As the days go on and spring training approaches, the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen moves closer to being set. While there are some big names and underrated contributors still out there that Dave Dombrowski might make a move on, the majority of the pitching staff is likely already etched in stone.
However, the last couple of spots in the bullpen are up for grabs. Manager Rob Thomson will have to really scrutinize the final options, which will likely come down to the final days of spring training.
The (likely) confirmed bullpen arms are José Alvarado, Seranthony Domínguez, Gregory Soto, Matt Strahm, Jeff Hoffman, and Orion Kerkering. Assuming the Phillies break camp with 13 pitchers, five of which will be starters, that leaves two more spots in the bullpen up for grabs.
Andrew Bellatti, Dylan Covey, Connor Brogdon, and Yunior Marte are all in the running to grab the last two coveted spots on the Opening Day roster. Newly acquired Kolby Allard will throw his hat in the ring, but that seems like a long shot.
So, if the season started today, who should the Phillies pick to fill the final spots in the bullpen?
Option 1: Yunior Marte
Let’s start with Yunior Marte, who likely has the smallest chance of earning one of the spots. The 28-year-old right-hander had glimpses of really good stuff in 2023, but unfortunately, those glimpses were short-lived. He pitched in 40 games and finished with a 5.03 ERA, 4.68 FIP, and 1.627 WHIP, which simply won’t cut it at the major league level.
His 97.7 mph fastball/sinker velocity ranks in the 95th percentile, but he has trouble missing bats with just a 25 percent whiff rate and a 20.9 percent strikeout rate. His slider, which he throws 44.1 percent of the time, is an effective “out” pitch with a 36.4 percent whiff rate. But when batters connected on it, they did damage, slugging .500.
Marte stepped in admirably in 2023 when the injury bug hit the bullpen and Thomson needed help. He even locked down two saves. That being said, if the 2024 team relies on Marte for high-volume and high-leverage spots, it is safe to say something has gone wrong. It's hard to see him adding much value to the 2024 team.
Option 2: Connor Brogdon
Connor Brogdon is an interesting option as a bullpen piece. In 2022, he pitched in 47 games and ended the season with a respectable 3.27 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 3.43 FIP. He even pitched 8 2/3 innings in the 2022 World Series postseason run.
2023 was a completely different story. He totaled just 29 total innings and none after June 4. He was sent down in favor of some other arms and never regained the trust of the front office or found his footing in the minors.
Brogdon features a changeup, four-seamer, and cutter. His changeup, which he throws 42.5 percent of the time, had an xBA of .174 in 2023 — much better than his four-seamer, which had a .335 xBA. If pitching coach Caleb Cotham has anything to say about it, we'll likely see the right-hander start to throw his cutter a little more and rely on his changeup as an out pitch to keep batters off balance.
Brogdon has the repertoire to hold on to a major league roster spot; it’s just a matter of whether he can harness and control it. If he has a good spring training and proves to Thompson that he can keep batters at bay, there’s a real possibility he'll be given one of the last two bullpen spots.
NEXT: Dylan Covey, Andrew Bellatti, and the final verdict on who should get the final bullpen spots.