The staff at That Ball’s Outta Here have been making predictions as to which players will make the Phillies’ Opening Day roster. In case you missed it, here are the other writers’ predictions for the relievers:
The Phillies bullpen has not been a strength over the past couple of years. Despite the presence of highly paid veterans and highly touted prospects, the relievers have had a major hand in the disappointment of the last two seasons.
There is hope that things may turn around this season. The pool of candidates for the bullpen is deep and there are a number of talented pitchers on hand. It may just be a matter of the talent finally living up to its potential.
Jonathan Papelbon – He’s overpaid, doesn’t seem to be especially popular in the clubhouse, and the Phillies would have likely traded him already if they could have found any takers. But like it or not, Paps will be back to serve as the Phillies closer again in 2013.
That isn’t entirely bad news. For the most part, Papelbon was effective in that role in 2013. He had a few bad stretches, and there was a concerning drop in velocity, but there is still reason to believe that he can be at least an above average closer in 2014.
Antonio Bastardo – Bastardo hasn’t always been consistent, and there have been outings when it looks like the last thing he wants to do is throw a strike. But when he’s been on, he has shown the capability to dominate.
Of course, he’s a bit of a question mark due to the 50-game suspension he served last season. Was his success due to natural talent, or did chemical enhancement play a part? The Phillies hope that it’s the former, as he’ll be counted on to pitch the 8th inning in the early going.
Jake Diekman – It has been said that Diekman makes hitters uncomfortable in the batter’s box. He might have the best pure stuff out of any pitcher on the team. Towards the end of 2013, he appeared to have put his control issues behind him, and began to dominate.
Diekman will probably start off the season as the main guy in the 7th inning, but could also be used in matchups against dangerous left-handed hitters.
Mike Adams – Adams was signed prior to 2013. The team thought they were gaining the services of one of the top setup men in baseball. Unfortunately, he wasn’t healthy, and 2013 was basically a wasted season. Adams underwent offseason surgery, and once he’s healthy, he’ll likely return to the setup role. It isn’t clear exactly when that will happen though, and he will probably begin the season on the disabled list.
Making the Cut
Justin De Fratus - It feels like the Phillies have been raving about Justin De Fratus’ potential for years now. So far, all we’ve really seen are trips to the disabled list and inconsistency.
The ability is definitely there, as evidenced by his 8.1 K/9 in 2013. Now that he’s a bit older and has some experience under his belt, he might finally be ready to live up to his billing.
Brad Lincoln – Although Lincoln hasn’t done much at the major league level thus far in his career, the Phillies traded two players to the Blue Jays to get him. It’s not difficult to see why they were intrigued. He has a big arm, and can reach the mid 90s with his fastball. Considering what the team gave up to get him, and the fact that he’s out of minor league options, it would be a shock if he didn’t make the team.
Ethan Martin – This was the toughest call to make. By most accounts, Martin has the ability to develop into a dominant late-inning reliever. The problem is, with the Phillies’ lack of starting pitching depth, they might want to keep him stretched out as a starter. Therefore, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him begin the season in the rotation at AAA. Ultimately, I think they’ll keep him around in the majors as a long reliever/spot starter.
Kevin Munson – The Phillies chose Munson in the Rule 5 draft, meaning they have to keep him on the major league roster or else offer him back to the Diamondbacks. The Phillies have a history of keeping Rule 5 guys, so with Adams out to start the season, Munson probably makes the team. Once Adams returns (or other injury concerns emerge), Munson’s time might be up.
Outside Looking In
Phillippe Aumont – Maybe all of his problems really were due to poor mechanics and poor communication. Maybe he’s ready to live up to the promise that once made him the centerpiece of a Cliff Lee trade. The Phillies are optimistic, but he’ll likely have to prove himself in AAA first.
Luis Garcia - After being signed off the street in the middle of the season, Garcia did a decent job for the Phillies. Although it’s possible that he only looked decent in comparison to the horrendousness that was the rest of the Phillies’ bullpen. Unless the injury bug really bites the team, I can’t see him making the big league team this year. There are simply too many other options.
Ken Giles - A non-roster camp invitee, Giles has more than a few people intrigued. The reason: He throws over 100 MPH. He’s got some work to do before he could be considered for a promotion, but he might factor into the Phillies’ plans sooner rather than later.
Jeremy Horst – Horst opened some eyes with a strong second half in 2011, but he crashed hard in 2013. The Phillies’ long relievers were atrocious in the early part of the season, and Horst was a big part of that. He underwent surgery, so there is hope that the injury caused the fall. If so, Horst could easily find his way back to the big leagues this season.
B.J. Rosenberg – Like so many of the Phillies other relief candidates, Rosenberg has shown some flashes of talent, but has also had troubles with his command. If his control is on, he could be a useful middle reliever.
Michael Stutes - After a surprisingly good 2011 season, Stutes has been unable to remain healthy. As a result, his once impressive velocity was reduced, and he’s going to have to prove his worth all over again in the minor leagues.
I could see the bullpen being a surprising team strength this season. Bullpen management and the ability to handle young relievers did not appear to be a strength of former manager Charlie Manuel nor former pitching coach Rich Dubee. It’s very possible that the managerial switch could aid in the development of their young pitchers.
On the other hand, this is mostly the same group that was so bad last season. Until they show otherwise, it’s hard to count on most of these pitchers.
So while I’m optimistic that the bullpen turns into a strength, I’m not entirely sure that is what will actually happen.