During the off-season here at TBOH we’ll be looking at several candidates to make up the Phillies’ bullpen in the 2016 season. Aside from closer Ken Giles, every job appears to be up for grabs at this point.
Last November, the Phillies took a chance on then 23-year old Elvis Araujo when the club signed him to a Major League contract. To that point, the left-hander had not pitched above the AA level in a minor league career spent mostly in the Cleveland Indians organization.
Araujo was signed by the Tribe as a 16-year old, all the way back in the summer of 2007 out of Venezuela. He made his pro debut for their Rookie level team in 2008 as a starter, and he was still considered as a starting pitching prospect right up until two years ago.
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After signing with the Phillies, Araujo sputtered in seven outings for their AA affiliates at Reading, fashioning a 7.45 ERA over just 9.2 innings at the start of the 2015 season.
However, early in the season, the Phillies needed another lefty in the pen at the big league level. Araujo received a promotion for his first shot in Major League Baseball, took the opportunity, and ran with it.
The southpaw put together a fine season, making the Phillies look smart for taking a chance on him. He struck out 34 while maintaining a 3.38 ERA in 34.2 innings pitched. A 3.19 FIP would indicate that Araujo must have even been a bit unlucky on occasion, or perhaps his numbers would have been even more impressive.
While Araujo’s 2015 season would have to be considered a success, he does need to work on limiting the bases on balls to opposition batters. Araujo gave up an unacceptable 4.9 free passes per nine innings, which likely contributed to his high 1.385 WHIP mark.
Araujo’s season was cut short after he was sent to the 15-day Disabled List on August 28th with a groin injury. Araujo officially resides on the 60-day DL at the current time.
Barring something unforeseen, Araujo should have a spot in the big league bullpen with the Phillies next season. He is one of just two left-handed relievers with Major League experience on the club’s 40-man roster.
The other current lefty on the roster, Mario Hollands, did not throw a single pitch for the Phillies last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in early April. It is highly unlikely that Hollands will be ready when the 2016 season opens.
So while Araujo does need to work on cutting down those walks, he will almost definitely have the chance to do that in the Majors. Unless the club moves a starter such as Adam Morgan to the bullpen, or signs a free agent, Araujo looks like he will be the Phils’ top lefty reliever, if not their only one.
One way or another, be it a signing or someone emerging from the minor leagues, the Phillies new brain trust of club president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak will find some left-handed competition for him this spring training.
With that solid 2015 experience under his belt, and assuming his own return to health, it shouldn’t be anything that Araujo can’t handle. There is no reason that the Phillies should not look forward to watching their young southpaw continue to make strides forward in the 2016 season.