The Philadelphia Phillies’ pitchers and catchers are set to have their first official workouts today, beginning the process of answering a handful of questions before the regular season begins.
Is Roy Halladay 100 percent healthy? Who will claim the last four spots in the bullpen? Which pitcher will get the nod on Opening Day?
However, some more decisions may have to be made once the regular season gets underway.
Although Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan are seemingly set to take the No. 4 and 5 spots in the Phillies’ starting rotation, neither has inspired the type of optimism throughout their careers like fellow starters Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Halladay have.
Kendrick tied a career high with 11 wins last season and had a career-best 116 strikeouts. This was largely due to a tremendous late-season stretch that saw him go 6-4 with a 3.67 ERA and 47 strikeouts in August and September.
However, Kendrick also had a 6.96 ERA in six June starts, going 1-4 while allowing 25 earned runs in 32.1 innings as opponents batted .305 against him.
Lannan, meanwhile, only made six major league starts last season after getting bumped from the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation. Although he won at least eight games in each season from 2008-11, he also has a 4.16 ERA in his last 64 major league starts.
Both pitchers have had performances throughout their careers that could allow them to make for tremendous options as No. 4 and 5 starters, but they are also playing a position in which minor-league talent may soon be major-league ready.
Starting pitching is one of the positions the Phillies have minor-league depth at, which could make for some interesting decisions should Kendrick or Lannan struggle throughout the regular season.
If the Phillies decide that a replacement is needed at some point, here are five options that could make a case for a spot in the starting rotation.
Tyler Cloyd used a remarkable minor-league season to earn a late-August call-up, and made six starts for the Phillies.
However, after looking at his performances in an albeit small sample size, the Phillies decided to sign John Lannan this offseason. They did this rather than hand a rotation spot to Cloyd following Vance Worley’s trade to the Minnesota Twins.
Cloyd managed to go 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 20 strikeouts to just three walks at Double-A last season, and 12-1 with a 2.35 ERA at Triple-A.
This success, however, did not fully translate to the major leagues in a limited number of starts.
Cloyd did manage a nine-strikeout performance in his second career major-league start, and gave up just three hits in an eight-inning start in late September. But he also allowed 15 earned runs in 27 September innings.
Overall, he finished with a 2-2 record and 4.91 ERA.
The Phillies’ 2012 minor-league pitcher of the year may now have a murky future with the team. With the rotation locked in to begin the season and young minor-league talent on the way, Cloyd could be passed over for the next available rotation spot, whether as an injury fill-in or permanent replacement.
However, just as he was able to post surprising, yet dominant, minor-league numbers last season, a similar start to 2013 could keep him on the short list of options for the Phillies should a major-league replacement be needed.
It doesn’t hurt having a veteran available in Triple-A that can be called-up if one of the young starters is deemed to not yet ready for major-league action.
This season, Aaron Cook may be that “just-in-case” veteran.
Cook was signed by the Phillies to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, but will likely only see time in the major leagues if the team is forced to resort to a plan D or plan E.
The 2008 All-Star does not have career numbers that jump out besides his 16-9 record during his All-Star season, but there is one area in which he could potentially help out during a major league stint.
According to fangraphs, among pitchers who threw a minimum of 90 innings last season, Cook had the fourth-highest ground ball percentage in the major leagues at 58.6.
Cook will need to have an ERA similar to the 2.41 mark he had while in Triple-A last year in order to receive consideration. Even then he could still be passed over for the likes of Tyler Cloyd or Jonathan Pettibone.
If a younger starter isn’t quite ready and the Phillies desperately need a replacement, Cook could find himself back in the major leagues.
Jonathan Pettibone may be able to put pressure on Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan this season if he is able to match his performances from 2012.
Pettibone is currently ranked as the Phillies' fourth-best prospect according to mlb.com’s 2013 Prospect Watch, and may be the next prospect to make his major-league debut.
The 2008 third-round draft pick began last season in Double-A and went 9-7 with a 3.30 ERA. After being called-up to Triple-A, Pettibone went 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA while holding opponents to a .204 average.
The 6’5” right-hander has put himself on the doorstep of major-league action, although he recently set his career high for walks in a season.
With three of the team’s five starters likely approaching free agency after this season, the Phillies could be hoping that Pettibone is a soon-to-be fixture in the rotation. If that’s the case, the team could be hesitant to call him up too soon unless Kyle Kendrick or John Lannan experience major struggles.
Pettibone has made just seven starts above the Double-A level.
Regardless, if Kendrick or Lannan get off track and Pettibone continues to shine, the Phillies could decide to make the team’s potential future No. 3 or 4 starter a 2013 call-up.
Ethan Martin will need to continue his 2012 second-half success in order to move up the list of candidates as replacement options, but he has already moved up one list this offseason.
The 2008 first-round draft pick had the lowest ERA of his minor-league career last season, at 3.48. Some of his best performances took place after being acquired by the Phillies.
In seven starts at Double-A following the trade, Martin went 5-0 with 35 strikeouts and a 3.18 ERA. He also held opponents to a .206 average. Although his walk total increased from 2011, his strikeout total was the highest of his minor-league career.
The right-hander also held left-handed batters to a .125 average while in the Phillies’ system.
Martin will turn 24 years old this season and has a chance to follow a path similar to the one that Jonathan Pettibone took last year if he starts the season in Double-A and advances to Triple-A.
However, a continuation or improvement on last season’s success could help him earn a look if Kyle Kendrick or John Lannan falters later in the season.
Adam Morgan spent most of last season in High-A ball, but earned a promotion to Double-A later in the year.
Morgan, a third-round pick in 2011, struck out 169 batters between High-A and Double-A last season, and had a combined 3.35 ERA. In 38 career minor-league games, Morgan has struck out 212 batters.
For Morgan to become an option as a replacement this season, he will have to continue with the quick progression that has seen him pitch at three different minor league levels in less than two full seasons.
Morgan pitching in the major leagues this season may seem like a stretch, but Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider Subscription required) recently ranked him as the Phillies’ best prospect, ahead of Jesse Biddle.
Law also says that Morgan is the one Phillies’ top prospect who could help the team in 2013.
To do so, he will need another strong season to coincide with Kyle Kendrick or John Lannan losing their grip on a starting rotation spot. Early season success, however, could make him a wild-card option if a replacement is needed.