Outside those that follow the minor leagues closely, Ken Giles was a relative unknown before he showed up to camp in 2014. It was with good reason, because while Giles was a known quantity out of JuCo in the 2011 draft (he touched 100 with an average to above average slider), he missed most of 2013 due to a pair of oblique injuries. That fall in the AFL he had shown some slider growth, enough that some thought the pitch would eventually be plus, but he walked 8 in his 10.1 innings. Giles would go to AA after camp and spend 28.2 innings in the minors before joining the Phillies’ bullpen permanently. Since that promotion he has been one of the best relievers in majors. I say all of this to relate that when it clicks for a pitcher it can all happen very quickly.
This brings us to Jimmy Cordero. Cordero was supposed to be the second piece in the trade that sent Ben Revere to the Blue Jays (he may end up being that as the book is far from closed on Alberto Tirado). The book on him was that he threw really hard (topped out at 101-102) and he had some control problems to go with a promising slider. The control problems were evident in his 13.3 % BB % in AA for the Blue Jays. He also wasn’t missing bats at the rate you would expect for a guy with his raw stuff (21.0%).
Since the trade though he has been extremely impressive. The velocity is there, and he has had a couple outings where he has been 99-101 T103 on the Reading stadium gun. His control is still a problem at times (he started his playoff appearance with three straight fastball no where near the strike zone), but he has shown the ability to buckle down and not give in with a walk and his walk rate has been more than cut in half (6.3% since the trade). He is starting to flash signs of basic fastball command with the ability to throw the ball to basic quadrants (up and in, down and away), but precision still eludes him.
The big thing here has been the breaking ball (Cordero actually throws a pair of breaking balls, but the curveball is well behind the slider and I am not sure how long it lasts). Cordero’s slider is maybe a bit softer than Ken Giles’, coming in more at 84-90. It doesn’t have that short cutter motion with some downward bite that Giles’ does. Instead the pitch has a bit more movement and sweep, but isn’t loopy, instead the movement is late and there is some drop to it (both real and perceived). Cordero shows more command for the pitch than he does for his fastball. He has shown he can break it away from righties and break it under the bat of lefties. I feel comfortable calling it a current plus pitch with a chance to be a plus plus pitch long term.
Overall it is coming together quickly for Cordero who has been devastating for Reading lately (over his last 7 appearances he has gone 9.2 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 BB 11 K and has not allowed a hit in his last 3 appearances), and is their go to reliever in high leverage situations. He needs to be on the 40 man roster this offseason, which means he will be in big league camp next spring. If he shows his current stuff it will be hard for the team to not take him to Cincinnati for opening day. If he does go to AAA his stay could be short, just like Giles’ was. Overall Cordero might actually have more upside than Giles, but he will need to show the command in the majors that has made Giles into the dominant pitcher he has been, but regardless of role, the two of them could anchor the back of the Phillies bullpen soon into the 2016 season.