Phillies Lefty Bullpen Options
The Philadelphia Phillies have a number of left-handed bullpen options pitching well this spring.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Phillies have announced that starting rotation candidate Brett Oberholtzer is being moved to the bullpen, leaving the 5th starter battle as a head-to-head showdown between Adam Morgan and Vincent Velasquez.
Besides the obvious effect on that rotation battle, the move of Oberholtzer to the pen also muddles an already intense battle for relief pitcher spots. Other lefties who have been fighting for a role include incumbent Elvis Araujo and newcomers Bobby LaFromboise, Daniel Stumpf, and James Russell.
Oberholtzer would appear to be a lock to head north once the regular season opens. He has big league experience, is out of minor league options, and his experience as a starting pitcher would suggest that he could provide multiple innings in an emergency.
Assuming that Oberholtzer has a spot as a left-hander, the club would appear to have room for no more than one or two more southpaws. To this point, the three newbies have clearly out-performed the holdover Araujo.
Araujo has allowed five earned runs on four hits across 4.2 innings over five Grapefruit League appearances to this point. He has walked three and struck out three thus far.
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The 24-year old made his big league debut with the Phillies last season and was mostly effective, allowing just 29 hits over 40 appearances in which he threw 34.2 innings with a 34/19 K:BB ratio.
Stumpf, who was profiled here at TBOH just yesterday by our Mike Azzalina in an ongoing series on the Phillies bullpen candidates, has been the arm that the club has been trying to evaluate the most during the spring. He has pitched a pen-high nine innings, allowing 10 hits and four earned runs with a 9/3 K:BB ratio.
The 25-year old Stumpf was the Phillies’ 2nd round choice in December’s Rule 5 Draft from the Kansas City Royals organization. He must remain on the big league roster all season, or the Phils would need to either offer him back to Kansas City or try to work out a trade in order to keep him.
LaFromboise has been outstanding to this point in spring. The 29-year old has yet to allow a hit or run over his first six appearances and 7.1 impressive innings. He has also registered an effective 8/3 K:BB ratio.
The Phillies originally added LaFromboise back at the end of January in a move that caused them to release former prospect Jesse Biddle, who just signed with the Atlanta Braves organization. He has appeared in parts of the last three seasons with both the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Russell is by far the most experienced of the left-handers in this fight. The 30-year old has tossed 330.1 innings in Major League Baseball across parts of six seasons spent mostly with the Chicago Cubs. He has pitched little this spring, allowing two hits over just three innings with a 4/0 K:BB ratio.
The Phillies want to see more of Russell now that the season is fast approaching. They have scheduled him for a starting appearance on Saturday afternoon at Bright House Field against the Detroit Tigers in what will be an opportunity to give him at least two innings of work.
Related Story: 2016 Bullpen Candidates: Elvis Araujo
Mario Hollands is another left-hander who could eventually push himself into consideration for a role at some point in the 2016 season. The 27-year old Hollands is getting set to make his way back from Tommy John surgery last spring, will start out in the minors, and should be ready at some point this summer. He tossed 47 innings over 50 appearances with the Phillies back in the 2014 season.
At this point, I would rank the Phillies left-handed options in this order: Oberholtzer, LaFromboise, Stumpf, Russell, and Araujo. The middle three arms are so close at this point that performances and health over the final two weeks of spring could become the decisive factor. Araujo appears headed to the AAA Lehigh Valley bullpen come April.