Projected rotation (from MLB Daily Dish)
The Phillies starting rotation looks completely different from the 2014 edition, and that probably comes as a sigh of relief to most Phillies fans. Aside from Cole Hamels, the majority of the innings went to Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, Adam Morgan, David Buchanan and Sean O'Sullivan.
That's not ideal.
Fortunately, the two familiar faces in the rotation this season are Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff, who were both impressive in limited innings last season. The former could be an anchor for this rotation for a long time to come, while the latter posted surprisingly impressive peripherals (8.65 K/9, 2.29 BB/9) and obviously showed some promise with a 2.65 ERA over eight starts after coming to the team in the Hamels trade.
While the other three guys — Hellickson, Morton and Velasquez — aren't the quality arms that, say, the Mets have they aren't terrible either. Hellickson and Morton threw 146 and 129 innings respectively, last season and both have peripherals that show they performed better than their 4.62 and 4.81 ERAs would indicated.
With Velasquez (who was brought in along with Mark Appel and Brett Oberholtzer in the Giles trade), the Phillies have a young arm who has some really impressive stuff, but is going to have to make some strides with his command. He fanned 9.38 batters per nine innings in 55.2 innings with the Astros last season, and over five minor league seasons that K/9 was 10.8. So he's got some real potential as maybe the biggest question mark in the rotation.
Aside from those guys, the Phillies have some interesting arms waiting in the minors with Jake Thompson (acquired via the Hamels trade) who's a big, 6-foot-4, 245-pound righty with a five-pitch mix and a chance to be a mid-rotation guy. Appel has really fallen off since becoming a professional, sporting a 5.12 ERA over three seasons after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, but there's still a chance he figures it out.
Most likely player to terrorize the Braves?
Maikel Franco. This might be a cop-out, but in his seven games against Atlanta last season he managed hits in all but one game and put up a .321 batting average. Also, it says "most likely player," so shouldn't the best guy qualify?
Not going to lie, after doing this preview I definitely think the Phillies are a better team than before I started writing. While the lineup as is doesn't scare anyone, there are some real talented hitters waiting to come up, and while the Phillies don't have the pitching that the Braves can boast of, they've got some interesting arms.
Brad predicted that the Phillies would beat the Braves out for fourth in the division on our most recent podcast, while I picked the Phillies to finish last for the third straight time. While I tempted to back out of that, I won't. The team with just three players over the age of 30 will wind up in the cellar of the NL East because of the inconsistency that comes from youth, but they'll be fighting Atlanta for it the whole season.