In 2012, there were the Baby Aces - Trevor May, Jonathan Pettibone, Jarred Cosart, Julio Rodriguez and Brody Colvin - who were supposed to fill up the major league rotation somewhere prior to, well, now. That never happened.
Two years ago, the Fab Five - Jesse Biddle, Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Aaron Nola and Tom Windle - were going to be the ones who would insert themselves on the mound at Citizens Bank Park right about now. Most of that hasn't happened.
So now, we look at the 2017 Lehigh Valley IronPigs rotation. What shall we call them? The Five Big Piggies? The Five Iron Men? Mark Appel, Eflin, Lively, Nick Pivetta and Jake Thompson look to be the next super-group of starters who will be invading Philadelphia over the next season or two. While we know not what is going to happen with this bunch, history tells us that $#!t happens and we shouldn't figure on all five of them achieving greatness at the major league level in Philadelphia. If for no other reason, the rotation already has a couple of strong young arms and an eventual eight-man rotation just isn't going to work.
Three of the Baby Aces wound up being traded. The Phillies had dealt May and pitcher Vance Worley to Minnesota for outfielder Ben Revere in December, 2012. May, who underwent Tommy John surgery, hasn't exactly achieved the role of ace with Minnesota, going 13-17 with a combined 5.14 ERA over three seasons with the Twins. Julio Rodriguez went to Baltimore for outfielder Ronnie Welty in the spring of 2013. Welty played 15 games at Reading in 2013 and hasn't been heard from since.
Cosart netted the biggest haul when he was packaged with first baseman Jon Singleton, outfielder Domingo Santana and pitcher Josh Zeid for Hunter Pence just prior to the trade deadline in 2011. Houston then sent Cosart to the Miami Marlins and last July, the Marlins sent him to the San Diego Padres. Cosart, now 26, has a combined MLB line of 16-21 with a 3.92 ERA.
Colvin was released by the Phillies in June, 2014, and Pettibone made 20 major league starts for the Phillies (5-5, 4.45) before a torn rotator cuff and then a labrum injury sidelined him. After being released in 2015, Pettibone signed a minor league deal with the Cubs last year, but was released last April, unable to pitch at any level.
The Fab Five? Nola is in the Phillies rotation, Biddle battled a number of varied injuries and is in the Braves minor league system, coming off Tommy John surgery, and the book is still open on Eflin, Lively and Windle, although Windle's days as a starter appear to be over. Windle made 14 starts at Reading as a member of the Fab Five and wound up pitching most of the season as a reliever. Last season, he pitched for Clearwater and Reading, with four games in the GCL on a rehab assignment, and went 1-2 with a 4.68 ERA out of the bullpen.
Eflin is honestly, a bit of a concern right now. He had balky knees last season while pitching for the Phillies and had offseason surgery on both knees. He was still hobbling slightly this spring and was sent to minor league camp. He pitched in a minor league game with the Clearwater group last week and threw three innings, but he could open the season on the DL to give him some more time in extended camp to get ready for the season.
Lively was strong between Reading and Lehigh Valley last season (18-5, 2.69), leading the minors in wins. The 25-year old figures to at least get a September call-up with the Phillies, and could very well be in Philadelphia before then if the Phillies need another arm. Keep an eye on how Lively is pitching at Lehigh Valley, and what the Phillies do with arms like Clay Buchholz and Jeremy Hellickson as the trade deadline gets closer.
Thompson figures to be the first one to get a phone call if there is a need for another starter in Philadelphia. He uncharacteristically struggled with his command last season when he reached the majors, but didn't seem fazed by the struggles and pitched well in two chances with the big league club this spring. Early on, Thompson was sidelined with a sore wrist, but should be ready to go on opening day for Lehigh Valley.
The truth is that you simply never know how these things will turn out. The Baby Aces were supposed to be just that. The Fab Five were supposed to be nothing short of fabulous. This current crop has the same expectations, but history isn't on the side of most of them making it as major league pitchers. The truth is that things have turned out about how the odds would have had them play out. Take five very good pitchers at the High-A level, follow them for five years and see how many are in the majors? Odds are that you'll be lucky to have two of them pitching well as major league pitchers. Neither Cosart or May reached their potential as starters, although Cosart's career seemed to start off as though he would become an ace.
It's worth noting too, that at this point, it's not clear what the fate of Alec Asher and Adam Morgan will be with the Phillies. One or both could wind up in the Phillies bullpen to open the season, but one, both or neither could be back with Lehigh Valley and hold a spot either in the bullpen, or bumping someone out of the projected Lehigh Valley rotation.
When it comes to pitching prospects, it's both quality and quantity that matter and the Phillies are lucky to have both in their system. After all, $#!t happens, and the Phillies will at least have the depth to deal with it as it happens.
|Baby Aces / Fab Five / IronMen In The Majors|