Friday, November 20, 2009

Who's Pitching on that 5th Day

An issue on the Phillies' roster that nobody seems to be addressing is the fifth spot in the starting rotation. As the 2009 season commenced, Pedro Martinez held the fifth spot but is unlikely to return. The Phillies have many internal options to fill this position which is very fortunate, and to be quite honest, necessary. The Phillies had 5 different pitchers that started in the 5th spot during the 2009 season.

The current options that exist for the Phillies at the 5th spot are Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, Drew Carpenter, and Kyle Drabek. It seems as if the Phillies will not be pursuing free agents to fill the final starting pitching role as they are concentrating on other areas of the team.

Jamie Moyer is about to be a card carrying member of the AARP but still finds himself competing in Major League Baseball. He has an astounding 258 career wins and will always be a fan favorite in Philadelphia as he grew up only 30 miles north of a row of Port-o-Potties, or where Veterans Stadium once stood. Moyer had a very successful 2008 season as he posted 16 wins and a 3.71 ERA, but declined significantly in 2009 as he had a 4.94 ERA and was demoted to the bullpen in August. Good pitchers are bound to have bad years, but with Moyer, any sort of failure will be associated with his age and whether or not he has lost his ability to pitch. A congratulations goes out to Jamie as he just turned 47 on Wednesday, not a welcome event for many, but Jamie has been considered an old player in this league for over 10 years so what's another year. Another concern with Moyer is that he recently underwent groin surgery, he still will be considered to have a very good chance to nail down the 5th spot in the roation.

Ever since Kyle Kendrick won 10 games as a rookie in 2007, the Phillies organization has been very high on him. Kendrick tailed off in 2008 though as it seemed the league was figuring him out and he eventually was pulled from the rotation. in 2009 the Phillies had an open competition for the 5th starter's spot and gave every opportunity to Kendrick to come away with it. Kendrick unfortunately floundered and was sent to Lehigh Valley. Kendrick pitched the majority of the season in Lehigh Valley in an effort to develop a changeup. Kendrick responded to this assignment exceptionally well as he finished the season ranked 5th in ERA, 10th in innings, and most importantly, 2nd in WHIP. The WHIP is most important for Kendrick as the reason he was demoted was because he allowed too many baserunners which led to his unsuccessful 2008 season. Kendrick did have the opportunity to pitch for Philadelphia toward the end of the 2009 season and performed very successfully. Kendrick pitched a total of 26 innings with a 3.4 ERA and it would have been a 2.66 ERA if it wasn't for an irrelevant, last day of the season, appearence. The Phillies would love to see Kendrick succeed as the 5th pitcher in their rotation and will give him the opportunity to do so.

Drew Carpenter is an interesting option as not many people have given him attention and he is well deserving of it. Carpenter made a spot start early in 2009 and earned a victory in a rain shortened game but was not particularly impressive as he yielded 5 runs in 4.1 innings. I don't believe you can take much out of debuts as it is a poor assessment of a pitcher and his abilities. Carpenter is only 24 years old and has had a very successful minorleague career. 2009 in particular, was a very good season for Carpenter, while at Lehigh Valley, he finished 6th in ERA, 4th in wins, 3rd in innings, and 6th in SOs. Carpenter does have the ability to succeed now in the majors. He projects to be a pitcher like Joe Blanton, as he has a large frame, throws in the low 90s, is very consistent while unspectacular, and can throw multiple pitches for strikes. Carpenter does seem to be the odd man out in this competition but don't count him out if he has an impressive spring training.

Kyle Drabek will find himself in a similar situation as Carlos Carrasco did in 2008. The Phillies will give Drabek an opportunity to compete for the final rotation spot out of spring training but Drabek will have to truly impress. The Phillies really love the abilities of Drabek but would like to give him a little more time in the minors. Drabek is currently rated as the #1 pitching prospect in the Phillies farm system. He is the pure definition of a power pitcher as he can throw in upwards of 98 MPH with a power curveball and an improving changeup. Even though Drabek's fastball usually sits from 94-96, his curveball is widely acknowledged as his best pitch. As Drabek is still only 21 years old, he can benefit from more time in the minors but is still expected to debut sometime in the second half of the 2010 season.

As the Phillies have multiple internal options, it isn't imperitive that they make the correct decision immediately, compared to other needs that will be filled through free agency. All of these players will remain in the Phillies organization so they may all get an opportunity to succeed. Jamie Moyer has had an amazing career and remains a great asset to the Phillies, but if the Phillies named Jamie Moyer the 5th starter, that would have to be viewed as taking a step backwards after demoting him last year before showing any significant improvement. Drabek is by far the most talented within this group but is not quite ready to start for Philadelphia in April. After a few more months in the minors, Drabek will be better suited to succeed as a starter for the Phillies. The best options that the Phillies hold at the beginning of the 2010 season are Kendrick and Carpenter. The Phillies should award the 5th starter position to the candidate who succeeds more in spring training between these two. If the competition remains close at all there is no doubt that the Phillies will go with Kyle Kendrick.

I believe that Kendrick will start the season as the Phillies 5th starter and Drabek will take over some time in the second half of the season.

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