Projecting the 2021 Philadelphia Phillies Opening Day roster
By Hunter Doyle
Aaron Nola will once again be the go-to Phillies starting pitcher in 2021.
Starting Rotation (5): Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Spencer Howard, Matt Moore
As expected, Aaron Nola leads the pack. The Phillies ace has been fun to watch over the past four seasons, compiling a 46-29 record, 3.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 106 starts. “Nols” has to be better down the stretch, though. In 27 career starts across September and October, he is 7-12 with a 4.28 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 27 home runs allowed.
Zack Wheeler takes the No. 2 spot after an impressive first season in Philly. The Phils only saw him for 11 starts, but if they get the same Wheeler who had seven quality starts last year, they’ll be set up well for a late-season run.
Zach Eflin has a tall task as the No. 3 this year. Just like last year, he will be an “x-factor.” Eflin has improved every year of his major league career. It’ll be about consistency for him. He made some big strides last season under Bryan Price, and he’ll have to carry that into the 2021 season with new pitching coach Caleb Cotham.
With the last two spots, we’ll go with the kid and the vet. Spencer Howard, who just turned 24 last July, will get the nod in his second season. There were plenty of bumps in the road in his rookie year but he also showed flashes of his potential. If he can work on his command and his offspeed pitches, his ceiling is sky-high. It’ll take time and patience but Howard stays level-headed — never too high nor low. It’s not a guarantee that he’ll be able to last the whole season and handle that workload, though. That’s where two other veterans could come in, one of which we have in the rotation.
That leaves 31-year-old Matt Moore, who takes the fifth and final spot after spending one year playing in Japan. Through eight innings of work this spring, Moore has allowed just three hits, one walk, and one earned run while striking out five. The Phillies add a lefty to their rotation to start 2021.
It is worth noting that both Eflin and Howard are dealing with back issues. This five-man projection is under the assumption that both will be healthy come April 1.