When Ranger Suarez made his MLB debut in 2018, he became the first left-handed pitcher to start a game for the Phillies since 2015 (Cole Hamels). The former top prospect found his niche in the Phillies’ bullpen last season, and it appears he may have a shot to make the major-league roster once again this season. Like many of the pitchers on the staff, the question turns to whether Suarez should pitch as a starter, or in relief. Let’s break it down:
As of now, there appears to be four locks in the Phillies rotation, all of which are right handed (Nola, Wheeler, Arrieta, Eflin). The fifth starter spot is still up for grabs, and there are plenty of arms looking to win a rotation spot out of camp. Among those names are Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Enyel De Los Santos and Ranger Suarez. All have had success with the big league team, but none have been able sustain that success in the long run. Prospects Spencer Howard and Adonis Medina could also be in the mix to start games in 2020. However, both are expected to start in the minor leagues and could potentially debut in the majors later this season.
Vince Velasquez, who appears to be the front runner for the fifth starter spot, has stated publicly that he prefers to work as a starter, and not a reliever. With that being said, if he once again has trouble getting past the fifth inning in his outings, the Phillies will have no choice but to make a change. The same could be said for Nick Pivetta, who struggles to go deep into his outings as well. The NL East is way too competitive of a division to give away games, especially early on in the season. Many fans, myself included, believe Velasquez should be pitching out of the bullpen anyway. He has electric stuff, and could provide the Phillies length in relief if need be.
It’s also worth noting that the Phillies could use the help out of the bullpen, especially from the right side. Pat Neshek, Juan Nicasio, and Edubray Ramos, who all made the Opening Day Roster last season, are no longer part of the organization. Seranthony Dominguez and Tommy Hunter are returning from injury riddled seasons, and the status of David Robertson is still in question.
Returning to Suarez, why not give the guy a chance to start in the rotation? In my opinion, he pitched well enough last season to at least get the chance to prove his worth. Suarez also has a strong track record pitching in the minor leagues, and could give the opposition a different look pitching from the left hand side.