 2015; 17 games (11 starts) between Reading and Lehigh Valley; 5-3 with a 3.95ERA; 70.2IP 63H 26BB 46K; 3.3BB/5.9K per 9; .246 opp avg; 1.26 WHIP; 0.97 GO/AO; For LV: 9 starts, 4-3 with a 4.96ERA; 45.1IP 43H 21BB 31K; .254 opp avg; 1.41 WHIP; 4.2BB/6.2K per 9; .306 vs LH, .241 vs RH, .326 last month.  After pitching very well in Reading and equally well in his first few outings in AAA, Vazquez has struggled of late.

Jason Berken, 31, Signed as a free agent in 2015; 17 games (8 starts); 5-5 with a 3.33ERA; 73.1IP 73H 21BB 48K; 2.6BB/5.9K per 9; .262 opp avg; 1.29 WHIP; 0.95 GO/AO; .262 vs LH, .261 vs RH; .222 last 30 days;  Berken is 4-2 with a 2.27ERA as a starter and has been one of the rare pitchers who have performed consistently well for the ‘Pigs this year.  No reason that Berken shouldnt get a shot with the big club this year based on his performance, the fact that he has major league experience and the further fact that the Phils desperately need someone to eat innings.

David Buchanan, 26, Phils 7th round pick in 2010; 4 starts, 2-0 with a 2.53ERA; 21.1IP 28H 4BB 14K; 1.7BB/5.9K per 9; .311 opp avg; 1.50 WHIP; 1.29 GO/AO; Buchanan just returned with a very good start after missing close to two months with a significant ankle sprain.  With three or four good starts, he will quickly be back in Philly.


Zach Eflin, 21, Acquired from Padres in 2015; 14 starts, 5-4 with a 2.88ERA; 84.1IP 77H 16BB 42K; .244 opp avg; 1.10 WHIP; 1.11 GO/AO; 1.7BB/4.5K per 9; .308 vs LHP; .189 vs RH; .286 last 30 days; 6 HR allowed; .302 with RISP.  The bottom line from Eflin looks very good. Absent one awful outing, the bottom line would be excellent.

Ben Lively, 23, Acquired from Reds in 2015; 16 starts, 7-6 with a 3.76ERA; 95.2IP 100H 31BB 66K; 8HR allowed; .279 opp avg; 1.37 WHIP; 0.91 GO/AO; 2.9BB/6.2K per 9; .291 vs LH, .269 vs RH, .296 last 30 days; .203 with RISP.  Lively’s performance with RISP accounts for his low ERA which he should be lauded for.  His peripherals otherwise are adequate but nothing spectacular.

Jesse Biddle, 23, Phils 1st round pick in 2010; 15 starts, 7-2 with a 4.24ERA; 80.2IP 90H 34BB 57K; .288 opp avg; 1.54 WHIP; 1.02 GO/AO; 3.8BB/6.4K per 9; .284 vs LH, .290 vs RH, .306 last 30 days; .229 with RISP;  Some days outstanding, other days brutal spells mediocrity in the long run. Now with 58 starts at the AA level, there is nothing left to do in Reading.  Biddle would benefit from a new voice at AAA.

Mark Leiter, 24, Phils 22nd round pick in 2013; 18 games (12 starts) between CLearwater and Reading; 4-4 with a 2.36ERA, 1 save; 91.2IP 75H 22BB 77K; .224 opp avg; 1.06 GO/AO; 0.72 GO/AO; 2.2BB/7.6K per 9.  For Reading: 4 starts, 1-3 with a 3.52ERA; .284 opp avg; 1.39 WHIP.  Leiter has generally been very impressive all year, first working his way out of the Clearwater bullpen into their rotation and then out of CLearwater completely to AA.  A 22nd round pick, but I am not convinced the Phils don’t have something here, albeit likely in a bullpen role.

Colin Kleven, 24, Phils 33rd round pick in 2009; 15 starts between Clearwater and Reading; 6-4 with a 3.66ERA; 83.2IP 78H 24BB 64K; 4HR allowed; .253 opp avg; 1.22 WHIP; 1.02 GO/AO; 2.6BB/6.9K per 9; Kleven has been one of 2015’s nice surprises, pitching extremely well for CLearwater before his promotion to Reading.  For Reading, he has had one excellent start, followed by a poor one.


Victor Arano, 20, Acquired from Dodgers in 2015; 14 starts, 3-7 with a 4.44ERA; 73IP 70H 13BB 36K; .254 opp avg; 1.14 WHIP; 0.76 GO/AO; 1.6BB/4.4K per 9; .360 vs LH, .203 vs RH, .200 last 30 days; .263 with RISP; 3.03 ERA since June 1.  After a very rough beginning, Arano has really come into his own as of late.  His command is very good.

David Whitehead, 23, Phils 34th round pick in 2013; 16 starts; 5-7 with a 4.34ERA; 87IP 96H 27BB 64K; .285 opp avg; 1.44 WHIP; 1.78 GO/AO; 3.0BB/6.6K per 9; .286 vs LH, .284 vs RH, .300 last 30 days, .253 with RISP; Whitehead’s workload has already increased over last year and it will be telling to see how he holds up after missing 2013 injured.  He had been moderately effective.  It will be interesting to see how his workload is managed.

Matt Imhof, 21, Phils 2nd round pick in 2014; 7 starts, 3-3 with a 4.50ERA; 28IP 25H 17BB 15K; .258 opp avg; 1.50 WHIP; 1.74 GO/AO; 5.5BB/4.8K per 9; .206 vs LH, .286 vs RH, .262 last 30 days. Imhof missed about 2 months of the early going on the disabled list and has begun showing signs of real life but the bottom line has been concerning.  His bb/k ratio is extremely problematic.  Just 21, he has time to turn it around.

Ricardo Pinto, 21, Signed as a free agent in 2011; 14 starts between Lakewood and CLearwater; 8-3 with a 3.03ERA; 86IP 82H 22BB 70K; .255 opp avg; 1.21 WHIP; 0.95 GO/AO; 2.3BB/7.3K per 9; For Clearwater: 3 stars, 2-1, 2.84ERA; 1.11WHIP.  Pinto continues rising up the Phils prospects charts with consistent improvement as he moves from level to level.  Very little negative to discuss with Pinto who I would expect to spend the balance of the year in CLearwater, with his work load beginning to be monitored after making just 9 starts for Williamsport last year.

Brandon Leibrandt,22, Phils 6th round pick in 2014; 13 starts; 5-2 with a 2.84ERA; 76IP 60H 13BB 66K; .221 opp avg; 0.96 WHIP; 1.5BB/7.8K per 9; Leibrandt is about ready to come off the DL after missing close to a month.  Prior to his DL stint he was outstanding and probably on the verge of a Reading call up prior to his injury.  With the setback, expect Leibrandt to make several starts in CLearwater before the potential for a Reading promotion comes again.


62 thoughts on “Around the System–Starting Pitching, LV, REA, CW

  1. In the wake of O’Sullivan’s demotion, Jake Kaplan at speculates on replacement for Saturday’s game in SF: “…perhaps the Phillies will promote top pitching prospect Aaron Nola, whose fifth day falls on Thursday, and have him pitch on a week’s rest? Tuesday should provide more clarity.”

    This would obviously be an exciting, but not appropriate move to me.

  2. Other than to try to sell tickets to a fan-base looking for something on a bad team, there is no logical reason to promote Nola at this point.

    He makes sense as a September call-up followed by starting in AAA in 2016 with a promotion when he’s ready, most likely right about the date when he loses super-2 status.

    1. That seems like an excessively long time to wait for somebody who’s ready to be in a MLB rotation. I can almost buy getting that extra year of control, but the Phillies should not be concerned with super-2 status.

      1. Mid-May is the date to get the extra year of control. For a team that won’t be ready to compete in 2016 either, waiting 6-week is nothing.

        1. I would also question that he’s ready to be in a ML rotation. His innings need to be controlled in 2015.

          1. It’s just as easy to control them in the ML Rotation. And if you’re not keeping his innings down enough in Lehigh Valley, he’ll be close to his innings limit (170, I think) before he’s even called up in September. So what’s the point in even calling him up then? You might as well let him finish the year in Lehigh Valley and call him up mid-April, still delaying his Arb Clock by a year.

            The reason to bring him up within the next month is to keep him challenged and let him make his adjustments to MLB hitters in this waste of a season with zero pressure. You don’t want to stagnate his progress.

  3. If Pinto finishes the season strong, would he start next year in Reading or back in Clearwater with perhaps a June callup to Reading if things keep going well for him?

    1. I think if he finishes strong, he would start next season in Reading if he has a solid ST.

      1. We don’t talk much about Leibrandt, but perhaps we should. He’s always been one of my favorites and I like him more than Imhof and have since last summer. We will know much, much more about Leibrandt after he’s made about 6 or 7 starts for Reading which is where starting pitching prospects are put to a truly difficult test – just ask Jesse Biddle. If Leibrandt has half the moxie his father had (and it looks like he does), he’ll make it to the majors at some point and will stick – probably as a really good #4, which would be an excellent return for a 7th round pick.

        1. I strongly agree with this optimism. Charlie was a great example of success while lacking velocity in the majors and Brandon is showing definite signs he can follow in that path.

          1. I wish we could stop giving certain prospects so much credit for what their dads did in the majors and just evaluate them based on their own merits. What I’d like to know about Leibrandt is: how good is his breaking ball? He’s going to need at least a solid one to be a starter.

  4. You know the major league rotation is bad when I’m hoping that David Buchanan can get back soon.

    I’m not really sure what to make of Arano. It’s great that he’s been effective lately but I wonder what’s keeping him from getting more strikeouts. He must really be focused on pounding the zone.

    1. Think about it. Harang is out and will probably be traded. Hamels will almost certainly be traded. And I’m not sure Nola is going to be called up before September, if at all (nor should he be). So when these things happen, you will, for a short time anyway, be looking at one of the worst major league starting staffs in recent memory which will combine with horrible hitting to produce a second half club that will be lucky to win 25 out of about 80 games. So we could be looking at like a 110-115 loss team.

      I promise you, however, that when MacPhail turns things around with Franco and J.P. Crawford somebody (and probably several people, actually) will argue how these players were produced by Amaro and that Amaro was a good GM but was taken off track by Dave Montgomery. People will say these things. And when they do, I will do everything humanly possible to control my disbelieving rage and keep my head from exploding.

      1. Why can’t you give credit where credit is due? Amaro saw we needed talent and is signing it at the Latin American level and made trades for young pitching and our future pitching staff looks good so far. The positional players are not as good but you can see who is emerging.

        1. Credit? Really? Credit for what?

          For taking a young WS championship team and systematically running it into the ground?

          For busting through to the luxiry tax level for an abysmal team?

          For taking a stadium that was sold out every night and turning it into a morgue?

          For being the laughing stock of baseball and not having a SABR analyst on staff for such a long time that they became the laughing stock not only of baseball but of all professional sports?

          For trading away all the prospects every year and not replenishing what he traded until it was far, far too late?

          For thinking that the most important stat for productivity on offense is RBI.

          For not valuing on base percentage.

          For not properly exploring and exploiting the Latin American market?

          For losing a first round pick for singning Jonathan Papelbon when he could have signed him and kept the pick if he waited a few days?

          Stop it!!!

          Credit for what!!!!????

          1. Relax, man. Not everything is black and white. The Phillies got better for 3 years then fell apart.

            1. They got better the way the Mets got better when Omar Minaya started out. They got better because players continued to mature. They got better because he traded his minor league assets and paid everyone in site. He gathered all of his resources, pushed them to the center of the table and bet it all – and had no viable long-term plan for the health of the franchise. He never demonstrated foresight. He never demonstrated the ability to use assets wisely. He never demonstrated a keen eye for talent. He was never innovative. He inherited a pot of gold and slowly pissed it all away.

          2. catch…….there is something you have to seriously ask yourself….how much did Charlie, coming off a WS championship with fairly youthful veteran stars, influence Ruben’s decision making from ’09 thru ’12?
            Who was da man in that front-office dictating ‘who I want playing for me’……the new kid on the block or the well-loved elderly manager, soon to be the greatest manager in Phillies history?

          3. Sorry for the typos but any defense of Ruben Amaro just makes me go ballistic. If we had had even a reasonably competent GM, we might be in a restocking phase (team hovering around 500 while new players are integrated), but with the payroll and fan support this team had and given that the championship team he inherited was fairly young, there is no reason and no excuse for this team to be, by far, the worst team in baseball. Think what other competent GMs have done with so much less in resources.

            1. Saying that every decision Amaro has made is indefensible is just ridiculous though. It sounds like someone who would call WIP. And, I’m not calling you a WIP caller. It’s ok to admit some of the positives he provided the org. If anything it makes your argument against him stronger because you don’t come across as a nutcase.

            2. Does appear every day now, his GM tenure will be ending shortly, with the Phillies holding a rather comfortable 8 game lead over the Brewers
              He may be just end up as Sr VP of Operations.

            3. JoeDE – I didn’t say every decision he made was bad. I said he was an awful GM and he was and is. Quite simply, with a young team of champions, a bevy of resources and tremendous fan support, he ran the franchise into the ground. If you want to see how a well-run franchise operates, check out the Cardinals.

            4. I really believe rubens biggest mistake, Was not having any balls. He let Montgomery tell him to give out those contracts for howard and Utley and ruiz and jimmy. That was his biggest mistake in my opinion. Now I wasn’t in the room but most writers tell you it was Montgomery call not rubens.

            5. The contracts were not even close to the biggest mistake. For the most part (Howard excluded) the veterans lived up to their contracts. It was the drafting/player development over the last ten years that ruined the Phillies. The reason the Cardinals are continually excellent is because they could let a player go to free agency and have a prospect ready to fill in without skipping a beat. The Phillies had to keep resigning their veterans because they had no one ready to step in from the farm.

      2. catch…..look at the job Ruben did as a GM in ’09 with the Phillies with Cole, JRoll and Lidge all having arguably, pretty bad years, and for Cole and JRoll their worst seasons in their careers up till then. And that team got to the WS.
        Is your head exploding yet?

        1. Yes, it’s exploding, he’s awful. The fact that he may only be the worst GM in baseball today and not the worst GM in major league history is no consolation.

          1. Sorry about the headache….in any event, his reign as GM may be less then 90 days now. Seems like it was just yesterday, Nov ’08, when he got the job. How time flies when you are having fun! :).

          2. Maybe Ruben should hack into other teams databases and commit a felony like the Cardinals. You should know how the former owners operated by now.

            1. Law enforcement officials believe the hacking was executed by vengeful front-office employees for the Cardinals hoping to wreak havoc on the work of Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager, who had been a successful and polarizing executive with the Cardinals until 2011.
              On the other hand….perhaps Jeff Luhnow brought with him from the Cardinals org, propriety rights information and formulae that the Cardinals used in their system in which he used and had prior knowledge of.

      3. I think people sometimes assign too much credit/blame to a GM for the drafting and developing of prospects. Kind of the same thing with Ed Wade; some great players were drafted on his watch but he’s not really the one who deserves the most credit for it.

        Amaro has done some good things, and he’s done some really bad things. The state of the team now is not 100% his fault, but a lot of it is. He is, however, largely responsible for Zach Eflin being listed in this post, so that’s a positive.

        1. Nothing in any organization is 100% the fault of any individual. But when one individual is responsible for the course of the organization and that invidiaul is given a great product and great resources and has 7 years to prove himself and on the 7th year he produces one of the worst teams in club history, it’s not difficult to assess blame at the top.

          1. Gillick put together the roster that took us two a championship. And Wade, who I would normally hesitate to throw a compliment towards, drafted the core players that made the Phillies a playoff contender. Amaro inherited a championship club with a payroll under $100mm (I haven’t checked in a while. I believe the payroll was around $93mm). Now, defend a GM who inherits a championship roster, an open checkbook, and a decent pharm system, and what did that equate to? The roster is a mess, the payroll is bloated with non-producers, and the pharm system was decimated. Kudos for RAJ for executing some good trades in the off-season, but there’s not much more credit for me to yield with respect to the GM’s performance. Global Warming is real. And man, and least in some measurable way, is contributing to it. It’s real man. It’s real

    2. Arano, at 20-years old in the FSL, is truly doing a superb job. Like I mentioned earlier his WHIP is unheard of for these last 34 iP and also for the whole season at 1.1, even with his horrendous start.
      Why he doesn’t get more of the K/9…IMO it is because of his youthfulness in the FSL. Look at his track record at 18 and 19-years old in leagues appropriate for his age…..approx 8 – K/9.

      1. Yeah, I’m sure his relative inexperience is part of it. But his good K numbers in previous years are partly why I’m wondering what’s up; I would have thought they would translate better. I think it may have something to do with the coaching he’s getting- maybe different philosophies in the Dodgers’ and Phillies’ systems.

        1. Perhaps the coaches are asking him to experiment. That would seem to be the logical assumption. But who knows, maybe more two-seamers vs four-seamers.
          Once he, or the pitching coach, gets in an interview, say with Jay Floyd , these questions can be posed to him.

      1. the one good thing about Williams, Correia and Sully being in the rotation is they greatly help our chances of picking 1st overall in next years draft.

        1. so, if Hamels is traded, your rotation next year is Nola and what? would they sign a bunch of guys off the scrap heap like Williams, Correa to fill out a rotation, or maybe go with guys like Lively, Efflin, Biddle rather than give them a season in aaa?

          1. Seve Gonzalez, Dave Buchanan, Chad Billingsley all should be included in the conversation. Then there is an unknown like MAG.
            Nola will probably be a May/June call-up. Anymore teams do not add rookies to the 25 right out of ST.
            Eflin will not be there.There will be no rush with him Now Llively and/or Biddle could be there at some point.

          2. That’s a tough question to answer at this point since we don’t know who will be traded. If the phis trade Hamels, Howard, Pap, Revere. And if Utley, Francouer, Billingsley, Williams, and Harrang are all gone plus the 12.5M we save on Cliff Lee (since I assume we are on the hook for his buyout at 12.5M out of the 25M he got this year) That would free up around 103M in salary. Granted we would have a lot of holes to fill but with that plus the tv money kicking in next season, the phils would have lots of cash to spend. Not saying that’s the answer either.

            After Nola maybe we get lucky and one of Adam Morgan, Buchanan, MAG, Sev Gonzalez can make the team full time and not get hit around on a regular basis. After that who knows who else they can bring in. If we are going to pay Cliff Lee 12.5M might as well see what he can do as he might be a good mentor for guys like Nola and Morgan.

            At the same time I guess the question would be what should the phils be trying to do next year? If you end up the worst team in baseball this year, you know you are likely a few years away from being remotely close to turning this around, then what should the plan be? Bring in some crappy vets like Williams to eat some innings and help assure another top 2 or 3 pick in the draft? Should they spend some money and try to bring in some overpaid talent to help get fans in the seats? Should they roll out a bunch of rookies/young arms that they hope will be the answer in another 2-3 or more years?

            Going to be interesting to see what the new president and whoever he hires has in store for righting this ship that has been sailing with no one at the helm for too long.

            1. Call Hinkie for the answer. Just tank! No need for big ticket FAs after this season. Stay at the bottom for 2016 and get studs at the top of the draft again in 2017 draft. Then start to build onto the pieces that have grown through the system.

            2. I will be impressed with Hinkie as a gm if he ever actually puts a team on the court that wins some games. It takes no skill to be terrible every season and taking on bad contracts in exchange for picks

  5. The status of pitching at these highest levels shows how badly they need pitching in any trades and the essential emphasis on pitching in the June ’16 draft where we would likely pick at #1. The lower levels have some interesting prospect pitchers –especially from LA–but adding 3 pitchers in our first 3 picks in that draft could add some essential better pitchers.

    The offense was obviously the target in the ’15 draft; now, get trade pitchers and in the draft.

    On Nola: this is his first full season in pro ball. There is no reason, IMO, to bring him up this season. No need to add innings to his accumulated work load this season Handle with care. Seeing him in ST will be soon enough.

    Glad to read/see some “experts” daring to assess his pitching as in the Greg Maddox style….which, proudly, I spoke about immediately after he was drafted IMO, he is much better than the pundits realize…in fact I see him developing to be an ace. But don’t rush him–we are not in a race…except a race to the bottom.

  6. Nerluis Martinez was signed late he’s hitting really well. Both VSL and Dr teams have some good first yr pitchers. Martin and Tobias are hitting well. Yes Amaro needs a new position in the Phillies system. We need a new GM .big market teams like Philadelphia shouldn’t need 3 yrs plus to rebuild. Let’s get some international pitchers that are a we can use now.

    1. Well the young guys need time and the free agent pickings are slim.

      As I have said, the teams that were huge spenders this offseason got very little return for their money and the teams that hung onto their prospects are doing well.

      1. Pirates signed Kang who is doing well. That’s all I want 1 or 2 pitchers I don’t Need a billion dollars spent.

  7. David they made mistakes. The reason we got mcphail I thought was to not make the same mistakes. I don’t want us to say okay that team spent money on a fa and he was a bust, Our gm should know what he is paying for in fa, in draft, and in latin and Cuban market. Because some teams fail shouldn’t stop us. I don’t want a five year rebuild, not with the money this team has to spend, and a good gm. it should be shorter.

  8. Jesse Biddle to LHV:

    Like you said, Gregg, I think this might be a good move, even if the numbers aren’t there. There’s nothing left for him to learn at Reading. Give him a vote of confidence, and a challenge, and see how he responds. Biddle doesn’t need to turn into that #3 starter everyone had him pegged for a couple of years ago in order to contribute to this team. Hell, I’d settle for an innings-eating lefty #4 right now.

  9. We are looking at the # 1 pick in the next 2-3 drafts. Hopefully a once in a decade type talent like Harper or Trout comes through soon.

  10. Bad news regarding MAG and Pettibone.

    As the Phillies continue to shuffle pitchers, two that the team hoped would advance this season remain stagnant. Jonathan Pettibone continues to have shoulder problems and could be facing more surgery, Amaro said, and perpetually rehabbing Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is shut down again with shoulder weakness. It is doubtful the Phillies will ever get anything for their $12 million investment in Gonzalez.

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