The Situation: Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola was placed on the 10-day DL as the result of a strained lower back. The Phillies were anticipating calling up 24-year old pitching prospect Nick Pivetta to start on Wednesday, but a rainout has pushed him back, potentially going on Sunday instead.
The Background: Pivetta was a 2013, fourth-round selection of the Washington Nationals out of New Mexico Junior College. He was then traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in July, 2015 for Jonathan Papelbon. Added to the 40-man roster following the 2016 season, Pivetta is off to one of the hottest starts in MiLB, throwing 19 innings, allowing only 12 hits, two earned runs, two walks, against 24 strikeouts, with an 0.95 era with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. His hot start combined with his scheduled turn in the rotation lines up perfectly for Pivetta as the logical choice to get this opportunity.
Scouting Report: I had a chance to see Pivetta make his second start in 2017 at Pawtucket. Listed at 6-foot-5, 220 lbs, Pivetta has an athletic, lean, and strong upper and lower half. Pivetta showcased good rhythm to his delivery, repeating well and flashing a quick arm. He attacked hitters with a three-pitch mix (fastball, slider, curveball). He changed speeds with the fastball consistently, ranging from 91-97 mph. The fastball sat mostly 92-94 mph but easily dialed up to 95-97 mph when he wanted it. He maintained his velocity throughout a seven-inning, 85-pitch, complete game shutout in the doubleheader. The fastball was fairly straight but with late life and got on hitters quick, generating many late swings. However, he didn’t actually miss many bats with the fastball. The slider was the true out-pitch at 85-86 mph showing both shorter and longer break at times and flashed plus potential. Pivetta picked up four of his five strikeouts with the slider. The curveball was 76-80 mph with slurvy action and was an average grade pitch at best. Pivetta showed the ability to throw strikes with his three-pitch mix, repeat his delivery, and had a plus fastball to complement a potential above-average breaking ball. The lack of a changeup could cause trouble going forward against left-handed hitters. However, the Pawtucket lineup didn’t feature a single left-handed bat in the lineup so Pivetta was able to cruise without having to use it. Pivetta showed a changeup when I saw him in 2015 that was a clear 4th offering that was firm and lacked movement.
Immediate Big League Future: With Aaron Nola placed on the 10-day DL, GM Matt Klentak said in a press release that “Our hope and expectation is that this will not be a lengthy DL placement and that Aaron will miss only one or two starts.” If Nola is able to recover as planned, Pivetta’s near time stay could be short (1-2 starts). However, Pivetta has the present stuff to succeed in a major-league rotation and if he pitches well he has a chance to make a case for himself to be the next guy up to stick in the rotation when needed. —Chaz Fiorino
Fantasy Impact: At a minimum, Pivetta should get one or two starts filling in for Nola while he recovers from a back injury. Pivetta has struggled with command at times in the minors, so while he was dominant in three starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, don’t be surprised if this issue returns in his first run through against big league hitters. He doesn’t project as an elite strikeout pitcher, but he isn’t a crafty soft tosser who will barely strike any batters out either. In 43 2/3 Triple-A innings dating back to 2016, Pivetta has 51 strikeouts and a cool 1.85 ERA.
Pivetta looked to be getting a Wednesday start in Miami, but a rainout threw the schedule off. The Phillies could decide to keep him instead of Zach Eflin when Nola returns, but the more likely scenario is that Pivetta goes back down to Triple-A. In anything outside of NL-only, Pivetta is mostly a name to know as opposed to a useful fantasy commodity in the short term. Down the road, he is often discussed as a future reliever, which is the fantasy baseball kiss of death. A strong year at Triple-A certainly could alter that future projection, but it is yet another reason why your FAAB bid for Pivetta should be nothing more than a modest $3-5 in NL-only and why you shouldn’t consider him at the moment in mixed leagues —Mike Gianella
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