Reliever Spotlight

I am one of the first to admit that reliever prospects get pushed down prospect lists and they are often overlooked if they do not have closer potential.  This is for many good reasons related to potential major league value, but it does leave a gap in our coverage.  So to close that gap some here are three relievers who have the chance to be impactful in the majors:

Colton Murray – RHP – Reading
Murray was the Phillies 13th round pick in 2011 out of the University of Kansas.  Murray posted a 5.02 ERA in the FSL in 2013 despite 27 BBs 75 Ks and 6 HRs in 66.1 IP.  This year the numbers have rebounded, and after a good start in Clearwater he was promoted to Reading, where his success has continued (2.41 ERA 52.1 IP 20 BB 56 K).  Evaluators are starting to take notice with Jason Park’s earlier report and this recent look:

Murray does not profile as a closer, but he has the stuff to be a very useful reliever in the majors.  His ceiling is a 7th/8th inning guy, but if he can be a middle reliever who can go multiple innings that is very valuable.

Ethan Stewart – LHP – Clearwater

Stewart showed in pro-ball with some promise as a big projectable LHP.  After the 2011 season Baseball America had this to say:

His fastball velocity fluctuates from start to start, sitting anywhere from 86-94 mph, but he mostly operates at 89-91 with sink and tail. His curveball has tight, downward rotation and grades as an average pitch. His changeup is a work in progress, and he’s also developing a cutter.

Since then his command has been a problem and his delivery has caused his raw stuff to come and go, and 2014 was no exception as he stalled in Clearwater.  The Phillies moved him to the bullpen recently and the change has been dramatic.

Starter: 79.2 IP 53 BB 42 K
Reliever: 19.1 IP 5 BB 22 K

It is still small sample size, but the results point to a potential plan for Stewart going forward.  His diverse arsenal should keep him from having platoon splits and increase his potential.

Manny Martinez – RHP – Williamsport

Manny Martinez is making his third trip to Williamsport, but it finally looks like the side arm delivery has stuck and he is making meaningful improvements.  His fastball now sits 94-96 touching 97.  In June, Martinez gave up 5 ER, walked 6 batters while striking out 4 over 5.1 IP.  Over July and August he has walked 5 batters and struck out 18 in 15.2 innings while only allowing 2 earned runs.  Martinez has gained praise from scouts and evaluators.  Martinez is 22 and in short season ball, but when it comes to pitching, raw stuff matters more than age.  Next year Martinez could start in Lakewood and still be a in a position to arrive in the high minors by the end of the year.

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.


  1. Greerbr

    What do you see as a better development strategy: Have pitchers move up quicker as relievers and stretch them out after they develop their stuff in the bullpen, or move to bullpen after they prove they can’t be starters? I guess there really isn’t one development path as all pitchers are different, but just interests me sometimes how other teams (cardinals in particular) put starters in the bullpen and will stretch them out later.

    • Matt Winkelman

      I think you develop guys as starters all the way until either they can’t start (physically or lack the repertoire) like an Ethan Martin, you know they can’t start and want to accelerate them through the system like Ken Giles, or they are ready to contribute in the majors as a starter and you don’t have room for them which is what the Cardinals have done. There is another couple of paths that involve innings limits and playoff needs (what Blue Jays are doing with Aaron Sanchez). But for the most part you are seeing the Cardinals break guys in as relievers because they would rather have someone like Martinez pitching in relief in the majors than sitting in AAA waiting his turn.

      The Phillies don’t have that luxury, by the time Biddle or Nola is mlb ready there will be a rotation hole that makes sense for them to fill rather than working out of the pen.

      I like the idea of breaking guys in as relievers late in their development because you can keep their innings and exposure down while they are still developing, but it is a real luxury to be able to use that strategy.