Phillies: Five pitchers to keep an eye on in spring training
You might be surprised that I placed Neris here. He improved significantly at the end of the year after a midseason demotion to Triple-A, but there are flaws in his game that make him a wary option.
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Neris, at the beginning of the 2018 season, had no command of either his fastball or his splitter, and he gave up a lot of gut-wrenching home runs in games that may have helped the Phillies just a little bit down the stretch.
In 2017, Neris had a runs-above-average (RAA) of 12. In other words, he was about 12 “runs” better than the average major-leaguer. In 2018, that number dipped down to -1.
If I had the choice, I would keep Neris on the roster just because of how he improved his game at the end of last year, but the Phillies acquired Juan Nicasio in the Jean Segura trade. Nicasio, who appeared in two games for the Phillies in 2017, did not have a good year last year, posting a 6.00 ERA in 42 innings. He is on the final year of a 2-year, $17 million contract and will most definitely remain on the big-league roster throughout the season.
If Kimbrel is signed, it’s highly unlikely Neris makes the big-league roster. Now, I believe he has a slim chance, going up against Edubray Ramos. Like Eickhoff, the clock is ticking on Neris as well. He turns 30 in June. Ultimately, I see Neris as a “win-and-you’re-in” scenario in spring training. Not that he has to win, but if he pitches very well, he will get a roster spot. If he doesn’t, he could still wind up on the roster in the event of an injury.