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March 08, 2023

Who's leading the race to be the Phillies' fifth starter (so far)?

Will any of the Phillies' top prospects make a push for the final job in the starting rotation?

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Griff-McGarry-Phillies-prospects_030823_USAT Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA Today Sports

Will one of the Phillies' top prospects be able to get healthy and make it to the majors?

The Phillies have played 11 spring training games and have seen their four contenders for the fifth starter's job make six combined appearances so far.

With the quartet of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Taijuan Walker and Ranger Suárez essentially chiseled into stone, four other hurlers were expected to be fighting for the final remaining spot.

Three prospects – Andrew Painter, Mick Abel and Griff McGarry – are battling a young returning veteran in Bailey Falter for the chance to start every fifth day in South Philly.

How is the race shaping up? 

Here's a look at how we see the contenders currently stacking up against one another:

1. Bailey Falter (4.91 ERA, 5 K, BB in 3.2 IP)

His numbers don't look particularly impressive through two starts, but with no clear front-runner emerging and a potentially scary injury to top prospect Painter, Falter has the inside track at landing the job.

He's been effective so far this spring throwing his slider and changeup and has been working on his curveball. The Phils' coaching staff likes what it sees and he seems to have the first crack at being the No. 5 guy. There is plenty of insurance behind him if he does make the roster and struggles early, but they trusted him in the postseason, and it seems like they'll be willing to give him a try in 2023.

2. Andrew Painter (4.50 ERA, 1 K in 2.0 IP)

Painter had exactly one start before he was temporarily shut down with elbow soreness. He looked spectacular at times, nearing 100 MPH in his first spring start but the Phillies are understandably erring on the side of caution.

The 19-year-old still might be healthy enough to make a push for a big league call, but it seems like his most likely path will involve a few weeks in Triple-A, assuming he is healthy. If he's indeed held out for the rest of the spring, the pitchers behind him will have a greater chance of breaking through.

3. Mick Abel (0.00 ERA, BB in 1.0 IP)

Working against Abel is that he's had one lone chance to impress so far this spring and it was not a start. It seems as though the team is trying to acclimate Abel slowly, and he could chart a similar path to Painter — heading to the minors until needed.

However, the Phillies liked what they saw in his lone appearance and he'll have more of them soon. The floodgates could open if he really kills it every inning he's able (ha) to pitch. 

4. Griff McGarry (33.75 ERA, 3 K, 4 BB in 1.1 IP)

It hasn't been the best of debuts for McGarry, the third-best pitcher in the Phillies farm system. He's allowed seven baserunners and five runs while retiring just four hitters in two starts so far. Most of that came in his first stint, where he only got one out in the game. In his second appearance, he pitched a scoreless inning, stranding two runners on base.

McGarry will have more opportunities and he is trending in the right direction. If he can prove his first trip to the mound was a blip, perhaps he'll have an outside chance of pitching his way onto the big league club.

Also on the radar: Michael Plassmeyer (0.00 ERA, 2 K, 2 BB in 5.1 IP)

There's really only one player left who has a chance at starting — and it's journeyman prospect Plassmeyer, who made it to the majors with two relief appearances last season. The 26-year-old has been light's out so far in three chances, two of them technically "starts" this spring.

We've anointed him as our choice as the Phillies' long reliever in our latest 26-man roster projection, but if he continues to blank opponents and the four pitchers above fail to measure up, he might have a fighting chance.

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