For most of the Phillies' much-anticipated youth movement, our focus has been on position players. Even now, amid nightly meltdowns and early departures by the big club’s current staff of starters, what generates the most interest and arguments is not what pitcher might be promoted to stop some of the bleeding, but rather how we can wedge that Rhys Hoskins into a lineup in which the only players performing reasonably well man the positions Hoskins would assume.
Say, you think he can pitch and hit home runs?
OK, just a thought. Because, well, the cavalry ain’t coming anytime soon to rescue our eyes from a starting staff that has underachieved, to put it mildly. In less than a calendar year, Jeremy Hellickson has gone from a guy you rooted for to pitch well for value’s sake to a guy you tune in to watch, so suspect are the other options.
And the news immediately down below doesn’t get any better. Of the four pitchers who have made at least six starts for the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, only Ben Lively has an ERA of fewer than five runs per game. At 25, he is in his fifth minor-league season, and while his consistency over the last two minor-league seasons is laudable, it’s not messianic. Not close.
Tom Eshelman, a former second-round pick by Houston and acquired in the Ken Giles deal, has pitched well in three starts for double-A Reading and two with the IronPigs, but the rest of the Phillies' double-A starters aren’t performing any better than the triple-A staff. Your best hope, clearly at least a year or two away, are the lively arms in Lakewood. Four starters hold microscopic ERAs and have dynamic stuff, and a couple own absolutely perfectly wonderful major-league names.
JoJo Romero? Sixto Sanchez? Oh, man, get the T-shirts ready!
A starting staff made up almost entirely of mercenaries and anchored by 36-year-old Orel Hershiser and 41-year-old Dennis Martinez. Lest we forget, the previous Phillies era of starting pitching featured really only two home-grown starters of note: Brett Myers and Cole Hamels.
The Phillies won their only World Series of that era after two pitching acquisitions that seemed little more than stopgaps at the time they were made: an August 2006 trade with Seattle to acquire 43-year-old Jamie Moyer and an August 2008 trade with Oakland to acquire Joe Blanton. The currency for Moyer was two minor-league pitchers who never got close to being called up. The three-player bounty for Blanton included Josh Outman, who has carved a nice career as a middle reliever.
Hold on there, fella …
Mark Appel … wash
Jake Thompson …
There are no pitching messiahs on the immediate horizon.
Appel and Thompson were supposed to be more than this by now. Inside the Houston and Texas organizations, you can almost hear the sigh of relief.