The role of fifth starter in that rotation was a wide open spring training battle, with the favorites being a pair of left-handers with big league experience in newcomerBrett Oberholtzer and organizational arm Adam Morgan.
But another newcomer, Vince Velasquez, emerged during the Grapefruit League season as the best pitcher at Bright House Field back in March, and forced the Phillies hand in naming him to that final starting rotation berth.
As often happens to big league teams over the course of a long 162-game season, injuries struck. Morton went down in the season’s first month, presenting an opportunity for another prospect, Zach Eflin, to make his Major League Baseball debut.
In the end, Morton and soon to be 25-year old Alec Asher made just four starts for the Phillies, Morton back at that beginning and Asher here at the end of the season.
Neither will receive a grade due to those limited appearances.Before the summer was out, both Eflin and Nola had also succumbed to injuries. This gave Morgan and top pitching prospect Jake Thompson opportunities in the rotation as well.
The Phillies also gave one start to right-hander Phil Klein, who may be given another shot on the season’s final weekend. He will not receive a grade either.
The other seven will all be graded out in order of the least number of starts made to the most: Thompson (10), Eflin (11), Nola (20), Morgan (21), Velasquez (24), Hellickson (31), and Eickhoff (32).
I am flip-flopping Morgan and Nola here, simply because of their anticipated importance to the future of the Phillies as the club continues to build towards the future.