Butch Dill / USATODAY Sports Images

Three pitchers have emerged in an attempt to win the fifth spot in the Phillies starting rotation

The battle for the fifth spot in the Phillies starting rotation was thought to be a two-man race. But early results have made it a three-man race as lefty-hander Adam Morgan has joined the fray in hopes of winning a spot.

Adam Morgan has had injuries curtail his path to a regular job in the majors. The 26-year old lefty pitched in just 18 games in 2013 and six in 2014 before finally being able to put together a full season last year, splitting his time between Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia. In two starts this Spring, Morgan has thrown five innings, posting a 3.60 ERA and a WHIP of just 0.80, thanks to allowing just three hits and one walk. The performance has been good enough to take Morgan from being a fringe competitor for the fifth spot in the rotation to being a bona fide candidate for the job. Coming into camp, Morgan would have likely needed Vincent Velasquez and Brett Oberholtzer to stumble in order to have a shot, but that's no longer the case.

The truth is, that both Velasquez and Oberholtzer are also having good springs. Velasquez has pitched five innings in two games, with a line very similar to Morgan's, having allowed six hits and one walk and posting the same 3.60 ERA. Two big differences are that hitters are batting .300 against Velasquez and just .176 against Morgan, and Velasquez has struck out six batters in his five innings, while Morgan hasn't struck out any.

For his part, Oberholtzer, also 26, has put together two strong outings, not allowing a run in five innings of work, while surrendering four hits and one walk. Opponents are hitting .235 against the left-hander and he has a Spring WHIP of an even 1.00 through his two outings.

The fact is, that you can crunch the numbers all you want, but it's likely that all Oberholtzer has to do is put up strong numbers and he's assured of a job on the roster, albeit not necessarily in the rotation. Oberholtzer is out of options, which helps his case to stay on the roster, but he could be used as a long reliever out of the bullpen, opening up the rotation spot for either Velasquez or Morgan, both of whom have two options remaining.

Beyond Oberholtzer being out of options, he and Morgan also have an advantage in one other area; they're left-handed, while the rest of the proposed starting rotation is right-handed. With Aaron NolaJeremy HellicksonJerad Eickhoff and Charlie Morton all but assured of starting jobs, adding a lefty might be an added plus. 

Much of the decision might come down to just how the Phillies choose to handle Oberholtzer. He came over from Houston in the Ken Giles trade this Winter and the Phillies won't want to risk having to put him through waivers to send him to Lehigh Valley. Will they be content to keep him in the bullpen, a role which he's not very used to serving in, or will they simply decide that he has to stay in the rotation. Other than pitching much better than Oberholtzer, there's nothing that neither Morgan nor Velasquez can do about the options question.

There's no denying that right now, Oberholtzer has a definitive edge on winning the fifth starter's spot, but don't count out Velasquez or Morgan. Especially in Morgan's case, the fact that he's pitching so well is a very good sign. It's also a very good sign for the Phillies that they could have two quality young prospects who each have had at least some time in the majors, waiting in the wings and ready to join the big league rotation.

Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories