Minor league relievers get a bad rap. They rank on lists behind starting pitchers who will likely end up in the bullpen eventually, leading them to fly under the radar until they show up in a major league bullpen. Like many spots on minor league teams, bullpens are home to many players who won’t go near a major league roster. That doesn’t mean we should ignore all relievers in the minors. In addition to the starting pitching the Phillies are now cultivating, they are developing some homegrown relievers that could be impactful in the major leagues. With Nick Pivetta’s injury, the Phillies are sending 4 pitchers who all fall into this category of potentially impactful reliever, three also have the added intrigue of being Rule 5 eligible after the season.
We should start with the name most familiar to Phillies’ fans, Tom Windle. Windle was half of the trade that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers, and while the feeling was that he was a reliever long term (he relieved for two years in college), the Phillies let him start. After struggling he was moved to the bullpen where he excelled, but there was an eye on returning to the rotation. After all of the deadline trades, it appears the bullpen is where Windle is to stay. In the bullpen he shows a fastball in the low to mid 90s and a wipeout slider. It remains to be seen if he scraps the changeup entirely or if he continues to tinker with the pitch. Windle could be a touch better than a middle reliever and better than a LOOGY as he can get righties out.
The name that will likely rank highest on offseason lists is Edubray Ramos. Ramos was a sleeper coming into the year who carried over a strong 2014 into a dominant trip to Clearwater and solid stint in AA. Ramos has back end impact potential with a fastball that sits 94-96 touching 97. He matches that with a breaking ball that has gone anywhere from curveball to slider and 78 to 86 depending on where he was seen. The pitch has good sharp two plan break and is a bat misser. Up until his time in AA Ramos also showed a great feel for the strikezone, but was erratic in AA. He is Rule 5 eligible and will be in the majors soon.
Those first two names are fairly well know, but what almost interests me more are the two 2011 HS draftees that are in Fall League. Both are 22 year old righties who pitched the majority of their seasons in Clearwater. The first is this guy:
Yeah, Yacksel Rios is now 94-96 after starting the year at 93-94 touching 95 on a potentially hot Clearwater gun (he has been more 90-92 in previous seasons). Rios shuttled back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen for the Threshers, but he really found a home in relief. As a reliever he pitched 38.2 innings with a 1.40 ERA allowing only 29 hits while walking 13 and striking out 37. There have not been many reports on his secondary pitches lately, but his slider once drew some praise from Eric Longenhagen. Rios is still super raw and young and maybe he gets another shot in a rotation at some point because he can hold his velocity. However, the lack of noteworthy secondary pitches likely leaves him in the bullpen where it appears he could be quite decent. He is Rule 5 eligible and with a good Arizona Fall League he will be hard to leave unprotected this winter.
The other arm is Canadian Jesen Dygestile-Therrien, another loose armed raw pitcher (and the replacement for fellow Canadian Nick Pivetta). Like Rios, Therrien has seen his velocity climb in recent years as there were multiple reports of him touching 95+. He has been more in the 89-94 range this year. He has a three pitch mix with feel for a changeup and a breaking ball that was a curveball in the past and looks to be a slider now. The changeup has become a weapon for him and he and the Phillies have made improving his offspeed pitches a big part of this past season. He was dominant in both of his stops this year putting up a 1.43 ERA over 63 innings. He is Rule 5 eligible, but with the stuff a bit behind Rios it is unlikely he will be protected by the Phillies this offseason. Since he doesn’t have elite velocity, high minors experience, or starting upside it is unlikely that he gets selected by another team in the draft. He should go to Reading next year where he could certainly force the issue with the other right handed relievers the Phillies have accumulated.