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The Opposite of Upside: Phillies Tap Tyler Cloyd as Roy Halladay’s Friday Replacement

May 8, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT


Tyler Cloyd dealt eight innings of one-run ball and fanned 10 Indiana Indians his last time out at Lehigh Valley. Two days later, more highly-regarded prospect Adam Morgan was crushed for four runs in as many frames.

Maybe there’s more to the Phillies decision to tap Cloyd over Morgan as Roy Halladay’s replacement in the rotation for Friday in Arizona than “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”

Either way, the merits are flimsy.

Cloyd pitched as good as he (or anyone) could have at Triple-A last year, going 12-1 with a 2.35 ERA en route to International League MVP honors. Yet he was still battered like a fish stick with the varsity team, for a 4.91 ERA in six starts.

What happens this time, when he’s got 5.40 ERA stuff in the minors?

At 25 years old and after five years in the system, Cloyd is what he is: a soft-thrower who to needs to induce ground balls – exactly what he couldn’t do in the majors last year. After forcing grounders on 44.4% of balls in play at Triple-A, Cloyd’s GB% fell 12 percentage points.

And Cloyd fly balls leave the yard: he served more home runs (8) than he made starts, and had a 17.0 home run-to-fly ball rate. Yet this is the guy you want to debut at Chase Field, described by scouts as such:

“The thin desert air in Phoenix is also conducive to power hitters, as balls will travel a great distance in the air, even when the park’s retractable roof is engaged to cut down on the desert heat.”

Bronson Arroyo can be effective with Cloyd’s 86.7 m.p.h. fastball, which if it qualified would’ve ranked fourth-slowest in the majors last year. Cloyd has yet to prove he can be. Why the need to find out?

However they’ve looked for 30 seconds on this road trip, the future of the Phillies, who own baseball’s third-eldest roster and have $50 million coming off the books at year’s end ($20 million of it Halladay’s), is coming fast.

Unless they’re trying to shelter Morgan to shield his trade value for July (which would be absurd, because even if buying at the deadline is an option, a home-grown left-handed top prospect shouldn’t be on the table for anyone other than Giancarlo Stanton, which, yeah, isn’t happening) there’s no reason to not give him the ball now.

There’s minimal risk. The Phillies couldn’t possibly get worse production than they did from Halladay. And here, Morgan isn’t being anointed – he’s being used as spackle.

This is how you ease in Keith Law’s pre-2013 No. 92 prospect: at first, in a pinch. You know, like the one the Phillies were the last time Halladay had to be plucked from the rotation, in spring training, when Morgan with little notice manned up against the Braves for 4 2/3 of one-run ball.

Today makes three weeks to the day since Charlie Manuel said it could be 6-8 weeks until the Phillies get John Lannan back. If Morgan wilts, they could still turn to Cloyd for the next two to four starts. But if Morgan pitches like Jonathan Pettibone, the Phillies could, believe it or not, have consistency from top to bottom in their rotation for the first time all year.

That’s the upside.

Someone explain to me the down?

  1. Max - May 8, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    The downside to Morgan right now, as with any legitimate prospect, is the possibility of rushing him. He’s thrown all of 70 innings above High A, and promoting him to AAA for this season after just six starts in a month of AA last season that were good, but didn’t blow anyone away, is more than just a little aggressive. The most dangerous thing the Phillies can do in their situation, one in which the walls are already closing in on their playoff chances, is to rush one of the top prospects of a farm system depleted to begin with. Not to mention that the starters outside of Halladay haven’t even been the biggest concern this season. Hamels, Lee, and (go figure) Kendrick provide a very good top three, but it’s not going to matter how well they, or any prospect, pitch with the inconsistency of the offense. Of course, Chooch will get back into the swing of things before long, and Revere can only improve from what he’s contributed so far, but I doubt we’re seeing the true Michael Young either. (Except for the double plays.) Very little of the future is known for the Phillies right now, even as far as next season’s starting eight, and it would be foolish of them to risk Morgan’s long-term development for a minimal short term gain, considering Lannan is 3-5 weeks from returning. Really, what’s the difference between 4-6 starts of Cloyd versus Morgan when both will probably be back in AAA a month from now and Morgan can instead use that time to work on his secondary stuff?

  2. Andy Schreiber - May 8, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    First, Cloyd could hardly be worse than Halladay has been.

    Second, remember way back when Kyle Kendrick was just supposed to be coming up to the bigs for a cup of coffee? You just never know.

    Give the kid a chance. It’s worth a shot.


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