Don't look now, but David Buchanan is probably the Phillies' second-best starter.
On a team with playoff aspirations, that may not exactly blow your doors off. But that ain't the Phils this year, and make no mistake. Buchanan has done nothing but pitch well since joining the rotation last season.
And with Cliff Lee likely done for the season and the team littered with veterans who are either aging or coming off injury-plagued seasons, the Phils desperately need for Buchanan to do more of what he did last year.
In 2014, he went 6-8 with a 3.75 ERA and a 4.27 FIP in 117.2 innings (20 starts), with 71 strikeouts and 32 walks. Buchanan is a groundball pitcher, and among all National League starters with at least 110 innings pitched last year, he ranked 15th in ground ball percentage (50.7%).
He's not a dominant starter, but so far in his brief Major League career, he's been effective.
And that has continued this spring. Buchanan leads the team in innings pitched so far (16.0) and has given up just three earned runs, with 11 strikeouts and 0 walks for a 1.69 ERA in three starts (five games overall). The 25-year-old also put up one of the best efforts by anyone on the staff so far this spring on Monday, pitching five shutout innings against the Twins.
Now, to be fair, Minnesota did not exactly come to Clearwater with their Opening Day lineup. But Buchanan continued a trend this spring of keeping the ball on the ground, avoiding walks, and even piling up the strikeouts with greater frequency.
Of course, this is a small sample size and spring stats are often times best to be ignored. But it certainly has done enough to convince the Phils to include Buchanan on the Opening Day roster for the first time in his career.
As far as what he might do this season, here is where he stands among the most well known projections.
The three prognostications above all seem to generally agree on Buchanan's 2015 season.
Perhaps I'm a wide-eyed optimist, but I foresee things going a little better for Buchanan this year, with an ERA closer to 4.00 and an fWAR somewhere between 1.0 and 2.0.
He's not flashy, but Buchanan is an inexpensive and young pitching option for a team in desperate need of both. And the odds are better than good the Phillies will be happy they have him in their rotation this season.