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Projecting the Lehigh Valley IronPigs roster: The starting rotation

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Spring training is officially underway and slowly but surely, the rosters for the Philadelphia Phillies and their minor league affiliates (specifically the Lehigh Valley IronPigs) will begin to take shape. With the April 3 season opener still a long way off, we thought this would be a fun opportunity to make some preliminary guesses at what the IronPigs’ roster might look like when they kick off the 2014 season against the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez
The Phillies would love for the Cuban sensation to be ready to go from the start, but it’s much more likely that he’ll need to spend some time down with the Triple-A IronPigs.

No one has seen Gonzalez pitch yet in the States, due to concerns about his elbow which muddled up a $48 million deal with Philadelphia for him last summer. Instead, the Phils locked him up for just $12 million over four years , but there are still so many questions surrounding his potential.

As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, Gonzalez’s competitive pitching over the last two years has been lacking. One way or another, he’ll likely find his way to Lehigh Valley as his innings will be limited to protect his under-conditioned arm. However, it has been speculated quite a bit that Gonzalez may not be much more than a middle reliever and a move to the bullpen could be imminent.

Jonathan Pettibone
Before the signing of A.J. Burnett, the 23-year-old was likely a lock to for the backend of the Phillies’ rotation. Unfortunately, he may be the odd man out in what has become a rather crowded situation for the Phillies pitching staff.

With the preference to be to keep Pettibone’s arm stretched out and ready as a starter for when the big club needs him, the right-handed prospect is best suited taking the demotion back down to Lehigh Valley and honing his craft until the time is right.

Pettibone didn’t spend much time with the IronPigs last season. He spent much of 2013 helping the sinking ship that was the Phillies’ starting rotation. He started 18 games for the Phils, going 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA and 66 strikeouts before his season was prematurely ended in August due to inflammation in his throwing shoulder.

Greg Smith
His long-term potential may be nonexistent for the Phillies, but left-handed starter Greg Smith was a sturdy, dependable pitcher for the IronPigs in 2013. In 23 games, Smith started 14 with four complete games, an ERA of 3.31 and just 19 walks in 98 innings pitched.

Smith has never been a strikeout pitcher. He relies heavily on off-speed pitches, such as his changeup, to get the job done. However, he made a major improvement in the walks department and that paved the way for his success in 2013.

He’ll never be more than a Triple-A starter at this point, but the 30-year old should be content with that fact after stints at the Major League level with the Oakland Athletics in 2008 and Colorado Rockies in 2010.

David Buchanan
The righty from Atlanta finished the 2013 season at Lehigh Valley after a hit-or-miss campaign for Double-A Reading that saw him compile 6-11 record with a 4.82 ERA.

He had a much stint during his stay with the IronPigs, starting six games with a 3.00 ERA. His walk count, as it was in Reading, was a bit too high. But that’s something that the IronPigs coaches can work on with Buchanan during the upcoming season.

Jesse Biddle
The 22-year-old lefty had an okay 2013 season at Reading. He made 27 starts with two complete games, posting a 3.64 ERA with 154 strikeouts in 138.1 innings pitched.

He struggled a bit with control, however, walking 82 batters over the course of the season. Still, Biddle has been invited to the big-league camp this spring and he’ll have an opportunity to show the Phillies brass what he has to offer.

With a full season of Double-A ball under his belt and a lack of depth at starting pitcher within the organization, Biddle appears to be in good shape for a call up to Lehigh Valley to round out the IronPigs’ rotation.

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