April 22, 2013
The Situation: Starter John Lannan was injured during his last start on Wednesday, forcing the Phillies to look to the minor leagues for support. With left-hander Adam Morgan having just pitched in Triple-A, the team will turn to their eighth-ranked prospect in right-hander Jonathan Pettibone.
Background: The Phillies gave Pettibone an aggressive $500,000 signing bonus as a third-round pick in 2008 and assigned the 17-year-old right-hander to the Gulf Coast League for one start in his debut summer. In 2009, Pettibone moved on to the New York-Penn League, where he tossed 35 1/3 innings with a 5.35 ERA as one of the younger players in the league. The Phillies continued to promote him a level at a time as he moved to Low-A in 2010 and put together his first truly successful season, posting a 3.49 ERA in 131 1/3 innings.
Pettibone’s breakout campaign came when he tore through the High-A Florida State League in 2011 with a 2.96 ERA, less than a hit per inning, and better than a three-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio. Pettibone continued his success in 2012 with a strong showing in the Double-A Eastern League before a late-season promotion to Triple-A. Once in Triple-A, Pettibone notched a 2.55 ERA across seven starts with the best strikeout rate of his career. Back in Triple-A to start the 2013 campaign, Pettibone has posted a 9.64 ERA in two starts.
Scouting Report: Pettibone certainly isn’t a flashy pitching prospect, but he does plenty of things well enough to succeed in the majors. His above-average command allows his deep arsenal to play up across the board. He locates his hard sinking fastball well, as it sits in the 91-92 mph range and can touch 94 when he reaches back for more. His 6’6” frame and high three-quarters arm slot allow him to gain good leverage on his pitches. Pettibone added a cut fastball to his arsenal last season, and there were flashes of effectiveness, giving him a sharper, more consistent pitch with horizontal movement. His slider is a bit softer than his cutter but can still be an average offering at times.
Pettibone’s best pitch is a plus changeup that has excellent deception and can miss bats when set up properly. He is capable of pitching backwards to keep hitters off balance but can also find success with more traditional sequences. Pettibone is an intelligent pitcher who gets the most out of his raw stuff and should be able to slot in as a no. 4 starter on a good team over the long haul.
Immediate Big-League Future: Pettibone will have to earn additional big-league starts with a strong showing in his debut. As of now, the Phillies are not committing to him beyond this first start, and they could opt to go with someone like Ethan Martin or Adam Morgan to bridge the gap until Lannan returns to the rotation. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Impact: Pettibone isn't the most exciting name you'll read in this series all year, as even if he sticks in the rotation until John Lannan returns, he will likely not offer much value for fantasy leagues. He does not have the repertoire to be able to contribute in strikeouts, and his likely high-contact approach is a poor match for the Phillies’ underwhelming defense and hitters' park. Last night, Pettibone went for $1 in NL Tout Wars to Tristan Cockcroft—and that's really all I'd be comfortable spending on him in an NL-only league, even if you have a need for pitching. In mixed leagues, including both redraft and dynasty formats, his is a name you can safely ignore for right now. If he surprises out of the gate, there will be plenty of time for you to get him later. —Bret Sayre
Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @ProspectMark