Picked up from the Diamondbacks prior to last season, Jeremy Hellickson rewarded the Phillies with his best performance since his 2012 season with Tampa Bay. The key to Hellickson's success was an improved changeup, which he used nearly as often as his four-seam fastball. Batters hit just .168 against his change and fared worse against his curveball, which he used 15 percent of the time and ranks as one of the better curveballs in baseball in terms of vertical drop and spin rate. Hellickson doesn't generate a lot of strikeouts despite having two strong pitches in his arsenal because his fastball sits at just 90 mph. He has also been prone to giving up the long ball throughout his career. That said, he pitched very well in the cozy home confines last season (3.16 ERA, 1.06 WHIP). He accepted the Phillies qualifying offer and will return on a one-year, $17.2 million deal, giving him a chance to prove in his age-30 season that 2016 was no fluke.
Phillies manager officially named Hellickson the team's Opening Day starter Sunday, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia reports. Hellickson has had a rough spring training and was touched up for eight runs (five earned) in five innings in his most recent outing, but that won't make the Phillies shy away from letting him kick off the season. Though Hellickson doesn't profile as an ace, he delivered a respectable campaign for the Phillies in 2016, turning in a 3.71 ERA (3.98 FIP) while turning in a 14.1 K-BB percentage, his best mark since his debut season of 2010.
Hellickson allowed five runs on four hits over four innings Monday in a 6-4 loss to the Orioles. Hellickson got off to a good start, striking out six of the first eight batters he faced, but ran into trouble in the fourth inning. The veteran has already made four starts this spring, putting him ahead of pace in getting stretched out for the regular season.
Hellickson "has the best chance" to be the Phillies Opening Day starter according to manager Pete Mackanin, Meghan Montemurro of The News Journal reports. Mackanin added that the decision wasn't set in stone since "anything can happen in the spring," but given the fact that Hellickson garnered the Opening Day start last season and the fact that he's one of the most experienced members of Philadelphia's rotation certainly helps his cause. The 29-year-old posted a 3.71 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP with the Phillies last season, and will look to build upon that against the Reds on the season's first day if he ultimately does get the nod.
Hellickson accepted the Phillies' qualifying offer Monday, meaning he will return to the team on a one-year, $17.2 million contract, Today's Knuckleball's Jon Heyman reports. The draft pick that would have been attached to him in free agency would have no doubt hurt his value, but this still comes as a bit of a surprise, as most thought he could receive a three or four year deal as one of the top starting pitchers in a weak free agent class. The belief is that Hellickson won't face this same dilemma next winter, as the qualifying offer system is expected to be nixed by next year and he is expected to be traded this summer, which would also make him ineligible for a qualifying offer. Hellickson is a No. 4 starter in real life terms. He can be expected to offer an ERA around 4.00 with a WHIP around 1.25 while striking out around 150 batters in 2017.
The Phillies have extended a qualifying offer to Hellickson, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia reports. Hellickson has seven days to accept or reject the qualifying offer of $17.2 million for the 2017 season. He is expected to reject it to look for a multi-year deal in a weak free agent market for starting pitchers. The Phillies will receive a compensation pick in the 2017 draft if Hellickson rejects the offer and signs with another club.