Last season, the Philadelphia Phillies saw firsthand what a deep starting rotation could do for a time. The Houston Astros were a team that launched a 6-man rotation to great success.
Only 1 Astros pitcher barely cracked 200 IP (Framber Valdez). The rest of the staff threw 175 or fewer IPs. That led to a fresh rotation tearing through the postseason, ending in a World Series championship.
Compare that to the Phillies.
Aaron Nola and Kyle Gibson both started 31+ games, and Zack Wheeler would have if not for a late-season injury. After a couple of excellent postseason starts, both Nola and Wheeler looked tired toward the end of the playoffs.
The Phillies head into 2023 with six options for the rotation, so why not add the 6th man to the rotation from the get-go?
Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Ranger Suarez are the locks to return to the rotation. New addition Taijuan Walker will also have a guaranteed spot in the rotation. The 2 question marks are Bailey Falter and prospect Andrew Painter.
A six-man rotation would benefit all six starters. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler gain the benefit of saving themselves for big spots in the postseason. Not overexerting your two aces would also allow them to go the extra inning if needed in the regular season.
Ranger Suarez threw a career-high 170 IP between the regular season and the postseason in 2022. Spreading out his innings could help him continue his development in becoming an effective big-league starter.
Although a veteran, Taijuan Walker has never started 30 games in a season and has never thrown over 170 IP in a single season (regular season and postseason combined). Over the past two seasons, Walker has had vastly different first and second halves. In the first half, he had a 2.61 ERA in 186.1 IP; in the second, he had a 5.95 ERA in 130 IP. Giving him a bit more rest might expand his effectiveness later in the season.
Enter the question marks.
Bailey Falter was a key piece in the rotation down the stretch for the Phillies in 2022. When Wheeler went down with an injury, his effectiveness ensured the Phillies didn’t sink out of the Wild Card hunt. Overall, Falter had a 3.86 ERA on the season. From July 29th onward, he had a 3.00 ERA in 51 IP. He’s earned a shot at the rotation, but that could be in jeopardy if the Phillies don’t go to a 6-man rotation.
That’s because Andrew Painter is knocking at the door. Both MLB.com and Baseball America named Painter their pitching prospect of the year after he had a 1.56 ERA with 13.5 K/9 over three levels of the minors. He allowed just five homers over 103.2 IP. He’s still just 19 years old, but Rob Thomson has already mentioned him as a possibility as the 5th starter. The word floating around the organization is he’ll break camp as long as he doesn’t have a disastrous spring training.
With new MLB incentives, the Phillies would earn a draft pick if Painter joins the Opening Day roster and finishes within the top 3 of Rookie of the Year voting. A 6-man rotation could help that cause.