The Philadelphia Phillies pitching rotation landed in the bottom half of MLB in ESPN’s rankings for the upcoming 2021 season.

The Phillies starting staff ranks 16th in the league and is last in the NL East.

Bradford Doolittle’s rankings are determined by a formula that takes a pitcher’s 50 most recent starts, the strength of schedule and 2021 projections.

These rankings predict a strong top two, with Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, but  a lot of questions behind No.3 pitcher Zach Eflin.

The Phillies have a terrific foundation with a top two of Nola and Wheeler, and they have the exciting upside of young righty Howard, who saw considerable big league time in 2020. That trio joins Eflin to give the Phillies a chance to field an above-average rotation. However, the real drama will concern the fortunes of late-winter acquisitions Moore and Anderson, who join holdover Velasquez as veterans trying to regain former success.

Both and Wheeler compiled a game score of over 50 which is considered to be league average. Nola checked in at  57.4 and Wheeler was 54.7. Eflin came in just under league average at 49.1.

After Eflin, the the No. 4 and 5 spots are up-for-grabs, with Matt Moore, Chase Andersen, Spence Howard, Vince Velasquez and Ivan Nova competing for the two spots.

Doolittle seems to think the two veteran newcomers will win those spots with Anderson and Moore beating out Nova, Howard and Velasquez.

Moore was once one of baseball's more promising pitchers, but the lefty spent last season putting up big numbers overseas. His last good season in the majors was more than a half-decade ago, so the odds of seeing Moore return to All-Star status aren't great. Still, with limited options, Dave Dombrowski's signing of Moore is intriguing. As for Anderson, he is coming off a terrible season in Toronto after putting up a string of three straight good seasons for the Brewers; he is the prototype of a bounce-back candidate. If Dombrowski finds success with Moore and Anderson, the Phillies will have a nice rotation that mixes depth, the dynamism of two ace-level pitchers, youth and veteran stability.

Anderson looked to be around league average at 46.7,  with Moore struggling a bit at 41.8. However keep an eye on Howard, who Doolittle projects with a game score of 47.5.

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