The Philadelphia Phillies front office made some excellent moves this past offseason to turn what was one of the worst bullpens ever assembled into somewhat of a strength.
This year’s bullpen features pitchers who throw at consistently higher velocities, multiple guys who can be trusted with the game on the line, and an edge that wasn’t there less than a year ago.
However, the improved bullpen still severely lacks quality left-handed depth — a weakness that only will be exposed by good teams as the season goes on.
The Phillies can upgrade their bullpen by adding a shutdown left-hander
The Phillies currently have six left-handed pitchers on their 40-man roster: Jose Alvarado, Matt Moore, and Ranger Suarez in the majors, and Damon Jones, Cristopher Sanchez and Bailey Falter in the minors. (JoJo Romero was transferred to the 60-day IL and is no longer on the 40-man roster). That is not an intimidating group.
Alvarado is the only established big-league reliever with recent success. Even he isn’t dominant enough to be considered a “shutdown” guy. Alvarado is a solid reliever. He has 21 strikeouts in 16 appearances and has been electric at times. But he’s wild and inconsistent, walking 18.8 percent of the batters he’s faced this season (12 walks, 64 batters faced) — one of the worst walk rates in MLB. He’s also throwing just 43.8 percent first-pitch strikes and left-handed hitters have a .500 OBP against him.
The rest of the group doesn’t offer much. Moore and Suarez are long relievers at this point and the trio of minor-league lefties aren’t ready to contribute in Philly.
At 22-20 and just one game out of first place in the NL East, the Phillies are in a good spot — especially considering their injury issues. But as a contender, having only one above-average lefty reliever isn’t good enough.