The Phillies bullpen should be stronger than it has been in years.
The Philadelphia Phillies begin to play meaningful games on Thursday. We have come to the final segment of position breakdowns — the bullpen. The Phillies' 26-man Opening Day roster is expected to feature eight bullpen arms — José Alvarado, Andrew Bellatti, Connor Brogdon, Seranthony Domínguez, Craig Kimbrel, Yunior Marte, Gregory Soto, and Andrew Vasquez.
Matt Strahm — originally signed as a reliever — will begin the season in the rotation due to Ranger Suárez's injury. Once the rotation is healthy, Strahm could return to a relief role.
The Phillies' bullpen is considerably deeper than in recent seasons. Vasquez, Bellatti, and Brogdon will likely pitch in long-relief and middle-inning roles. Vasquez is the least consistent of the group, having only pitched 15 1/3 career big-league innings with an ERA over 7.00 in that small sample size. He will likely serve as an innings eater in early relief. Bellatti and Brogdon, meanwhile, are capable to pitch multiple innings and have demonstrated the ability to pitch well in different scenarios. Brogdon is especially noteworthy because he has some dominating stuff.
Marte, 28, had a 5.44 ERA with the San Francisco Giants in 2022 over 48 innings. The Phillies acquired the hard-throwing right-hander in January. He made quite an impression this spring. In 10 innings, Marte posted a 2.61 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. His fastball sits around 99 miles per hour and he has a dominating slider. Marte can likely be used in multiple roles, but will mainly serve as a sixth- or seventh-inning arm to start the season.
Alvarado, Domínguez, Kimbrel, and Soto all figure to share duties in the eighth and ninth innings. All have dominating stuff and experience pitching late in games. Given options at the back end of the bullpen, Rob Thomson implied that he will use relievers based on matchups and who is healthy. He said that it is possible that one pitcher "wins" the closer job, but as of now, he will not appoint anyone specific to that role.
All of the later-inning relievers pitched well this spring, except Soto, who struggled a bit. He had some visa issues and reported to Clearwater late. They all can close games and pitch big innings if they have command. Soto and Alvarado especially rely on command and can struggle if erratic. Kimbrel will look to bounce back from an average season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Domínguez will look to build on his excellent 2022 season.
MLB.com recently ranked the Phillies bullpen in the top 10 in all of baseball. This is a huge testament to how Dave Dombrowski restructured what was consistent weakness just a year or two ago. By signing some veterans, making trades, and developing their own guys, the Phillies have built a bullpen that should no longer be a weakness and be one of the team's strengths in the 2023 season.