Justin De Fratus Set Up for a Big 2015


2015 is expected to be the third full season for Justin De Fratus as a regular member of the Philadelphia Phillies relief corps. With a trade of closer Jonathan Papelbon possible at any time, the rest of the relievers would need to step up, and De Fratus appears ready for that increased responsibility.

After brief cups of coffee in 2011 and 2012, De Fratus became a regular for the 2013 season, and then a year ago he stepped up his game, becoming an integral part of what became one of baseball’s top bullpen groups down the stretch.

When you have a guy that comes in the fifth inning like De Fratus throwing 98 mph, you don’t see that. It’s pretty crazy to see” ~ Bryce Harper

De Fratus was the Phillies 11th round choice in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft. He made his big league debut with 5 appearances out of the bullpen as a September call-up during the club’s record-setting 2011 season. During that stretch he registered his first MLB win, pitching the 12th inning in a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on September 28th.

He didn’t get another shot until another late season call-up a year later. During the Phils slump to a .500 finish in 2012, DeFratus appeared frequently, pitching 18 games in September and October. He came in during the 7th through 9th innings in all but one of those outings, showing that the team was clearly grooming him for a pivotal setup role in the future.

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In his first full season in 2013, De Fratus began back in AAA, but this time was called up to the Phillies in May. He appeared in 58 games, allowing fewer hits than innings pitched while striking out nearly a batter per inning. He did walk 25 batters, pushing his WHIP to the 1.500 mark.

A year ago, De Fratus cut his walks in half, from 25 down to 12, while keeping his hits allowed to fewer than his innings and continuing to strikeout nearly a hitter per frame. The increased control resulted in a tremendous 4-1 K/BB ratio, an ERA lowered by nearly a run and a half down to 2.39, and a WHIP reduced to an excellent 1.082 mark.

Washington Nationals wunderkind Bryce Harper talked about the improved Phillies bullpen following a game last September. On De Fratus, he had this to say, as reported by CSN Philly’s Corey Seidman: “When you have a guy that comes in the fifth inning like (Justin) De Fratus throwing 98 mph, you don’t see that. It’s pretty crazy to see.” 

Should Papelbon be dealt, as expected, the likelihood is that flame-throwing righthander Ken Giles would step into the closer role. This would push De Fratus into a primary setup role, along with lefty Jake Diekman.

Justin De Fratus turned 27 years old back in October, and is now entering the prime of his career. With those two big chunks of MLB experience now under his belt, and coming off such an overpowering sophomore campaign, he appears more than ready to step up and take on the responsibility of handing leads over to the closer in 2015 and beyond.