Oct. 03, 2016
The Phillies Should Keep Nick Pivetta In The Starting Rotation And Move Zach Eflin To The Bullpen
I'm fully aware that the title of this piece might sound crazy given the fact that Pivetta has now started a grand total of four games -and barely made it past the fourth inning- and Eflin has somewhat proved himself at the MLB level since his first call up last year -after really struggling at first- but let's take an objective look at the situation here.
First of all, we have pretty much seen what Eflin is capable of at this point. I'm not talking about stats or even necessarily what he's done but simply what he's capable of. He has very good stuff. He throws fairly hard and has life on his fastball, and his breaking pitch can have hitters swinging in the dirt when he's at his best. With enough experience yes he might very well be a reliable third starter or back end of the rotation guy but to me his stuff would be so much more effective out of the pen. For starters, his fastball has great movement and his breaking stuff really has bite to it when he throws it right. But he's currently too inconsistent with his command and control to be a starter, and it seems like hitters really start getting better swings on him the second and third time through the opposing lineup. That's a huge problem for a starting pitcher.
Out of the pen though, he won't need to be half as consistent because hitters will only see him for at most a few innings and will probably only face him once. That makes his stuff all the more effective, especially if his fastball adds a few extra ticks of velocity out of the pen.
Speaking of the bullpen, let's be honest here. It could really use a pitcher with Eflin's stuff and potential. Other than former starters like Jake Thompson and a few young relief prospects -and the seemingly ageless Joaquin Benoit-, the bullpen is mostly a patchwork of guys trying to salvage their careers with the Phillies and a few inconsistent lower-tier prospects. I can easily see Eflin eventually being a great 7th inning guy. That role seems perfect for him and his stuff. But either way, shouldn't the Phillies try everything to fix that bullpen at this point? It's beyond pathetic.
Lastly, yes Pivetta has only made a few starts. In those few starts though, he's shown that he deserves more of them. More importantly, he's shown through his poise and flashes of brilliance both that he can handle staying in the big league rotation this year and that with some more experience he could really be something special. In fact, if he ever gets his command and control down consistently, I think Pivetta could be a number two starter at worst. This is coming from as far as I know the only person who predicted during the '15 season that Jerad Eickhoff could be a #3 starter at worst one day.
The fact is the Phillies are and have been a mess under Pete Mackanin and this new regime. Personally I think Matt Klentak is Ed Wade Jr and Mackanin didn't even deserve his first extension but that's neither here nor there. What isn't up for debate is the fact that this unacceptable crap can't go on any longer. The Phillies need to look for real ways to not just improve the big club but give it some damn order and stability. This move could do both. It's at least worth a shot.