4 emergency options for the fifth starter spot if Sánchez falters in spring training

Cristopher Sánchez is currently slotted in at the back end of the Phillies rotation, but we look at four alternatives if things don't go as planned for him.

Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four
Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages
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Mick Abel

Of the four pitchers mentioned in this article, Mick Abel is the one with the most intrigue. He is ranked second among all Phillies prospects and 49th overall by MLB.com.

There has been a lot of anticipation surrounding Abel in Philadelphia, ever since the Phillies selected him 15th overall in the 2020 Draft. There is a lot riding on him living up to the hype, and he certainly has the tools to succeed.

In this respect, the 22-year-old has three pitches that are major-league quality if he continues to show the required dedication. Chief among these is his fastball, followed by a curveball and slider that can cause chaos when he's on his game.

Abel suffered a couple of setbacks in his quest to make an impression with the organization. First there was the pandemic in 2020, which amounted to a lost year, followed by a shoulder injury that compromised him the following season.

Since then, however, the Portland, Oregon native has worked his way up through the farm system, albeit he only made one appearance in Triple-A last year. All indications are he still needs more time at this level before making his MLB debut, although you never know what he might show during spring training.

Along these lines, consider comments Dombrowski made about Abel during the Winter Meetings in December. As per Zolecki, he said: "Not counting on breaking camp with the club, but I've been with young guys who are very talented, and you never can tell when they all of a sudden — boom — find it. He does have that type of talent."

It is reassuring to know the Phillies are being patient and smart with their prestigious young prospect, which is tough to do when you have someone with his type of talent. And in this respect, we're talking about someone capable of eventually being a staff ace.

At the same time, the Phillies organization knows Abel still has work to do, with the main challenge being issues with his location. In this respect, his walk rate took a step back in 2023 to 5.2 BB/9, compared to 4.2 a year earlier.

Walks aside, last season was an important and encouraging step in the right-handed pitcher's development. His 113 1/3 combined innings were his most since being drafted, as he produced a 4.13 ERA and 1.262 WHIP in 23 starts, including 22 in Double-A.

Overall, of the four pitchers referenced in this article, Abel is the least likely to be picked as the fifth starter in a scenario that needs an emergency option to begin the season. However, if we're talking about a similar situation further down the road in 2024, then it could very well be a different story for his chances.