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PN Writers Roundtable: Who Will Be the Phils’ 5th Starter?

phils logoThis is a Phillies Nation Writers Roundtable. From time to time, we’ll come up with a topic, or field one from the Nation, that we’d all like to address and post our thoughts and opinions on it.

With another roundtable on the way later this week, here’s today’s question:

Who will be the Phillies’ fifth starter when the 2016 season begins?

Tim Malcolm: We should start with the caveat that the opening day starting rotation isn’t the Oct. 1 starting rotation. Especially in regards to the Phillies, we should see plenty of movement in the rotation between April and October, with players like Vincent Velasquez, Jake Thompson, Mark Appel and Zach Eflin getting opportunities, and that may even be after Severino Gonzalez and David Buchanan factor into the equation. All this to say that the fifth starter discussion means little, only in that the person who is fifth starter gets the first crack at hanging in there.

And it should come down to Brett Oberholtzer or Adam Morgan; the former proving a capable back-end starter with a 3.94 ERA (3.72 FIP) over 42 starts with the Astros, and the latter earning passing marks in a half-season tryout with the Phillies last year (4.48 ERA in 15 starts). Oberholtzer is the favorite, so he’s my pick, but I see the potentially top-line Velasquez and Thompson shoving themselves into that Oct. 1 rotation. The goal for Oberholtzer and Morgan: survive.

Ian Riccaboni: Starting rotations heading into Spring Training should come with a notice much like wrestling, boxing, or MMA cards have: Card Subject To Change! While I believe everyone agrees that Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff have earned their spots through both their performance last year and their potential long-term contributions and Jeremy Hellickson is a lock based on his salary, I see the final two spots as wide open, despite some larger salaries lurking in the lower half.

In particular, despite being an obvious upgrade comparative to last year’s staff, I don’t believe Charlie Morton is a lock to be part of the rotation on Opening Day or throughout the season. At $7 million, Morton will be paid the same as Hellickson, but is four years older with a significantly spottier track record.

I believe that Adam Morgan and Brett Oberholtzer will win the final two rotation spots. Morgan will enter a season fully-healthy for the very first time since 2012 where he showed tantalizing potential and coming off a season where he became one of the Phillies’ most consistent options while Oberholtzer is six years younger than Morton, averages one less walk per nine and is a half point lower than Morton in ERA and FIP.

Jon Nisula: The Phillies are going to go through a lot of starters in 2016. I imagine that the 5th starter is going to have several different names attached to it throughout the season. But to start, I’m going to go with Adam Morgan. He didn’t have the best time with the Phils in the 2nd half of last year, but he showed some flashes of being pretty good. I think he’ll win that job coming out of Spring Training.

Ryan Gerstel: My choice for the Phillies’ number five starter is 25-year-old left-hander Adam Morgan. I’m going with Morgan because for starters, he’s just 25, and with the Phillies in the midst of their rebuild, they need to see what they have in their younger arms. Secondly, Morgan showed some promise during his 15 starts in 2015. His stuff is average at best, but he showed good control and command of his pitches.

Matt Gephart: In my eyes one of the best choices to throw into the starting rotation this year, regardless of what position in the order, would be Vincent Velasquez. There is no doubt that the Phillies front office hand picked Velasquez through the Ken Giles trade to supply for the future. Garnered as one of the top of the line pitching prospects in the league, Velasquez has been pampered by the exceedingly successful (as of late) Houston Astros minor league system. After starting seven games last year at the Major League level, Velasquez posted a 3.53 ERA, which is a small sample size, but just as impressive as anyone else on the Phillies list of starting pitchers. With the likes of David Buchanan and Severino Gonzalez still hanging around on the wayside, it may be a little more difficult to gain a spot right out of spring training over a good showing from either one of those two, who have already held a starting position in the organization.

Jay Floyd:  With a left-hander needed among the starting five, I’ll be looking at Brett Oberholtzer, who was acquired in the Giles trade, to make the Phils’ starting rotation.  In 45 big league appearances (42 starts), the 26-year-old sports an 11-20 record with a 3.94 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and a 5.9 K/9 mark.  Growing up in Delaware as a Phillies fan, it was always a dream of his to take the mound in red pinstripes.  Having attended the 2008 World Series parade as a fan, the six-foot-one 225-pounder wants to be a guy that helps turn things around for the organization that finished with the worst record in MLB last year.  There won’t be a better story in spring training and fans of the Phillies should be backing this local product.  Let’s go, Brett!

Let us know what your predictions are in the comments section below.  The Phillies Nation staff will have another roundtable post in the coming days running down some predictions for the 2016 campaign, including how the Phils will finish, which prospect will have the biggest impact and much more.

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