Concern seems to be one thing no one is lacking right now. Of course, the biggest question as far as baseball in general is concerned is if there will be a season at all. But beyond the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, what other questions do the Phillies have this year?
The primary concern for the pitching staff is ⅖ of the starting rotation. Both Jake Arrieta and whoever wins the race between Vince Velazquez and Nick Pivetta are the major question marks for the upcoming season. Which Arrieta are we going to see in 2020, the one who won a Cy Young for the Cubs, or the one who has been pitching in Philadelphia the past two years? If 2020 Arrieta is closer to his 2015 self than his 2019 self, the Phillies will be in a great position. If not… we’re in for another long season with him. The same can be said for both Velazquez and Pivetta. If Velazquez can put everything together for a full season or we finally get the Pivetta breakout year we’ve been patiently waiting for, great. If not, there’s a huge hole in the fifth spot in the rotation that will need to be addressed very quickly.
If Arrieta and Velazquez/Pivetta were the only issues to be concerned about this season, the Phillies would still be in an overall positive spot. However, the starting rotation isn’t the only place there are giant question marks.
In 2019 things in the bullpen went downhill very quickly. Tommy Hunter was the first card to fall, with a forearm strain in Spring Training. Then they lost, in order: David Robertson, Tommy Hunter (again), Victor Arano, Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Adam Morgan, Seranthony Dominguez, Jerad Eickhoff, Juan Nicasio, Pat Neshek (again), Tommy Hunter (AGAIN), Edubray Ramos (again), Adam Morgan (again), and Juan Nicasio (again).
Besides Hector Neris, there wasn’t a single reliable pitcher in the bullpen in 2019. If the most reliable pitcher in the bullpen is HECTOR NERIS, that’s a huge issue. (I love Hector, don’t get me wrong. But he doesn’t embody stability.)
Coming back into the bullpen from the 2019 injury list this season are Hunter, Morgan, Robertson (not really), and Dominguez. Will they have healthy seasons? If they do, will they be any good? The terrifying truth is that no one knows. And unfortunately, the Phillies didn’t do much to shore up the bullpen heading into this spring. If the rotation was extremely strong and didn’t have any concerns of its own, it’s possible that the combination of Jose Alvarez, Seranthony Dominguez (maybe?), Neris and the reject between Velazquez and Pivetta would be good enough to calm any major concerns. As it is, there isn’t much to be confident in.
Maybe the silver lining of the MLB suspension is that it’s giving those injured guys a little more time to get healthy and be ready to play once baseball does resume. Only time will tell.
Flatten the curve. Wash your hands. Check on your friends. Then, comment below who you think will be the most reliable pitcher in the Phillies bullpen this season.