Come Opening Day, the Phillies' entire Major League starting rotation may be comprised of right-handed pitchers. Of course, depending on age, we've been fortunate enough to watch Steve Carlton and Cole Hamels in our lifetimes, and that's something to hang your hat on. For now, though, the Phillies' righties are the story in the Majors and the minors.
Lefties, it's time to make yourselves known. This list breaks down the top 8 left-handed starting pitchers in the Phillies' minors, with voting done once again by the prospect team of Dan, Jay, Matt, and myself. There were some disagreements, there were some agreements, and we even came to blows over this. Alright, that last part didn't happen.
1. Elniery Garcia
Clearwater: 12-4, 2.68 ERA, 20 G, 19 GS, 117.2 IP, 94 H, 36 BB (7.6%), 91 K (19.1%)
Garcia was unanimously the best lefty in the system when the votes were tabulated, and for good reason. Numbers wise, he wasn't outstanding in Lakewood in 2015, but had a very nice 2016 in Clearwater, even earning a look in Reading at the end of the season for their short-lived playoff run.
The big story for Garcia in 2016 was his workload. He was asked to do a lot, and responded pretty well to the pressure. From late May through late July, he didn't throw fewer than 85 pitches in any start, and had three straight games of 100+ pitches in that stretch.
The 22-year-old Dominican's fastball is gaining strength, and he was hitting some 95s on the gun at times late in the year. If he can sit around 92-93 and get his curveball over for strikes, he's at the very least a decent bullpen asset in the future. If the secondary pitches develop, well, then the Phillies might have a nice back-end starter on their hands. Garcia was added to the 40-man roster in December and Reading seems to be a likely starting point for him in 2017.
2. JoJo Romero
Williamsport: 2-2, 2.56 ERA, 10 G, 10 GS, 45.2 IP, 44 H, 11 BB (5.4%), 31 K (16.4%)
Romero was the Phillies' 4th round pick in the 2016 draft, and they got the JuCo lefty signed and out to Williamsport quickly. The Phillies had Pat Gillick out to see Romero in April of last year, and the buzz started from that point forward.
What is there to like about Romero? There's potential for solid control of four pitches, though nothing really stands out as being a plus pitch. Eventually he's going to have to decide what does and doesn't make the cut, as he came out of JuCo with a two-seamer, four-seamer, curveball, change, and slider.
The best bet for Romero? The fastball sits around 94-96 and he develops an average curveball and change to go to in certain situations. Romero looks like more of a reliever at this point, but he's only 20, so there's a long way to go in terms of deciding his future.
3. Cole Irvin
Williamsport: 5-1, 1.97 ERA, 10 G, 7 GS, 45.2 IP, 36 H, 8 BB (4.3%), 37 K (19.9%)
We were a bit all over the map on this one. Jay and Dan had Irvin in the 2 slot, I had him right here at 3, and Matt had him at 4. The Phillies followed their 4th round selection of Romero in the 2016 draft by taking Irvin in the 5th round. The southpaw from Oregon had Tommy John in 2014, returned in 2015 and sat around 86-88 with the fastball, but finally started to show some signs of life in 2016.
He became Oregon's Friday night starter in the process, and came alive with his fastball, sitting around 93-94. We'll see if Irvin has anything in the tank when it comes to the slider or change-up. He's shown flashes of having an above-average slider, but it's far from being a consistent secondary offering.
As Irvin will be 23 in just a few weeks, it'll be interesting to see where the Phillies start him in 2017. The best hope for Irvin is that the off-speed stuff develops quickly and he, like Romero, becomes a decent back-end of the rotation option.
4. Bailey Falter
Williamsport: 1-6, 3.17 ERA, 13 G, 13 GS, 59.2 IP, 61 H, 17 BB (6.5%), 59 K (22.7%)
Falter was the Phillies' 5th round pick in 2015, and posted some relatively modest numbers in the GCL to finish off his season. Last year saw a jump to Williamsport, and despite the record, he fared pretty well. There are some questions about his delivery, though I'd err on the side of saying it looks smooth enough that it will play well for him.
He sat high 80s-low 90s with the fastball at Williamsport, and at 19, there's reason to believe he'll continue to fill into his 6'4" frame. For now, the change-up seems to be a bit ahead of the curveball developmentally.
Falter, realistically, may have the highest ceiling of the Romero-Irvin-Falter trio, but there's a long way to go. The hope is that he surprises in 2017 and gets some attention throughout the summer. In terms of relatively random guys to be interested in, I may be most interested in Falter out of anyone on this list.
5. Brandon Leibrandt
GCL/Clearwater: 4-1, 2.27 ERA, 10 G, 10 GS, 43.2 IP, 35 H, 14 BB (9.3%), 34 K (19.4%)
The knock on Leibrandt is his velocity. It just seems like it's going to be hard to get out of that 88-90 range for him. He's now thrown 212.1 innings in the minors, and the numbers aren't terrible, but he's now 24 and he'll have to prove himself at Reading in 2017.
Jay, Dan, and myself all had Leibrandt either 4 or 5, but Matt didn't have him anywhere on his list. There's a reason for that, and if you asked Matt, he'd probably tell you it all boils down to the age and the fastball just not being enough of a factor. Fair enough. In reality, Leibrandt is likely AAA fodder for the Phillies, a depth guy in the organization. It's not really what any fan wants to hear, but it is the most probable outcome for him.
6. Kyle Young
GCL: 3-0, 2.67 ERA, 9 G, 2 GS, 27 IP, 23 H, 2 BB (1.9 %), 19 K (18.1%)
Young was the Phillies' 22nd round pick in the 2016 draft, and he showed up to rookie ball and didn't really walk anyone, which is always something that piques interest.
Here's what Young is: A project. He just turned 19. He's 6'10". The fastball is pretty straight right now, but the curveball has some potential. It'll be a while until we know anything concrete about him, but he is a project worth keeping an eye on.
7. Ranger Suarez
Williamsport: 6-4, 2.81 ERA, 13 G, 13 GS, 73.2 IP, 61 H, 24 BB (7.9%), 53 K (17.4%)
Suarez has been in the organization for a while now, with 2012-2014 coming in the Venezuelan Summer League. In 2014, he walked just 1 batter in his 80.2 innings in the VSL (yes, 1), though as you can see above, that type of pace hasn't exactly continued.
He did well in Williamsport this year, and will likely start 2017 at Lakewood. He's not a closely-watched name as of right now but the 21-year-old does head into the 2017 season with some momentum on his side.
8. Nick Fanti
GCL: 7-0, 1.57 ERA, 11 G, 9 GS, 51.2 IP, 36 H, 9 BB (4.5%), 65 K (32.3%)
The Phillies found Fanti in the 31st round of the 2015 draft, a tall high-school lefty from New York with some size and projectability. He hasn't been blowing anyone away velocity wise, and the secondary pitches will have to play out if he's going to succeed.
After mainly working in relief following the 2015 draft, he was a full-time starter in the GCL in 2016 and pitched well overall. He'll likely start 2017 in Lakewood, and we'll see if he has the ability to get guys out without a 95 MPH fastball to lean on.