As if the Philadelphia Phillies needed any more obstacles in their path, they’re without Cliff Lee for a couple weeks. Hopefully that’s all, but for now, all that matters is who’s replacing him.
Jonathan Pettibone is on the mend, too, so that fallback option is out. Ethan Martin? Moved to the bullpen, actually, but points for you just for asking because it means you were still watching last August. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez? Now there’s a knee-slapper.
So on Thursday the Phillies announced they were down to David Buchanan, a 25-year-old right-hander who will make his first Major League start on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Unless you keep regular tabs on the Phils’ farm system—and perhaps even if you do—there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Buchanan until now. That’s because he’s generally not hailed as one of the organization’s top prospects.
We’ll save you the trouble of Googling him on your smart phone during your family barbecue over the weekend (unless you need such distractions, then be sure to visit us later).
A seventh-round pick out of Georgia State in 2010, Buchanan has been steadily climbing the Phillies minor-league ranks, although not in terribly impressive fashion from what we can glean from the back of his baseball card. He has a 35-27 record with a 3.98 earned run average, 1.335 WHIP and 2.01 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 88 professional starts.
Judging from the stat sheet, 2014 has been a particularly strange season for Buchanan. He’s managed to compile a 5-1 record in nine starts at Lehigh Valley this year with a modest 3.98 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP that would qualify as one of the worst in the Majors, as would his 1.82 K/BB rate. He’s walked 3.8 batters per nine innings.
Not surprisingly with that line, he’s not going very deep into games. Buchanan hasn’t lasted past 6.0 innings yet this season.
Jim Salisbury for CSNPhilly.com wrote about Buchanan competing for a job in the rotation this spring, noting he has a nice array of pitches with a sinker/cutter/changeup combo. Phuture Phillies mentions his fastball hits as high as 94 miles per hour. And he’s good at keeping the ball down, which has resulted in relatively few home runs as evidenced by a relatively low 0.7 home runs per nine over his career.
If he can keep the ball down, he'll give 'em a chance. Then again, he'll likely be turning the game over to the bullpen at some point, so maybe not.
Buchanan will battle, and if the Phillies are lucky, they’ll get a couple decent starts out of him before Lee returns on schedule. But best case scenario, we’re talking about an end-of-the-rotation starter, one who unfortunately is tasked with filling the void left by a Cy Young Award winner. At this point in the season, that’s not what the Fightins needed.