With the likely departure of right-hander Jake Arrieta in free agency, the Philadelphia Phillies will have an open spot in their starting rotation ahead of the 2021 season.
Starting pitching was a major strength for the team this past season as Phillies starters posted 6.9 fWAR, the third-best mark in the majors. The team will retain four of its main starters from 2020 in Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin and Spencer Howard, but will need to find a reliable fifth starter in order to replicate the same success.
The Phillies may very well look to the free-agent market to bolster the starting rotation. However, there are a number of in-house pitchers who could end up holding the fifth spot in the rotation or filling in for another starter at points in the season.
Let’s take a look at some of the options for the back end of the rotation already within the Phillies organization:
Vince Velasquez, RHP
Velasquez seems to be the most obvious in-house option for the fifth starter spot in 2021. The right-hander has primarily pitched in the team’s rotation since it acquired him in 2016. While frustrating at times, Velasquez, who has a 4.76 ERA as a Phillie, has proven to be fairly capable back-end starter with the ability to relieve as well over the course of his career.
It is still no guarantee that Velasquez is even back in Philadelphia next season, despite being a long-time member of the team. He is projected to receive $4.3 million in arbitration this winter by Spotrac, which may make the 28-year-old a non-tender candidate. But if the Phillies are willing to pay Velasquez, he can likely be expected to start his fair share of games in 2021.
Adonis Medina, RHP
Another option who appeared as a starter for the Phillies in 2020, Medina made his major-league debut with the team in September. The 23-year-old allowed two runs in four innings in his only start.
Medina has a decent fastball-slider combination that could work as a fifth starter. He’ll likely begin 2021 at Triple-A Lehigh Valley if the team brings back Velasquez or signs a free agent, but could certainly break his way into the rotation if he pitches effectively.
Ranger Suárez, LHP
Suárez struggled in three relief outings after being sidelined due to COVID-19 for most of 2020. However, the lefty was effective in 2019, posting a 3.14 ERA in 37 outings.
Suárez pitched as a starter in 2018 and most of his minor-league career, but found legitimate success as a reliever in the majors two seasons ago. He will likely pitch as a reliever going forward, but could still serve as starting depth if needed.
Damon Jones, LHP
The hard-throwing Damon Jones climbed the minor-league ranks in 2019, but hit a wall upon entering Triple-A. Still, the lefty posted a 2.91 ERA in 23 starts across three levels that season before spending 2020 at the team’s alternate training site.
Jones, who is now 26, may end up in the bullpen at some point, but could be a back-end starter option if the team needs it in 2020.
David Parkinson, LHP
It would have been interesting to see if David Parkinson could have bounced back in 2020 if there was a minor-league season. After a stellar 2018 at two Single-A levels, Parkinson was not as successful with Double-A Reading the next year. The 24-year-old could see his way to the majors if he can pitch the way he did in the lower levels of the minors.
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