As I alluded to in the comments of the Top 50 and in the numbers breakdown, relief pitchers were undervalued in the ranking process. On a singular level, relievers are extremely volatile. They can have good value (both Chapman and Kimbrel have eclipsed 3 wins in a season), but their value is limited to a certain amount of innings. Also due to the small amount of innings, the margin between good and average is very small. This leads to a situation where on an aggregate relievers are important to providing value to a team. But on an individual level they are difficult to rank ahead of starting pitchers or hitters. Since only three relievers actually made my top 50 prospects because of this, it is important that we talk about them as a whole. So lets talk about the Phillies young relievers, both those that are still prospects and those that already form the major league core.
The Major League Assets:
Ken Giles – RHP (24)
There really isn’t much more to say about Giles that hasn’t been said. He was one of the best relievers in baseball last year on a per-innings basis and there is no red flags that he can’t repeat it going forward. So in that case, here is him beating Trout with a slider (original gif from Fangraphs).
Jake Diekman – LHP (28)
Diekman is a bit older than you would expect, and his L/R splits are not ideal (LHBs .577 OPS, RHBs .748 OPS). But Diekman set a career high in velocity last year (averaged 96.8 and touched 100), strikeout rate (12.68), was 7th among LH relievers in FIP, and had some unluckiness on balls in play (.363 BABIP) that attributed to his jump in ERA. Much like Antonio Bastardo, Diekman walks a few too many batters, but if he continues to strikeout batters at his current rate, he will death on LHBs and just average against RHBs for years to come.
Justin De Fratus – RHP (27)
Normally when a reliever loses some velocity on their fastball it is time to take them out to pasture. In De Fratus’ case, the reduction in velocity allowed him to get his command back under control. The result was a 2.39 ERA over 52.2 major league innings while posting a career best 8.37 K/9 and 2.05 BB/9. The ERA may not end up being the most sustainable metric for him, but if he can continue to master the slider he showed late in the year, he could help be part of the bridge to Ken Giles for many more years.
Mario Hollands – LHP (26)
Hollands is proof you can’t right off any minor league left hander. The career journeyman saw his velocity jump 2-3mph out of the bullpen. That, coupled with some deception in his delivery allowed him to carve out a decent first year in the majors. Hollands’ effectiveness came in stretches, with a disastrous July (15.26 ERA) ruining his overall numbers. Over the course of the year he was much better against lefties and so ultimately Hollands could settle more into a LOOGY role. He should be healthy to start 2015, but Hollands did have an elbow injury prematurely end his year, which will be something to watch in spring training.
Andy Oliver – LHP (27)
Oliver was once a highly rated prospect (#87 overall after 2010 season), but his inability to throw strikes ruined his chance at the impact that some saw for him. He was traded to the Pirates for almost nothing before the 2013 season, where he continued to struggle in the rotation. This past season was the first year he reliever full time, and while his control wasn’t great, he destroyed lefties to the tune of 20.2 IP 9 H 13 BB 27 K. The Phillies took him in the Rule 5 to see if they can harness his 97 mph fastball into being an effective LOOGY.
Nefi Ogando – RHP (25)
Ogando has seemingly come out of nowhere, and the news keeps getting better. This fall Ogando saw both his control and slider take a step forward, and they appeared to keep that growth in the DWL. Ogando’s stuff is a grade behind Giles on both the fastball and slider. That puts his ceiling as the set up man for Giles going forward. We don’t know whether the control sticks around, but he should arrive in the majors soon.
Elvis Araujo – LHP (23)
The Phillies signed the giant minor league free agent to a major league deal, but with 3 remaining minor league options, there is no pressure for him to make the majors immediately. This past year was Araujo’s first year as a full time reliever, and while he still walked plenty of batters, he also started missing more bats. His fastball has been up to 98 and he has a slider that has shown good potential. He was dominant in the VWL where he posted a 1.27 ERA over 21.1 IP while walking 8 and striking out 20. He will compete this spring for a major league spot, but he should go to AAA where he will need to continue the control growth. He has high leverage potential.
Luis Garcia – RHP (28)
Garcia gets very quickly labeled as a AAAA reliever because in 2014 he put up a 0.96 ERA in AAA and a 6.43 ERA in the majors. His control disappeared in the majors, but the results were much worse in his first stint then they were when he came back up. Garcia’s slider has taken some strides forward, giving him a legitimate second pitch to go with a fastball that averaged 94.8 mph in the majors (peaking at 98.6). He doesn’t have the control for high leverage, but he could be a very interesting weapon.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez – RHP (28)
Gonzalez will go to major league camp competing for a rotation spot, but his long term home is probably in the bullpen, where he can go multiple innings with dominant stuff. Control is still an issue, but out of the bullpen he was 92-94 and got to 98 on one gun. He mixes in a plus breaking ball and interesting splitter, and has been able to miss bats with all the pitches. He could be the Phillies set up man as soon as this year, but it might be interesting if he can be a guy who can go the 6th and 7th and get the game to the back of the bullpen.
Ethan Stewart – LHP (24)
It seems weird that Stewart and his 92-93 mph fastball, but his slider and his size put him easily into this category. In July, the Phillies moved Stewart to the bullpen and suddenly everything started clicking. From July 1 through the AFL, Stewart had a 26.1% strikeout rate with a 10.9% walk rate. He still has some more potential velocity, but control is still a problem at times. Stewart will go to AA in 2015 and if it clicks he could arrive in the majors very quickly.
In the Middle:
Colton Murray – RHP (24)
Murray might be the quintessential solid relief prospect. He has a fastball at above average to plus velocity (92-94 T95), with an average to above average breaking ball, and a fringe average show changeup. If it all breaks right he could be a solid major leaguer for many years, even getting some chances in high leverage. Otherwise he probably is an up and down guy always fight for the 6th or 7th spot in a bullpen. He should start the year AAA after having a dominant year in AA and putting up good peripherals in the Arizona Fall League, but there are a lot of guys in front of him.
Hector Neris – RHP (25)
Despite his dominance in the DWL this winter Neris’ ceiling is lower than the first group. He has a solid three pitch mix (FB more 91-93 T94), and the Phillies really like him. He is on the 40 man roster and should be part of the crowded competition this spring. More likely he goes to AAA and comes up later in the year. He should be able to do a lot of what Justin DeFratus does and be a solid reliever in the middle of the bullpen.
Seth Rosin – RHP (26)
There was some wailing and gnashing of teeth when Rosin was taken in the Rule 5 Draft just over a year ago. While he was ok in the majors he wasn’t able to hang around and returned to the Phillies, where it took most of the year to get on track. He was hit around in AAA but his strikeout and walk rates became more respectable. His fastball is 90-93 with solid control, and he pairs it with fringy a slider and changeup. Overall it is a middle relief profile. Hopefully a normal spring training will give him a better start in 2015.
Tyler Knigge – RHP (26)
Knigge actually has solid stuff with a fastball in the mid-90s (he has been clocked routinely at 94-96) and something that resembles a useable slider. He sharpened up his control in 2014, with a career low BB/9 of 2.6. However he was unable to miss bats and was very hittable in AAA. He is a guy who could see some time filling in as a middle reliever if a need should arise, but without missing more bats it is hard to see a permanent major league role.
Edubray Ramos – RHP (22)
Ramos has a big enough combination of stuff and control that he made the Top 50 despite his limited track record. He could be a fast-track reliever with a ceiling as a high leverage reliever.
Jesen Dygestile-Therrien – RHP (22)
Therrien was the Phillies’ 17th round pick in 2011 where he showed a loose arm and a fastball at 88-90. After two years of unspectacular performance in and out of the GCL rotation, Therrien began to emerge as a straight reliever in 2014. The 6’2″ righty was up to 95 this year with a curveball that flashed pretty good. After he was demoted to Williamsport in July (and then promoted to Lakewood in August), he went 26.2 IP with 15 H 7 ER 8 BB 26 K. His big problem in Lakewood this year was handling left handed batters. He should be in line to be in the back of the Threshers bullpen in 2015.
Manny Martinez – RHP (23)
Martinez has always been a bit of a tease, but is now 23 and has yet to establish himself above short season. The big problem is his control has he has a career 4.4 BB/9. What Martinez does not lack is overpowering stuff as late season reports had him touching well into the high 90s. He has moved to a sidearm delivery, but has not shown platoon splits yet. He started to show signs of his command turning a page as he walked 8 while striking out 23 in 20 innings between July and August.
Calvin Rayburn – RHP (22)
Rayburn was the Phillies 16th round pick in the 2014 draft out of Barry University. His velocity was down to start the year in Williamsport when he was only 90-92, but after some mechnaical readjustments he returned to his college form with his fastball at 93-95. Rayburn has a sidearm delivery, and he lives in the zone, with only 16 strikeouts in 29.1 innings. However he is a groundball machine with a 60% rate in Williamsport, leading to only 16 hits over the time.
Nick Rodesky – RHP (22)
Rodesky was an independent league signing this past year out of the Pecos League. Control was his problem with a 7.3 BB/9 this year before the Phillies signed him. He is a bit older but in his brief appearance for the Phillies he struck out 13 and walked 3 in 11.1 innings between GCL and Lakewood. His fastball has been clocked up to 94.
Kyle Bogese – RHP (24)
Another non-drafted free agent, Bogese reportedly was showing 97 mph fastball in a workout for the Phillies. He was more 91-92 in Fall Instructs after he had a mixed debut in the GCL where he walked 14 and struck out 17 in 15.1 IP. There might not be much here, but 97 mph fastballs are always worth a second look.
Ethan Martin – RHP (25)
The past season was rough on Martin as a shoulder injury and an attempt at starting got him off to a rough start. His fastball velocity was down 2-3 mph in the middle of the season, but he did recover some by the end of the year. Overall, Martin finished strong with a 2.93 ERA 27.2 IP 25 H 8 BB 27 K line in AAA after the All-Star game. If Martin can get healthy, he can match anyone on this list outside of Giles in terms of raw stuff, and he could establish himself in the back of the Phillies bullpen very quickly.
Phillippe Aumont – RHP (26)
Referring to Aumont as anything other than a disappointment would be a huge understatement. The giant righty has never found any consistency in his delivery, and has publicly made comments expressing his frustration. So lets just rephrase all of this and view him like this. The Phillies obtained a former top prospect in the Rule 5 draft who throws 92-95 with movement and has a Dan Uggla shrinking curveball, his big problem is his control. He will need to stick on the team all year or go through waivers so it will be in Spring Training for him to show big improvements or he is gone.
Austin Wright – LHP (25)
A move to the bullpen was supposed to launch Wright to the majors in an impact role. But injuries completely wrecked him. His fastball was down to 91-92 and not 92-94, and his breaking ball wasn’t as sharp. His delivery completely fell to pieces and he walked more in 2014 than he struck out. If he can get back on track he has the potential to have a plus fastball and breaking ball from a tall left handed delivery. He can get righties and lefties so platoon splits shouldn’t matter too much, but he has a lot of work to do before he can think major leagues.
Dan Child – RHP (22)
Child was the Phillies 18th round pick in 2013 where they gave him $100,000 to forgo his senior year at Oregon State. Child was rated the #30 prospect in the system by Baseball America after he showed a fastball up to 95 and a potential plus slider. Child made it all to way Clearwater in his signing year, but was a disaster in 2014 as his velocity was up (92-94 T95) and down (90-91 T92). He couldn’t throw strikes in Lakewood and in Clearwater he could not strike anyone out. His year ended in mid August when over 3 appearances (2.2 IP) he allowed 8 runs, while walking 7 and striking out 1. This is after a July where he went to Lakewood and struck out 12 while walking 0 over 7 innings. If Child can find his stuff again, he could move quickly again, but 2014 was a big step back.
Image by Thomas