Phantasy Relevance: Phillies Pitching Prospects
Heading into last season, the Phillies featured four pitchers ranked inside their Top 10 prospects by Baseball America, none of whom were still listed in the Top 10 for 2015 when announced earlier last month.
Gone from that list are Jesse Biddle, Miguel Gonzalez, Ethan Martin and Severino Gonzalez. Both Martin and Miguel Gonzalez figure to battle this spring to be members of the Phillies bullpen for this upcoming season. Severino Gonzalez had his share of struggles last year, and is likely ticketed for the minors.
Biddle on the other hand should still be highly regarded, despite not making it into Baseball America’s Top 10 for 2015. Last season he dealt with elbow tendonitis and a quad strain. But it was a hail storm that he was caught in last May that contributed to a 2014 season to forget.
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Biddle’s early sessions this spring have the club’s Pitching Coach, Bob McClure, raving about how impressive he has looked thus far. That’s a good sign for the former first round draftee who the club believes has the talent to eventually pitch near the front of their rotation.
While he will start out and likely pitch all season in the minors, and isn’t currently listed as one of the team’s top 10 prospects, he remains a pitcher you absolutely want to have in your minors system in all dynasty/keeper style leagues.
After Aaron Nola, who ranks high on the list at #2 overall, and who I previously covered for fantasy purposes as the top arm in this year’s Phillies Top 10, the rest of the pitchers shake out like this.
4. RHP Zach Eflin – One half of the Jimmy Rollins trade that was returned to Philadelphia is the 6’4″ 200-pound Eflin. The soon to be 21-year old has 49 combined starts through 2 1/2 seasons in the San Diego Padres minor league system while posting a 17-14 record and a 3.41 career era. Eflin is more of a workman-like pitcher with upside as a mid-rotation starter, but probably not much more.
He generally relies on pitching to contact, letting his defense help him out, and while not the type of arm that is likely to have fantasy suitors lining up for his services, he could prove valuable as a depth arm for a fantasy rotation at some point down the road. Still likely another year or two away, Eflin shouldn’t garner much interest in any fantasy league at this time.
Eflin likely to join Nola, Windle, and Lively in a prospect-laden AA-Reading Phillies rotation
5. LHP Tom Windle – The other player acquired in the Jimmy Rollins trade was power lefty Tom Windle, another 6’4, 200+ pounder of the type that the Phillies organization needed. Most scouting reports show that he likely should be relegated to the bullpen, stating that his delivery is erratic and somewhat inconsistent.
Windle possesses a solid fastball/slider combo, along with a change up that still needs work. Like Eflin, Windle is also another year or so away from being major league ready. Also like Eflin, he is not a player worth targeting in fantasy leagues at this time, but is worth keeping an eye on to see exactly how he develops, and in what role.
6. RHP Ben Lively – Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Marlon Byrd, Lively has the makeup of a #3, and even potentially a #2 starting pitcher. Listed as the organization’s 4th best prospect arm, a ranking which I don’t personally agree with, Lively is an underrated prospect who throws four pitches: fastball, change up, slider and curve. He knows how to throw strikes, and how to work around the plate to keep hitters off-balance.
The Phillies will probably start Lively off at AA as part of a prospect-laden Reading Phillies rotation with Nola, Eflin and Windle, giving him time needed to get some more innings under his belt. Having only thrown 192 minor league innings at this point, there’s no need to rush him. Another pitcher that fantasy owners won’t want to add to most rosters just yet. However, he is a guy that you’ll definitely want to consider adding in the deeper dynasty/keeper leagues.
10. LHP Matt Imhof – Drafted in the 2nd round last June by the Phillies, Imhof is a big lefty who appears physically imposing on the mound, but whose approach is anything but. His delivery resembles that of Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale, but his pitches instead remind some of former Phillies fan favorite Jamie Moyer.
Using a 3-pitch arsenal that includes a fastball in the high 80’s-low 90’s, a curve and a change, Imhof has the ability to be a middle to back-end starter if he can improve his command. If not, he could end up being more of a situational lefty relief option.
Only 20 years old, Imhof could arrive around 2017. Because he is more of a finesse-type pitcher, he will not record a ton of strikeouts and may not be an innings eater. You would most likely need to rely on wins, a low era and whip among other categories depending on your league’s scoring system. For now, just another arm to keep on your radar for the future.