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2018 Phillies season preview: Predicting the pitchers

As it’s opening day, here are our predictions for each individual member of the 2018 Phillies.

First, the pitchers.

Starting pitchers

Aaron Nola – 24, RHP

Even with Jake Arrieta now in the mix, Aaron Nola is still set to be the Phillies’ ace this year, and is set to potentially establish himself as one of the better starters in the league. He’ll need to stay healthy, but the fact that he’s averaged more than a strikeout per inning and nearly six innings per start in his brief, three-year career thus far shows that he has the makings of a great pitcher. 2018 prediction: 210 IP, 3.15 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 2.2 BB/9

– Brendan Sample

Jake Arrieta – 32, RHP

The big free agent signing isn’t the same guy he was in 2015, but that doesn’t mean he’s bad or anything. No, Jake Arrieta is still good. Expect workhorse numbers with the occasional ace performance – the ERA should stay below 4.00 and the strikeout numbers should remain solid, but we’ll be angry a couple times this season. 2018 prediction: 157.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 

– Tim Malcolm

Vince Velasquez – 25, RHP

If there’s one player that best fits the description of “unpredictable” on the Phillies, it would probably be Vince Velasquez. He’s shown an undeniable amount of talent and promise in his two years with the Phils, but injuries and inconsistencies have severely held him back from showing any of that off to the fullest. It looks like he’s going to get another chance to truly prove himself in the rotation in 2018, but unless he can consistently get deeper into games, his days as a starter could very well be numbered. 2018 prediction: 127 IP, 4.70 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 3.6 BB/9

– Brendan Sample

Nick Pivetta – 25, RHP

Though he averaged more than a strikeout per inning in his rookie year, Nick Pivetta’s 2017 was wildly inconsistent, as he finished the year with a 6.02 ERA over 133 innings. Jerad Eickhoff missing up to two months to start 2018 will likely be enough to give Pivetta a rotation spot, but he’s going to need to reduce the damage hitters are doing when they’re making contact against him if he wants any shot of keeping that spot. A BABIP of .336 and an ERA over six are simply unacceptable figures for any starter over the course of an entire season, let alone multiple ones. 2018 prediction: 120 IP, 5.20 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 4.0 BB/9

– Brendan Sample

Zach Eflin – 24, RHP

Despite 127 innings of work, we still haven’t seen enough of Zach Eflin in the majors to know what we have here. He has battled injuries, most recently knee problems, and when healthy he’s either been extremely good (complete-game shutouts) or gone after three innings. Can’t really predict a full season out of him, but he’s still the first or second starter promoted to Philly. He’ll get another opportunity. 2018 prediction: 71.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, 4.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9

– Tim Malcolm

Jerad Eickhoff – 27, RHP

Since making his major league debut Eickhoff has only regressed – it seems the more he’s exposed the more he’s hit around and tossed about. Now he’s hurt to start 2018, and I wonder if this is just the beginning of the end for the righty in Philadelphia. 2018 prediction: 59 IP, 5.26 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 4.0 BB/9

– Tim Malcolm

Ben Lively – 26, RHP

There has been a lot of talk of Lively surprising people this year — and I’m not buying. I feel like he can have a decent seven-year career as a long man. 2018 prediction: 160 IP, 5.15 ERA, 5.9 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, 2.7 HR/9

– Michael Sadowski

Tom Eshelman – 23, RHP

Known for his ability to not walk anyone ever (18 of them in 150 IP last season), Eshelman uses command and deception to get his outs, parlaying this strategy to a successful minor league career. He’ll get a shot in 2018 (I’m thinking around July), and he might take a hit simply because major league batters are more skilled than triple-A hitters. But the command just still be great. He’ll figure it out. 2018 prediction: 67.2 IP, 3.88 ERA, 6.0 K/9, 1.3 BB/9

– Tim Malcolm

Hector Neris

Relief pitchers

Hector Neris – 28, RHP

Neris seemed to have figured out his splitter in the second half of 2017, but as much as he figured it out, other teams are going to be sitting on it. That doesn’t mean he can’t continue that success, it just means he’s got to learn how to pitch better. At his age-29 season (he’ll turn 29 in June), if he’s not figuring it out this year, he probably never will. This projection says that he does and if things go south for the team, he could be the only all-star representative. 2018 prediction:  65 IP, 2.95 ERA, 10.5 K/9, 2.05 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9

Luis Garcia – 31, RHP

The extremely bearded Garcia came of age last season as a reliable late-innings reliever, thanks to his high-velocity fastball and a working changeup. I expect some regression here, especially because the rates weren’t as strong for a guy with an ERA under 3 last year. He should still be effective, especially if his secondary pitches have improved. 2018 prediction: 60.2 IP, 3.55 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 4.0 BB/9

– Tim Malcolm

Pat Neshek – 37, RHP

My concern is overwork in his age-37 season, because that 3-4-5 end of the starting rotation and what we believe will be the bullpen philosophy means he may be seeing his fair share of fourth and fifth inning work where we hear Gabe Kapler in the postgame press conference saying, “We just needed him to get us two innings tonight.” He’s going to benefit more than anyone else if Tommy Hunter can be healthy and effective starting in May. 2018 prediction: 65 IP, 3.10 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 1.15 HR/9

– Michael Sadowski

Adam Morgan – 28, LHP

You can make the argument that no Phillie had a more surprising year than Morgan in 2017. He’s going to have to prove his move to the bullpen and his dominance there (yeah, it was a dominance for about two months) wasn’t a fluke. He’s not going to have that kind of year in 2018, but he’s also not going to implode either. 2018 prediction: 55 IP, 3.85 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.6 HR/9

– Michael Sadowski

Edubray Ramos – 25, RHP

Though he was initially demoted after a rough first half, Edubray Ramos came back with a vengeance in the back half of 2017, which could very well set him up for a strong 2018. In the second half compared to the first, he dramatically cut down on his ERA, FIP and walk percentage, showing that he really managed to gain much better control after his minor league stint. Consistency throughout the season will obviously be key for Ramos, but if he can expand his second half throughout 2018, this has the potential to be a special year for him. 2018 prediction: 60 IP, 3.30 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9

– Brendan Sample

Tommy Hunter – 31, RHP

Since the end of last year I’ve been trying to figure out who will be the free agent pitcher that throws two games, goes on the DL with a strained forearm or something and then never plays again in 2018. I’d been looking for a starter and neglected all the warning signs Hunter has been showing. Is it him??? Hopefully not, but I’m sniffing multiple DL stints for Hunter this year. 2018 prediction: 43 IP, 3.75 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 2.05 BB/9, 1.05 HR/9

– Michael Sadowski

Hoby Milner – 27, LHP

Milner’s peripherals in 2017 point to a smoke-and-mirrors year that resulted in a fantastic 2.01 ERA, but he’s not going to be counted on for much in 2018 with the Phillies bulking up their bullpen. If Adam Morgan falters, however, he may be asked to do more than he should be, and that probably won’t work out well. 2018 prediction: 35 IP, 4.10 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 3.51 BB/9, 2.1 HR/9

– Michael Sadowski

Jake Thompson – 24, RHP

I still feel that Jake Thompson has some legitimate potential as a major league starter, but the abundance of potential starters that the Phillies currently have may end up costing him time in the rotation. He may currently fit best on the team as a reliever and sometimes as a fill-in starter, but it’s hard to envision him as a regular in the rotation throughout the season at this point. If he does want a chance at that, however, he’ll need to work on missing more bats, as he’s averaged just over six strikeouts per nine innings over the course of his two-year career thus far. 2018 prediction: 52 IP, 4.10 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 4.3 BB/9

– Brendan Sample

Victor Arano – 23, RHP

After missing some time in 2017 with an elbow injury, Victor Arano returned to double-A Reading and pitched well enough to earn a September promotion. He was good during that short cup of coffee, so he’ll be part of the bullpen plans at some point in 2018. Maybe not right away, but soon enough. He’ll need to limit the walks, but he has a plus fastball, a good slider and changeup. He’s ready to be a contributor now. 2018 prediction: 38.1 IP, 4.11 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 

– Tim Malcolm

Drew Hutchison – 27, RHP

Making the team out of a spring training invite, Drew Hutchison is probably here to act as long man before Mark Leiter Jr. returns. That may be end of the road for him, but there’s always a chance he sticks in another role. We’ll keep this simple. 2018 prediction: 6.2 IP, 4.83 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 3.9 BB/9

– Tim Malcolm

Mark Leiter Jr. – 27, RHP

Deserving a 25-man roster spot thanks to his ability to get strikeouts without game-changing stuff, Leiter should be a steady and somewhat reliable part of the Phils’ bullpen in 2018. Maybe there’s a spot start in there, too. 2018 prediction: 45 IP, 3.77 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 

– Tim Malcolm


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