Heading into 2012, the Phillies seemed to be full of starting pitching options. Doc Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick, and Joe Blanton were all but guaranteed to be on the Phils’ Opening Day roster barring injury while Joel Pineiro, Dave Bush, Scott Elarton, and Pat Misch were among the starting pitching veterans invited to Spring Training. And aside from that group, there was the possibility, outlined here from February, that Austin Hyatt could catch lightning in a bottle and reach the Majors in 2012. The thought wasn’t so crazy: Hyatt started the Spring Opener for the Phils, after all.
Plans can and do change. Sometimes they change in sports because of opportunities presented due to injury. Other times, they present themselves because a player’s performance in the lower levels is too strong to ignore. For Tyler Cloyd, a little bit of both was needed to break the logjam.
Cloyd exited Clearwater scheduled to go to Reading but call upon to be Lehigh Valley’s emergency Opening Day starter, where he threw six perfect innings for the IronPigs. Despite the perfect performance in his Triple-A debut, Cloyd was sent back down to Reading, posting a 3-0 mark with a 1.80 ERA. Cloyd would quickly return to Lehigh Valley, where he would lead the International League with a 2.35 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP, winning not only the Phillies’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year for 2012 but also the International League Pitcher of the Year, with a 12-1 mark in 22 starts for the ‘Pigs.
Cloyd made his Major League debut for the Phillies on August 29 in a situation he had shined in earlier in the season: an emergency spot-start, replacing Hamels who had the flu. Cloyd had a Quality Start (6 IP, 3 ER with 5 Ks) in a 3-2 loss against the Mets. Cloyd would avenge his loss against the Mets on September 20 when he scattered three hits and one earned across 8 IP, earning a win in a 16-1 romp of the Metropolitans.
Cloyd’s fastball sat between 87-88 MPH and relied on a pair of fastballs and an 83 MPH with good location to be successful in 2012. He finished the year with a 2-2 record and a 4.91 ERA for the Phils in six starts. Cloyd again faces a tough road to make the club in 2013 but with Worley’s health still a relative question mark, Cloyd has a puncher’s chance to win the fifth starter’s spot.
Grade: B-. When compiling the grade, it’s really hard to ignore Cloyd’s success in Lehigh Valley. Even ignoring that, FanGraphs valued his 2012 performance at exactly replacement-level. I’m a liberal grader so league-average for me is a C+ – I’m admittedly giving him extra-credit for his IL Most Valuable Pitcher award and his stability and poise during the Phillies late-season Wild Card run.