Washington Nationals: How Does Starting Pitching Rank In The NL East?
By Ron Juckett
5) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Anchored by Jeremy Hellickson, the Philadelphia Phillies feature the youngest quintet of starters in the division. Hellickson, along with Jerad Eickhoff posted above-average ERA+ last year and made over 30 starts each.
Add Clay Buchholz, freed from his years with the Boston Red Sox, and you have a capable front three. This division requires you have five decent starters to contend, something the young Phillies come into the season lacking.
Aaron Nola is undergoing treatment for a UCL sprain in his elbow and a pesky flexor mass strain in the forearm. The young Vince Velasquez gives the Phillies a strikeout pitcher, fanning 10.4-per-nine, but he tossed 131 innings in 24 big-league starts last year.
There are prospects aplenty with the rebuilding Phillies, but this year is about learning how to survive on the major-league level. Last year, seven starters took the hill ten times or more. As the Phillies adjust, expect more of the same this year from Philadelphia.
Although they want to compete with the rest of the division, this season is about establishing a baseline of the future. With any household name on the staff headed for free agency such as Hellickson, planting the seeds for the rest of the decade is the agenda.
Some nights will show brilliance, others whiplash. Growing pains often do. It will get better, just not this year.