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October 11, 2017

Phillies final report cards for 2017 season: Pitchers

Pencils down. Time’s up.

The Phillies 2017 season has been over for 10 days. After taking stock of their individual work during the marking period, the final grades have been determined. We’ll start with pitchers today and then post grades for position players within the next 24 hours.

First, a few notes:

  • Each individual player’s grade begins with what the expectations were for that individual player when spring training ended. What was expected of Maikel Franco, for example, pales in comparison to what was expected of, say, Pedro Florimon. So while you’ll be tempted to compare players’ grades, remember what you thought about those players when the season began and whether that changed (for good or bad) during the season.

  • Injuries would make it easy to assign 'incomplete' grades. But if the player still played long enough for an assessment, he deserves a grade. If he was Clay Buchholz, he earned the Danny Tartabull Award and was not graded. Also: if a player has a history of injuries, he’s graded a little tougher since durability matters.

  • Speaking of Buchholz, we decided on a very arbitrary figure of 10, for both pitchers and position players, as the number of games a player had to play for the Phillies in 2017 to be eligible for the 2017 marking period. So none for you, Kevin Siegrist. And you also had to be on the roster when the season ended, so no Jeanmar Gomez (but yes, 60-day DL guys do count for grading purposes).

All players are listed in alphabetical order. 

Victor Arano, A-

Arano barely crossed the eligibility threshold – he pitched in his 10th major league game on the final day of the season. But you really had to like what you saw from Arano in his brief audition: 1.69 ERA, 13 K, 6 H, 2 BB in 10 2/3 innings.

Zach Eflin, C-

Of the 51 players who appeared in games for the Phillies in 2017, only Arano and J.P. Crawford were younger than Eflin, who doesn’t turn 24 until April. But his 2016 season was shortened by the need for two knee surgeries and his 2017 really never got going because of shoulder woes. Since he’s so young, you’re not giving up on him, but, still, durability issues are troubling.

Jerad Eickhoff, C-

In 2016, Eickhoff was probably as good as Nola was in 2017. But Eickhoff’s ERA from one season to the next jumped more than a run (from 3.65 to 4.71), the Phillies lost 12 of his first 14 starts, and he ended the season on the 60-day DL. No matter how you slice it, he took a step back from most dependable starter in rotation when season began to legitimate question mark for 2018.

Luis Garcia, A

The longest-tenured member of the Phillies pitching staff was on the roster bubble in spring training and emerged six months later as the most consistent arm in the team’s bullpen. Armed with an upper-90s fastball and a new splitter, Garcia didn’t allow an earned run in 55 of his 66 appearances and, among 84 MLB relievers with at least 60 innings, was one of nine (along with former teammate Pat Neshek) who allowed just three home runs all season.

Mark Leiter, A-

Here’s a guy who manager Pete Mackanin hadn’t even heard of in February – Leiter wasn’t in big league camp in Clearwater – who may not have baffled opposition hitters but did provide stability to a mostly unstable rotation as a rookie. Leiter may be best outfitted for a long man role out of a bullpen one day, but he served his purpose as a constantly-needed spot starter in 2017.

Ben Lively, B

Only 62 pitchers who made at least 15 starts this year had a lower ERA than Ben Lively. And the players right around him on the list (Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Dylan Bundy, Lance McCullers, Gerrit Cole) would seemingly put him in good company. But 15 starts is still a small sample size. Still, not a bad rookie year.

Hoby Milner, B

The name of the game, for a pitcher, is to not allow any runs. Milner did a pretty good job at that, allowing just seven in 37 appearances (31.1 innings) for a 2.01 ERA. His ERA was third best among MLB rookie relievers (min. 20 innings). His peripherals weren’t great, though (1.47 WHIP, 1.38 K/BB rate) so whether he can be successful again in 2018 is unknown. Still, solid rookie year.

Adam Morgan, A-

Again, grades are based on individual expectations on each individual player when 2-17 began. Morgan, continuing to adjust to reliever role, struggled out of the gate and that’s the only reason he’s not getting a straight-up A. After his first five appearances, Morgan had a 2.72 ERA, struck out 52 (while walking 15) of the 173 batters he faced, and held opponents to a .196/.266/.297 slash line in his final 32 games. With velocity increasing, too, no reason to think he can’t continue blossoming into one of the games more effective left-handed relievers in ’18.

Hector Neris, B

Perhaps it was unfair to think Neris, one of the game’s better 8th inning relievers in 2016, would automatically become a shutdown closer because of his strikeout stuff in 2017. Growing pains should be expected for any young or mostly-inexperienced player. Neris survived that nightmarish night at Chavez Ravine in late April (three consecutive home runs) and did just fine as the team’s closer. His peripherals weren’t quite as good as last year, but he also set the bar pretty high.

Aaron Nola, A

Spoilers: no Phillies player earned an A+ in 2017. But Nola if we went with numeric grades over letter grades, Nola deserved the best score. He was one of the (if not the biggest) question marks when spring training commenced after missing the final two months of 2016 with an elbow injury. He was simply one of the National League’s top starters in 2017. He would have earned an A+ if he was just a tad closer to the 200-inning plateau.

Ricardo Pinto, C-

Originally had him down in D territory (a 7.89 ERA and 1.89 WHIP in 25 games is pretty dreadful) but decided to grade with a generous rookie curve because, really, what was expected of the 23-year-old former starter back in March? He was never labeled a savior or considered a can’t-miss prospect.

Nick Pivetta, C+

As with Pinto, we’re going with the rookie grading curve a bit here, since a plus-6 ERA (and 1.51 WHIP) in 26 starts feels like it’d have to be no better than C- territory. But Pivetta sprinkled just enough promising starts (including his final three) to remind you there’s talent there. And being able to pitch the entirety of the season (he made a combined 31 starts between AAA and the Phillies after dominating the International League in April) should count for something on a staff that lacked that kind of durability.

Edubray Ramos, C+

It’s not so much how you start but how you finish as a young pitcher (he only made his MLB debut on late June of 2016) and, like Morgan, Ramos benefited from a trip to Triple-A before the All-Star break. From August 1 on, Ramos had a 2.70 ERA in 24 games, which doesn’t tell you everything since five of the eight earned runs he allowed during the span came in one game. Ramos struck out 37 of the 108 batters he faced in that time. He had a 11.71 K/9 overall, which ranked 11th best among NL relievers (min. 40 IP). The first three months were often tough to watch, though.

Yacksel Rios, C

The 24-year-old Rios was basically a September call-up type (he arrived on August 22) and is as close to anyone in deserving of an ‘incomplete’ had we made that option available. He appeared on only 13 games. He didn’t allow runs in 10 of those games but he also walked way too many for a major league reliever. But he was also getting his first taste of the major leagues. A C sounds fair, all things considered, for a guy who pitched the bulk of the year at Double-A Reading.

Jesen Therrien, C-

Like Rios, Therrien began the year at Reading. And he was dominant there, and handled himself very well at Triple-A, too. Therrien’s stuff didn’t play anywhere near as well in 15 games in the big leagues (8.35 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, .923 opponents’ OPS). We’re once again grading on a rookie curve (few had heard about him back in March, when he wasn’t even in big league camp) and because his season did end with Tommy John surgery, meaning his ugly numbers could easily be the result of trying to pitch through injury.

Jake Thompson, C

If we told you that Thompson had a 3.88 ERA in 11 games (eight starts) for the Phillies this season, you’d probably be surprised, right? Three of Thompson’s eight starts were downright ugly, but, as with Pivetta, his last three starts were somewhat hopeful (two earned runs in 15 1/3 innings). Still, the peripherals weren’t great (1.55 WHIP, 1.59 K/BB, 5.92 FIP) and neither where his numbers at Triple-A (5.25 ERA in 22 starts). And this was a guy labeled the organization’s top pitching prospect going into 2016.

Vince Velasquez, D+

Velasquez arrived in Philadelphia about two years ago with the reputation of having an electric arm but real durability issues, since he had pitched more than 100 innings in just one of his first five full professional seasons. It’s safe to say those durability issues have persisted while wearing Phillies pinstripes. He has the occasional dominant outing that reminds you of the talent within, but his 2017 workload was nearly half of his 2016 one (72 innings after 131 the previous year) and his overall numbers in his 15 starts (5.13 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 2.00 K/BB) also left a lot to be desired.

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