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Kincade & Salciunas: Weekdays 6am – 10am

Kincade & Salciunas: Weekdays 6am – 10am

The Philadelphia Phillies enter the 2024 MLB season loaded with starting pitchers. Most experts consider the rotation one of the best in the majors. New lucrative contracts for Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola made headlines during the offseason, and the Phillies have plenty of depth behind them.

How will the starting staff factor into the hunt for a World Series in 2024?

Phillies in 2024

The Phillies have advanced to the NLCS in consecutive seasons. Red October has taken the baseball world by storm in consecutive postseasons, but the World Series trophy hasn’t returned to Philadelphia. Rob Thomson earned himself the fan base’s confidence witth a remarkable turnaround after taking his first job as an MLB manager in 2022.

The romanticization of the miracle ride to the World Series in 2022 is over, however. Thomson now faces the pressure of an intense fan base demanding success after a collapse in the NLCS in 2023.

Phillies Starting Pitchers

The pitching staff should be one of the biggest strengths of the 2024 Phillies. Very few teams boast two starters as accomplished as Wheeler and Nola. The impressive depth in the rotation convinced Dave Dombrowski to hold off on signing Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery. 

Thomson has deployed the pitching staff in somewhat of an unorthodox way, but there’s no denying it’s worked. A lighter workload helped Zack Wheeler stay fresh for the postseason in 2023 after he looked like he was running out of gas in August and September.

“Our makeup and what goes on in that clubhouse is really special. It’s the best I’ve been around. So you want to keep that, but also they’re very talented. So they grind, and they fight. It’s almost sometimes like a college team (with) the energy that they bring and the way they grind, the way they fight for each other. It’s a really special group.” –Rob Thomson

Will the vote of confidence help Aaron Nola bounce back from a tough season in 2023? Could it help Cristopher Sannchez find an effective rhythm as a full-time starter? Will flashy prospect Mick Abel contribute at the major league level?


  • Zack Wheeler

    The organization showed full confidence in Zack Wheeler, handing out the most expensive yearly salary on a contract extension in MLB history. The 33-year-old has given them every reason to trust him with the financial investment.

    His underwhelming numbers in the first half of the 2023 season didn’t affect his status as the ace of a World Series contender’s starting staff. Rob Thomson trusted Wheeler to get back on track down the stretch with a workload that set him up for postseason success.

    Wheeler finished the 2023 season with a 3.61 ERA, but he hit his stride with an ERA under 2.00 in 27 ⅓ playoff innings.

    • NL Wild Card Series Game 1: 6 ⅔ IP, 1 ER
    • NLDS Game 2: 6 ⅓ IP, 2 ER
    • NLCS Game 1: 6 IP, 2 ER
    • NLCS Game 5: 7 IP, 1 ER
    • NLCS Game 7: 1 ⅔ IP, 0 ER (relief)

    He belongs in the conversation with studs like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander as one of the best big-game pitchers in the majors. He’s also worked on a splitter during Spring Training. If Wheeler starts around 30 games, he should compete for the NL Cy Young Award. 

  • Aaron Nola

    The Aaron Nola roller coaster is one of the most confusing storylines in the current era of Phillies baseball. The former 1st-round pick deserved the seven-year, $172 million extension that the organization handed him based on his overall body of work over nine seasons.

    Nola posted a 3.23 ERA over four seasons from 2017-2020. His highest season ERA over that span was 3.87 when he faded down the stretch in 2019. 

    However, clunkers in 2021 and 2023 still leave some Phillies fans scratching their heads about what to expect from the veteran righty. The eventual World Series champion Texas Rangers shelled him in Arlington on Opening Day last season, and he struggled to find his footing throughout the regular season. The untimely home run ball seemed to ruin his starts in the middle innings too frequently.

    Does it erase the work that got him Cy Young votes in 2018, 2020, and 2022? Is it as simple as the ebbs and flows in even numbered years versus odd numbered years?

    Nola ranks 10th among active pitchers in career WAR with 32.0. He has posted solid WHIP numbers even in his down seasons, and he still finished 14th in the majors in 2023 with 202 strikeouts and 10th with 193 ⅔ IP. His track record at age 30 is enough to expect a rebound season in 2024.

    Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Three citizens bank park

  • Ranger Suarez

    Suarez has established himself as a good option in the middle of the rotation in two seasons as a full-time starter. His focused demeanor helps him mow down opponents when he’s at his best.

    The Venezuelan southpaw has also chosen the right times to reach his peak. He allowed one run in three short postseason starts to help the Phillies to the brink of their second straight World Series during the 2023 MLB Playoffs.

    The magic finally ran out in an unfortunate shaky outing in Game 7 of the NLCS, but Suarez has shown himself as a big game weapon for Rob Thomson and the Phillies.

    Ranger Suarez, Philadelphia Phillies

  • Cristopher Sanchez

    The offseason chatter focused on the possibility of the Phillies landing another high-priced starting pitcher. The World Series window is open, but Dave Dombrowski shewed from his typical offseason strategy to let less experienced players on the roster step into bigger roles.

    The “run it back” strategy benefits Cristopher Sanchez as much as anyone. The emerging lefty showed flashes in 18 starts in 2023 with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. The 27-year-old has the least experience of the five pitchers projected in the starting rotation.

    Cristopher Sanchez impressively convinced Dombrowski to reserve a spot in the starting rotation. Will he take advantage of that incredible vote of confidence?

    Cristopher Sanchez, Philadelphia Phillies

  • Taijuan Walker

    Rob Thomson lost trust in Taijuan Walker by the end of the 2023 regular season. Walker made the postseason roster but never appeared in a game.

    He pitched 10 MLB seasons before the Phillies signed him to a four-year, $92 million deal in December 2022. Walker had his moments in 2023, winning 15 games despite inconsistency. He will begin the season in the rotation, and his main focus should be correcting his tendency for terrible 1st inning performances.

    Thomson and the Phillies have given him the benefit of the doubt after the questionable move to call out his manager.

    People get emotional. He’s a competitive guy. I love Taijuan, I really do. This guy gave us 15 wins. Every time he goes out to the mound, he competes until we take him out and then he never wants to come out. I want a guy like that. That type of thing doesn’t bother me. I love him, I love his demeanor, I love his toughness. I’m sure everything will be fine.”-Rob Thomson

    Were their words honest, or were they just convenient for a player stuck on an expensive contract for three more seasons? Walker needs to prove he’s worth the questionable comments with performance on the mound.

  • Mick Abel

    Jayson Stark spoke with Ricky Bottalico on 97.5 The Fanatic in January. He estimated that the Phillies won’t call up Mick Abel until midseason at the earliest.

    Abel ranks 49th on the list of baseball’s top 100 prospects from Andrew Painter is the only prospect in the Phillies system ranked higher. Fans will be anxious to see if Abel can live up to the hype if the 22-year-old right-hander makes his major league debut in 2024.

    Mick Abel, Philadelphia Phillies

  • Depth Starters

    The emphasis on depth starting pitchers aligns with the direction of modern MLB rotations. Injuries, poor performance, or overall wear and tear can force manager to use close to 10 starting pitchers over 162 games.

    Rob Thomson mentioned Kolby Allard, Spencer Turnbull, Nick Nelson, and David Buchanon on the first day of Spring Training. Dylan Covey will return from injury, possibly by Opening Day on March 28. Each of these starters will look to move up the pecking order just like Sanchez did in 2023.

    They’ll all have their eyes on overtaking Sanchez or Taijuan Walker by the end of the season.

    Nick Nelson, Philadelphia Phillies

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