The Hot Seat

The big news in baseball this week was Roy Halladay succumbing to the injury bug, and it seems as though the concerns about him during Spring Training were legitimate after all. There’s all sorts of speculation out there regarding who will take his rotation spot, so I’m going to dig deep and try to predict the Phillies’ next move.

After three consecutive quality starts, Halladay had a total meltdown on Tuesday, giving up eight runs on nine hits (including three home runs) and two walks in 3.2 innings against Cleveland. Then came Sunday, when he imploded in a most spectacular fashion, exiting after just 2.1 innings, having surrendered nine runs on four hits (including another homer), four walks and two hit-by-pitches.

It was the first time the 35-year-old had given up five or more runs in the first inning of a game since his rookie season in 1999. The most disturbing part is that he did this facing the Miami Marlins, whose lineup for the day looked more like a Triple-A roster: Juan Pierre, Chris Valaika, Placido Polanco, Justin Ruggiano, Marcell Ozuna, Greg Dobbs, Miguel Olivo, Adeiny Hechavarria and Kevin Slowey.

Coming into Sunday, Halladay’s average fastball velocity for the season was 89.9 mph. Against the Marlins, he averaged 88.2 mph on his heater. More alarming than the drop in velocity, which can fluctuate from start to start, was his fastball location, or complete lack thereof. In the eight plate appearances that ended with a fastball, the Marlins roasted Halladay for a single, a double, a homer, a walk and a hit batsman, while recording just three outs.

He also seemed to know he didn’t have command of his fastball (or his cutter, for that matter), as he threw nothing but curveballs in three-ball counts. After the game, Halladay admitted that his shoulder has been bothering him since before the Cleveland game, while Ruben Amaro said that Halladay will see Dr. Lewis Yocum and is almost certainly headed to the disabled list. With John Lannan expected out for at least another month, the Phillies will have to turn to their farm system for a replacement.

Phillies fans have been taking to Twitter all day to express their desire for the team to call up top prospect Jesse Biddle. Sure, his overall numbers in Double-A this year are extremely impressive (2.56 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 11.37 K/9), but he recorded four walks while retiring just two batters before getting pulled after 41 pitches in his start on Saturday. He’s not ready.

The most likely candidate for a call-up is lefty Adam Morgan, another of the club’s top prospects who is pitching pretty well in Triple-A (3.89 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 6.75 K/9 in six starts) after a spectacular 2012 season (3.35 ERA, 2.58 FIP, 9.59 K/9, 2.21 BB/9) in 26 starts between High-A and Double-A.

When Lannan originally got hurt, Amaro said that Morgan was not an option to fill the rotation spot because he would have been pitching on short rest. It was even expected by many (myself included) that Morgan would replace Jonathan Pettibone the next time through the rotation. As it turned out, Pettibone has done an admirable job and hasn’t given the Phillies any reason to replace him yet. This time, it’s a different story. Morgan, like Halladay, pitched on Sunday and would be on normal rest to take Halladay’s rotation spot.

The problem with Morgan is that he isn’t currently on the team’s 40-man roster, so the Phillies would have to open up a spot for him. Tyler Cloyd, also in Triple-A, is on the 40-man and actually started six games for the major league club in 2012. Cloyd is coming off a fantastic start on Friday in which he allowed one run on four hits with ten strikeouts and zero walks in eight innings of work.

Unfortunately for Cloyd, that’s the only impressive start he’s had this year. He had given up at least three runs in all five of his previous starts, his K/BB ratio was just 1.83 before Friday’s gem, and even after that start he owns a 5.40 ERA and 1.49 WHIP.

Furthermore, despite the fact that he’s had good numbers in the minors throughout most of his career, Cloyd is little more than a warm body who has never been considered to be amongst the Phillies’ top 15 prospects. Ethan Martin also is on the 40-man, but he has been beyond horrible in Triple-A this year; I don’t feel the need to cite any stats other than his outrageous 8.06 BB/9.

By the time you’re reading this, it is possible that the Phillies have already announced their move. The thing is, it really doesn’t matter too much. The way I see it, it’s between Morgan and Cloyd.

If Cloyd gets the call, he’s worth an add only in the very deepest of NL-only leagues. He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher, his secondary offerings (cutter, curve, change-up) are all fringe-average or worse, and he has a four-seamer that pretty much tops out around 87 mph. Yay.

Morgan, however, has the ability to be a mid-rotation starter in the majors for years to come. The 23-year-old has good command of his deep arsenal, which includes a plus slider, a change-up and a curveball to go with his low-90s fastball.

He doesn’t have as much experience in the high minors as one would like, and Morgan may have to do some learning on the job at the major league level, but the potential is there for a solid fantasy starter. He’s worth adding in the majority of NL-only leagues and possibly even in very deep mixed formats.

Even if the Phillies go with Cloyd for now, Morgan still is worth a stash because he’s simply a better pitcher than either Cloyd or Pettibone. He’ll find a spot in this rotation.

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