The Philadelphia Phillies bullpen has undergone major changes, with almost every role up for grabs in the coming 2016 season.
As the roster begins to take form over these final two weeks of spring training, we’re beginning to wind down our look at the contenders for bullpen spots. The Phillies will continue to give long looks to some returning arms, new faces, and scrap heap veterans looking for one last chance to trot out from the centerfield bullpen.
As I continue examining those options for their final roster spots, today I’ll be looking at Daniel Stumpf. The interesting caveat about Stumpf’s situation is the left-hander’s status as a Rule 5 draftee.
Stumpf was left unprotected by the Kansas City Royals this past December, and Phillies’ general manager Matt Klentak used the opportunity to take a chance on the 25-year old southpaw with the club’s 2nd round choice. If he does not make the Phillies roster, he will be offered back to the Royals.
Let’s start with why the Phillies took the Texas native. In a Rule 5 process in which the Phillies spent their first pick on toolsy outfielder Tyler Goeddel, they took a chance on Stumpf as well. At 6’2″ and 200 pounds, it is hard not to like his size.
By just looking at him, I hear voices that scream, “Bullpen!!” and watching him pitch does not change that thought. He has a deceiving delivery from the left side, rocking back just enough that the ball and glove seemingly disappear. Stumpf has a track record of success in retiring lefty batters throughout his minor league career.
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Stumpf has never pitched above the AA level, but Kansas City’s 9th round draft pick in 2012 has been extremely effective wherever he has landed. Just last season at Northwest Arkansas in AA , Stumpf struck out just over a batter per inning in his 70 innings pitched.
A few seasons ago, the Royals organization tried to thrust him into a starting pitcher role. Stumpf experienced some success, but his mid-90s fastball and improving slider projected him to work well in a situational lefty role in a major league bullpen.
This spring with the Phils, his numbers are proving the idea that he fits better as a lefty specialist. It is important to remember that the Grapefruit League is an incredibly small sample size, but his current .167 batting average against from lefty hitters is a positive sign. He has been effective against righties as well to this point. Stumpf has collected six of his eight strikeouts against right-handed hitters over the course of his eight innings of spring work.
In early March, Stumpf spoke with Philly.com’s Matt Breen about how he is approaching the opportunity and the competition for a role: “I’m new here,” Stumpf said. “I’m just trying to keep my head down. Throw the ball well and try to a chance to fight for a spot. I’m just out there doing what I can.”
There are reasons for the Phillies to bring Stumpf north for the regular season, and others that are just as convincing to send him back to Kansas City. Let’s start with the latter. While Stumpf has been interesting to watch, he has been far from dominant. He has also had a couple of difficult outings.
Also, the club has other left-handed specialists on the roster competing for the same type of role, and also having success, in fellow newcomers Bobby LaFromboise and James Russell. Both have been at least as effective, a situation that could even lead to a minor trade supplying more upside to the Phillies system.
On the other hand, there is no better situation in which to keep a Rule 5 arm. The Phillies are still rebuilding, and will not likely be ready to win for a couple of years. Keeping Stumpf could give the Phillies a cheap left-hander to pull out of their pen for the foreseeable future and beyond.
If he stays and succeeds throughout this season, it is a major positive for the club. If he finds some struggles during his 2016 campaign and the Phillies hold on to him, he is eligible for a minor league assignment next season.
Stumpf’s arm shows upside, and with lefty bats in the NL East such as Bryce Harper, Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, and Michael Conforto, it does not hurt to have an arm who is more than likely to send them back to the opposition dugout confused.
When it comes to a decision on whether or not Stumpf fits what the Phillies are looking for, it can only be determined in his performances over the course of the next two weeks. If he continues to perform, they may just take his risk over one of the veteran lefties in camp. If not, he may go back to the defending champion Royals.
Of course, the Phils may offer him back and KC says no, or the Phillies could also decide to work out some trade with the Royals to keep Stumpf in the organization. Who knows? The possibilities are as intriguing as the arm Stumpf brings the organization. One thing seems certain, the Phillies have some better options this spring from both the left and right sides on the mound.