Ranking Supplement – Relief Pitchers

The definition of a reliever has changed rapidly recently.  Starting pitchers are throwing less, while pitchers overall get more dominant.  There has been a velocity spike across all of baseball, throwing in the mid 90s does not make you a major league prospect anymore.  To make a major league bullpen, a pitcher has to show some control as well as a solid secondary pitch.  However, even with the added requirements on relief pitchers, there are still a large number of players getting a major league shot because there is no position that sees the turnover that relievers do.  Relievers are volatile for many reasons from small sample sizes, to the fact that many are highly flawed players to begin with.  The constant turnover does not make relievers less valuable to an organization, in contrast teams cannot rely on individual players and instead have to cultivate large numbers of potential relief pitchers in the minor leagues to continue to fill their major league bullpens.  I would not make a large bet on any of these individual players to make a major league impact, but there will be some major leaguers in this group who will have good productive MLB careers.

Relief Pitcher

Colton Murray 25 y/o 6’0″ 195lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Reading (AA)2106-135.22.527.80.36.8%24.5%
Lehigh Valley (AAA)3102-242.02.795.10.412.3%24.0%
Phillies (MLB)800-17.25.8712.92.45.4%24.3%

Middle relievers tend to come in a similar mold.  They have above average to plus velocity (Murray throws 92-95), an above average to plus breaking ball (curveball here), and a remnant of their college starting days (a fringe average changeup).  Often there is also control that you don’t really trust, making the player always live on the edge.  Maybe it all works and Murray is a solid middle reliever for the Phillies, or maybe it is some heavy miles on the Northeast Extension as the Phillies take advantage of his three remaining minor league options

Daniel Stumpf 25 y/o 6’2″ 200lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Naturals (AA)4215-470.23.577.00.810.5%25.7%

Stumpf was one of the handful of pitchers available in the Rule 5 draft that looked like potential LOOGYs.  Stumpf throws in the low to mid 90s with a good slider.  The Phillies think he has a chance to get righties and lefties out, but he will need to at least get lefties out to make it through spring training.

Edgar Garcia 19 y/o 6’1″ 179lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
GCL (Rk)1221-232.23.317.40.36.1%25.8%

Garcia was the hardest throwing of the non-Adonis Medina GCL pitchers.  He was reportedly up to 95 late in the season.  Unlike most of his contemporaries, he also has an out pitch in a slider that plus potential.  He could get a chance to start at some point, but some evaluators think his delivery will keep him in the bullpen.  He has the stuff to have a major league impact in a bullpen if he can keep his control.

Gregory Infante 28 y/o 6’2″ 185lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
New Hampshire (AA)600-18.05.6313.50.015.9%20.5%
Buffalo (AAA)4501-248.22.778.00.615.0%19.2%

Infante has always been some kind of prospect.  But as a big righty who can throw in the high 90s with a really nice breaking ball and no clue where the strikezone is, he will give Phillies fans nightmares of Phillippe Aumont.  Infante as at the point in his career where he is unlikely to improve, but teams are always going to give him a chance.

Ismael Cabrera 21 y/0 6’1″ 185lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
GCL (Rk)1322-216.00.566.80.65.9%27.9%
Williamsport (SS)300-03.00.009.00.07.7%30.8%

Cabrera pitched at 86-90 in 2014, but this season his fastball increased to 92-95.  Cabrera signed with the Phillies at 19 and has always been a reliever, and still lacks the msecondary pitches to be anything but that.  He will show a changeup and his control of the strikezone makes his rise reminiscent of Edubray Ramos last season.  If he sticks in the bullpen and can develop the changeup or a breaking ball into a solid secondary pitch, he could move very quickly.

Hoby Milner 25 y/o 6’3″ 165lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Clearwater (A+)110-03.00.006.00.00.0%9.1%
Reading (AA)2922-161.03.699.00.96.8%15.9%

Milner moved back to the bullpen in 2015 and had more success.  He is still soft tossing and homer prone, but there is LOOGY potential, like all pitchers who use their left arm.

Jairo Munoz 24 y/o 6’5″ 175lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
DSL (Rk)200-04.00.004.50.00.0%28.6%
GCL (Rk)801-110.01.804.50.010.3%35.9%
Lakewood (A-)1333-033.22.677.00.36.9%21.5%
Clearwater (A+)100-02.00.009.00.011.1%11.1%

Munoz’s story got some press this offseason, and his journey is quite incredible.  He is on the older side, but he throws at 92-95 with life and has a good curveball and developing changeup.  The Phillies cleaned up his delivery last spring and his control increased greatly.  Munoz made some starts at the end of the season and this offseason, but his age and lack of secondary pitch development means that he is likely a reliever long term.  He should be in Clearwater to start the year and could move very quickly in the bullpen.

Jason Zgardowski 22 y/o 6’5″ 190lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Williamsport (SS)601-08.02.255.61.112.1%27.3%
Lakewood (A-)2803-149.23.265.20.211.0%22.5%

Zgardowski was a sleeper pick coming into the year, and it is easy to see why, as he is 6’5” with a lanky frame and live arm up to 95+.  His control suffered and he was demoted to Williamsport, but upon his return to Lakewood he dominated.  There is still room for more velocity in his frame, and with continued growth in his secondary pitches he could be a very interesting reliever.  His upside is down some, but still quite optimistic for a undrafted free agent.

Jesen Therrien 23 y/o 6’2″ 190lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Lakewood (A-)900-017.10.526.80.03.0%21.2%
Clearwater (A+)3005-045.21.777.30.27.9%21.2%
Glendale (AFL)901-09.28.3811.21.99.3%18.6%

Therrien took a step forward late in the 2014 season when he showed increased velocity.  This past season saw his velocity decrease, but his results improve.  He was bad in the Arizona Fall League and is likely ticketed for low leverage innings in Reading.

Joely Rodriguez 24 y/o 6’1″ 200lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Reading (AA)1985-461.05.9010.81.27.5%15.4%
Lehigh Valley (AAA)13132-668.16.3211.70.411.6%10.4%

There was some optimism about Rodriguez when he came back for Antonio Bastardo last year.  When on, Rodriguez will touch 95 and never let a ball out of the infield, when off he will walk everyone without striking anyone out.  The problem is that he was off in nearly all starts, and only on in a few.  After ending on a high note, at a level below where he started, he was designated for assignment.  He made it through waivers, but didn’t get an invite to big league camp.  Given the dearth of lefties in the org, a good start in the bullpen could get him back in the org’s good graces.

Ken Roberts 28 y/o 6’1″ 200lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Isotopes (AAA)2301-331.25.1210.80.92.8%19.9%
Lehigh Valley (AAA)300-03.00.009.00.00.0%16.7%
Colorado (MLB)900-19.15.7912.50.04.7%11.6%
Phillies (MLB)601-04.110.3818.70.04.6%4.6%

Roberts was claimed off waivers by the Phillies at a time when they had almost no left handed pitching.  He is a soft tossing lefty, who made it through waivers early in the offseason.  No camp invite says all there is to know about his future.

Kenny Koplove 22 y/o 6’1″ 170lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Williamsport (SS)2302-334.04.509.00.511.6%18.4%

At Duke, Koplove was a shortstop and reliever, but the Phillies will just have him pitch.  His fastball is at 89-93 with movement, but some think he will add a few miles per hour as he pitches full time.  He also has a good breaking ball, that projects as above average to plus.  Koplove has major league upside, and will probably start in Clearwater.

Matt Hockenberry 24 y/o 6’3″ 220lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Lakewood (A-)4204-452.12.245.80.29.1%24.5%

Hockenberry is the last product of the Temple baseball program.  The expectations were low as a underslot senior sign, but Hockenberry has thrived in the bullpen.  He has racked up strikeouts with a good curveball and dramatically his walk rate from 2014 to 2015.  He does not have the overpowering stuff of some other names in the bullpen, but he has put up very good numbers to this point and should have a high leverage job in the Threshers’ bullpen.

Miguel Nunez 23 y/o 6’6″ 215lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Clearwater (A+)4043-272.23.227.10.58.3%15.0%

Nunez had a good return in 2013 after missing two seasons, but then stalled in 2014.  This season saw him move to the bullpen, which lead to increased control and secondary pitches.  His giant frame leads to poor contact for batters and his relative youth hints at potentially more velocity.  He should get a chance at AA in 2016, where he will need to separate himself from a pile of other middle relievers.

Ryan O’Sullivan 25 y/o 6’2″ 190lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Reading (AA)3602-352.22.397.70.58.5%14.2%

Just like the majors, the minors needs middle relievers too.  O’Sullivan looks like his brother, but throws a bit softer and gets more ground balls.  O’Sullivan is unlikely to see much, if any, major league time, but it’s not like anyone expected a lot back for Joe Blanton.

Seranthony Dominguez 21 y/o 6’1″ 183lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
GCL (Rk)211-17.22.357.01.219.4%25.0%

Dominguez is another small guy who can hit the mid 90s with his fastball.  He was up to 96 this spring in Extended Spring Training.  He only pitched in two games this summer so it is hard to know where he stands going forward.  His control has been poor, so the raw velocity might not be enough to carry him.

Joey DeNato 24 y/o 5’10” 175lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Lakewood (A-)4302-365.11.245.60.17.5%26.7%
Lehigh Valley (AAA)300-04.27.7111.61.913.6%18.2%

DeNato is a tiny left hander who does not throw hard, and does not have overpowering secondary stuff.  What he does have is great strike throwing abilities and one of the best pick off moves you will see.  He has an outside shot of becoming a LOOGY at some point in his career.

Skylar Hunter 22 y/o 6’1″ 185lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Williamsport (SS)2203-333.23.489.10.07.8%14.8%

Hunter was the Phillies’ 12th round pick in 2015 and sent him immediately to Williamsport.  Hunter can run his fastball up to 93 and features a solid curveball and changeup.  He will likely need to limit his changeup as he climbs the ranks, but if he can keep throwing strikes he will get opportunity at higher levels.

Ulises Joaquin 23 y/o 5’11” 165lbs

Team (LVL)GGSW-LIPERAH/9HR/9BB%K%
Clearwater (A+)4604-255.02.958.30.85.2%23.0%

Joaquin is another small, decently hard throwing right handed reliever.  Joaquin throws in the 91-95 range, but has more control than command and his secondary pitches lack impact.  Joaquin was the Clearwater closer to start the year, but was edged out slowly by better pitchers.  He should be in the Reading bullpen, and if he can make some improvements he could be an up and down middle reliever.

Photo by Baseball Betsy

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.