Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Spencer Bingol's 2014 Philadelphia Phillies Roster Projections: Relief Pitchers

Coming into the 2014 season, the writers at That Ball’s Outta Here have been projecting the Phillies roster by segment (rotation, bullpen, and lineup/bench).

This week, we continue with area that’s a lot more crowded and competitive than you might think, the Phillies’ bullpen.

The Locks

RHP Jonathan Papelbon
RHP Mike Adams
LHP Antonio Bastardo
LHP Jake Diekman

There probably should be five guys in this category, however management’s concerns about starting pitching depth and comments made about “stretching him out” during Spring Training indicate that Ethan Martin to the bullpen is not as sure a thing as it should be.

The guys actually on this list need no explanation. Jonathan Papelbon and his paycheck are closing again, and regardless of fans’ feelings on the guy, to this point he’s gotten the job done.

He had a rough patch around the All-Star break, but over his two years here he’s had a 2.94 FIP. However, it’s the peripherals that are worrisome. He’s lost about 3 mph on his four-seam fastball velocity since the Phillies signed him, his K/9 has dropped precipitously over the last two seasons, and even by traditional closer metrics he had the lowest save percentage (81%) of his career in 2013. At minimum, his performance is something to keep a wary eye on this season.

Set-up man Mike Adams was injured for the second half of last season, and while he’s recently admitted that he’s a couple weeks behind the rest of the pitchers, he should be ready to go by mid-April. He’s getting paid more than the 5th starter, so he’s a no-brainer. He’s another guy who has seen a velocity drop in recent seasons, but due to injuries masking his true capabilities, he’s a bit of a wild card.

Antonio Bastardo is coming off of a PED suspension that ended his season early. He was having a great year, but obviously the positive test results put a bit of a pall on that. However, if he comes back and repeats the performance, everyone will forget about the mistakes.

Jake Diekman is the most exciting young pitcher who will break camp with the club. He’s a LHP with closer stuff who Fangraphs reports as having hit 99.2 mph on his two-seamer last season. His 2.50 FIP was spectacular, and his 9.63 K/9 is actually a little lower than should be expected. Short of some Spring Training implosion, if he’s not in the bullpen to start the season, it’s a mistake.

The Probables

RHP Ethan Martin
RHP Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez
RHP Roberto Hernandez
RHP Brad Lincoln
RHP Justin De Fratus
RHP Kevin Munson

You’ll notice that, with a 7-man bullpen and 4 spots taken up as “locks,” having 6 guys truly competing for three spots complicates matters.

In this group, there are some mitigating factors (besides pure ability) that change each pitcher’s likelihoods of making the club on opening day.

Ethan Martin is best served as a reliever. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Cuban-signee Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and veteran Roberto Hernandez ostensibly both have spots, Spring Training only determines which spot each ends up with. Earning $4 and $4.5 million, respectively, they’re prioritized for roster spots. If Gonzalez required minor league seasoning it wouldn’t be shocking, but ideally one takes the fifth rotation spot, and the other becomes the bullpen’s swingman. Currently, Gonzalez is more likely to begin the year in the bullpen.

Ethan Martin and Justin De Fratus are two young, inexpensive, home-grown options. Martin’s fastball hits 96 mph, and is another long-term closer candidate. He was moved to the bullpen after it was observed that he had lessened effectiveness after the first time through a lineup.

With the addition of A.J. Burnett, it look much more likely that Martin will be a reliever this season. However, recent reports of Jonathan Pettibone‘s shoulder soreness put this into question. If Pettibone isn’t healthy, I think Martin will be starting in Lehigh Valley.

De Fratus has a few years experience with the team, and after a promising last third of 2013, has probably shown enough to warrant a spot. However, given the plethora of legitimate candidates and De Fratus’ inexpensive pre-arbitration contract, he seems likely to instead be the first called up in the event of a need.

The remaining candidates are off-season acquisitions. RHP Brad Lincoln was traded to the Phillies by the Blue Jays for Erik Kratz and future Phillies trivia answer Rob Rasmussen. He’s a former first round draft pick and features a low-90’s fastball. He had a great 2012, striking out 9.0/9 and only walking 2.45/9, but those numbers regressed significantly in 2013, to 7.11/9 and 6.25/9, respectively. Lincoln was a low-risk acquisition, and I think if he looks more like his 2012 self than last season, he could easily get a spot.

Finally, rule-5 draft pick Kevin Munson was taken from the Diamondbacks farm system this past off-season. Given that if he doesn’t stay on the active roster, he must be returned to his former team, I’m inclined to think the 7th spot is his job to lose.

That’s nothing to really complain about either, as he has posted double-digit strike out rates at every minor league level. In 2013 he struggled with control some in double-A, but then rebounded at the next level, with 10.6 K/9, 2.74 BB/9, and a FIP incredibly dissimilar to his ERA (2.46 & 5.09).

The Depth

RHP B.J. Rosenberg
LHP Jeremy Horst
RHP Luis Garcia
LHP Joe Savery
RHP Philippe Aumont
RHP Mike Stutes

Fans know everyone in this group at this point. All six have seen time over the last couple seasons, with varying results.

B.J. Rosenberg had a 12.1 inning scoreless streak going last season, however the seven MLB innings he pitched surrounding it muddied his results. He additionally struggled as a starter in AAA, but his 24.2 relief innings in Lehigh Valley were sparkling (2.55 ERA, 7.0 K/BB, .671 OPS against).

Jeremy Horst was a stud in 2011 and 2012 (1.74 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 46.2 IP), and although clearly unsustainable, his 2013 was much worse than his 3.18 FIP during that time would suggest he regress to. However, he battled elbow soreness and didn’t pitch after mid-June.

Luis Garcia was a remarkable 2013 story, reaching the majors after having been out of baseball since the 2010 season (he hadn’t ever even advanced past high-A ball). He was relied on heavily towards the end of the season, and managed a 3.73 ERA over 31.1 innings, despite a 1.00 K/BB ratio (each was 6.61/9).

Joe Savery is the other LHP depth option besides Horst, and in the minors has had great strike out and walk rates, but results in the majors that haven’t approached his first-round pick billing. Since being converted to a reliever in 2011, he’s boasted strikeout rates of at least 10/9, and walk rates never exceeding 3.5/9 in the minor league system.

In the majors, his career 4.33 FIP and 1.68 K/BB haven’t translated those results. He was DFA’ed to make room for A.J. Burnett, so if he doesn’t catch on with another club, expect him to be back in Lehigh Valley this season.*

Phillippe Aumont was a highly-touted prospect acquired in the Cliff Lee trade to Seattle. He’s got monster velocity and movement on his pitches, but walked batters at an almost unusable rate last season (regardless of the level). However, this kind of stuff is such that if he can maintain command for a couple outings in a row, you’re immediately a believer again.

Mike Stutes has been riddled with injuries the last two seasons, after a strong rookie campaign in 2011. He finished 2013 with two scoreless September appearances, but enough hasn’t been seen out of him yet to begin to make a determination that he’s likely to take a spot from any of the “probable” options.

* Note: Joe Savery was claimed on Monday by the Oakland A’s. He has been transferred to their 40-man roster, replacing injured LHP Eric O’Flaherty.

The Invitees

RHP Ken Giles
RHP Shawn Camp
LHP Cesar Jimenez

Ken Giles. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Headlining this group is the “sure-to-cause-a-regional-media-firestorm-on-his-first-Spring-Training-pitch” Ken Giles. If you aren’t aware of him yet, his fastball routinely hits 100 mph, but as of yet hasn’t developed nearly sufficient control.

He gained a lot of buzz around the Arizona Fall League, but he still hasn’t pitched above high-A ball. It would require a masterful jump in command for the team to seriously consider him during Spring Training.

Shawn Camp is a veteran reliever who has spent time with four other clubs in his 10 year major league career. He’s coming off of a down season with the Cubs, and is basically this year’s veteran relief depth signing. He’ll be 38 this season, and honestly there are just too many younger, harder throwing options to think he has much of a chance out of camp.

Cesar Jimenez pitched at the big league level for the Phillies late last season, and was re-signed to a minor league deal after the season. He had a 4.46 FIP over 17 innings last season, so expect him to return to Lehigh Valley as yet another depth option in 2014.

2014 Phillies Bullpen Depth Chart

Locks
Probables
Depth
Invitees
Ideal Scenario
RHP Jonathan PapelbonRHP Ethan MartinRHP BJ RosenbergRHP Ken GilesRHP Jonathan Papelbon
RHP Mike AdamsRHP Miguel Alfredo GonzalezLHP Jeremy HorstRHP Shawn CampRHP Mike Adams
LHP Antonio BastardoRHP Roberto HernandezRHP Luis GarciaLHP Cesar JimenezLHP Antonio Bastardo
LHP Jake DiekmanRHP Brad LincolnLHP Joe SaveryRHP Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez
RHP Justin De FratusRHP Philippe AumontLHP Jake Diekman
RHP Kevin MunsonRHP Mike StutesRHP Ethan Martin
RHP Kevin Munson
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