Phillies 2024 Season Preview: RHP Michael Rucker

Another bullpen depth arm, Rucker can get groundballs but needs to reign in the walks to have a chance to make an impact in the big leagues this season.

Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Michael Rucker
Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Michael Rucker / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

Up next in our Philadelphia Phillies 2024 Season Preview is relief pitcher Michael Rucker.

Previous season previews: José Alvarado, Andrew Bellatti, Alec Bohm, Connor Brogdon, Nick Castellanos, Rodolfo Castro, Kody Clemens, Jake Cave, Dylan Covey, Seranthony Domínguez, Darick Hall, Kolby Allard, Bryce Harper, Jeff Hoffman, Orion Kerkering, Rafael Marchán, Brandon Marsh, Yunior Marté, Michael Mercado, Max Castillo, Nick Nelson, Aaron Nola, Luis Ortiz, Cristian Pache, J.T. Realmuto, Johan Rojas

We'll start with Rucker's 2023 performance and then see where he might end up this season using the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems, which can be found on FanGraphs.

Michael Rucker 2023 stats and 2024 projections

2023 Stats: 35 G, 40.1 IP, 2-1 record, 4.91 ERA, 4.84 FIP, 1.44 WHIP, 40 SO, 19 BB, -0.1 fWAR

2024 Steamer: 27 G, 27 IP, 1-1 record, 4.38 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 1.38 WHIP, 24 SO, 11 BB, 0.1 fWAR

2024 ZiPS DC: 27 G, 27 IP, 0-1 record, 5.30 ERA, 4.95 FIP, 1.46 WHIP, 24 SO, 11 BB, 0.0 fWAR

Michael Rucker 2024 season preview

Michael Rucker, 29, came to the Phillies in a Feb. 7 trade with the Chicago Cubs, and the team immediately added him to the 40-man roster in favor of Andrew Bellatti.

Last season with the Cubs, Rucker logged 40 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. However, he also racked up 19 walks for an underwhelming 11.9 percent K-BB rate. The 4.91 ERA and 1.44 WHIP ratios aren't going to get anyone excited about this depth arm.

He was better in 2022 when he had a 3.95 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 50 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings for the Cubbies. His minor league numbers from last year might give us a hint of the potential the Phillies see in the former 11th-round draft pick — he threw 21 1/3 innings in Triple-A with a 1.69 ERA and 0.80 WHIP.

Steamer and ZiPS DC project Rucker to throw 27 innings in the big leagues this season, but as projection systems aren't great at playing-time predictions, we'll take that with a grain of salt. We're more interested in how the models think he'll perform, anyway.

Both systems see the right-hander running a lower BB/9 (3.57 and 3.70) but also a slightly lower K/9 (8.07 and 8.04). They both predict a WHIP around the number he finished with in 2023 and, unfortunately, a high ERA. Steamer thinks he'll improve his ERA to 4.38, while ZiPS sees an ugly 5.30 ERA in Rucker's future. Yikes.

What does Michael Rucker do well?

Rucker throws six pitches. He relies on his four-seam fastball and cutter the most, while also using a slider, curveball, changeup, and a sinker he introduced last season.

He's a groundball pitcher and posted his highest groundball rate last season, at 51.8 percent. His changeup, which he threw 4.5 percent of the time, had a 100 percent groundball rate. His curveball (66.7 percent) and cutter (63.6 percent) were both up there as groundball-inducing pitches as well.

Rucker made his spring training Grapefruit League debut on Monday, throwing one inning against the Boston Red Sox. True to form, he got a couple of groundball outs but also walked a pair before getting out of the frame by catching a line-drive comebacker.

He's with the Phillies as bullpen depth and has an option, so will likely see some time in the big leagues at some point this season, but he'll need to clean up the walks to have any chance of sticking around.