Phillies: Trading tomorrow’s potential for today’s shot

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 14: Maikel Franco #7 of the Philadelphia Phillies is doused with water by teammate Bryce Harper #3 after hitting the game winning walk-off home run against the Washington Nationals during ninth inning a baseball game at Citizens Bank Park on July 14, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Nationals 4-3. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 14: Maikel Franco #7 of the Philadelphia Phillies is doused with water by teammate Bryce Harper #3 after hitting the game winning walk-off home run against the Washington Nationals during ninth inning a baseball game at Citizens Bank Park on July 14, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Nationals 4-3. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Vargas is replacing Eflin in the rotation’s fourth or fifth slot. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images. /

What management saw:     

While many Phillies fans concluded Eflin, Pivetta, Velasquez, and Eickhoff had proven to be inadequate in 2018. Unfortunately, some even formed these beliefs in 2016 or 2017. But execs according to a retired GM expect a pitcher to make an impact in or after his third summer. Ergo, 60-90 starts.

Phillies starts at 2018’s end (current total in parenthesis):

  • Nola at 93 (116) for 3 campaigns of development.
  • Velasquez at 76 (88) for 2.5 to 3.
  • Eickhoff at 66 (76) for 2 to 2.5.
  • Pivetta at 58 (71) for 2 to 2.5.
  • Eflin at 46 (66) for 1.5 to 2.

With Eflin, the brass noticed his prior-years’ stats cratering due to an injury he was pitching through, but his healthy numbers revealed a potential two or three starter. In fact, he was 6-7 with a 2.83 ERA through June 19. The guess here is fatigue, but his decline began after 86 innings despite a 148-frame workload in ’18.

When Velasquez struggled or went five innings last year, analysts highlighted that but were hesitant to praise his solid outings. Unwittingly, they reinforced the locals’ take on him. He, however, went 4-3 with a 3.58 ERA from June through Aug. 4: 10 starts with five having more than six frames and two with six.

As for Pivetta, he had produced a 4-3 record with a 3.26 ERA through May’s end in 2018, but he struggled thereafter until his recent return from a demotion to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Unfortunately, June’s short-lived success had ended and led to his bullpen assignment.

Following a successful ’16 with an 11-14 mark and a 3.65 ERA for 197 1/3 innings, Eickhoff regressed in ’17 before experiencing consecutive injury-riddled 162s. In 2016, though, he made 16 starts and completed six frames including nine for 6 1/3 innings or more out of 28 opportunities.

Watching the chances here for IronPigs starters, viewers realized Enyel De Los Santos, Drew Anderson, Cole Irvin, and Ranger Suarez aren’t the answer either. Translation: Beginning anew doesn’t work with less than 10 MLB starts and green Eflins. So, management’s take on March 1 was different than yours.