Every couple of days I open up the Phillies’ roster and check for any new non-roster invites and overall just look for writing inspiration. With all the roster turnover this exercise has taken on a new turn with the the game “Who do I find on the roster and have to ask ‘Where did this guy come from?'”. Almost every player I find is a pitcher, and they are almost certainly a reliever. With the bullpen being the most open part of the roster these players are all fighting for major league jobs, so we might as well get to know them. First up is right handed reliever Michael Mariot.
The Phillies claimed Mariot off waivers from the Royals on November 30, 2015 (yes he has been on the team for almost two months). Mariot was an 8th round pick in the 2010 draft out of Nebraska, where he was a teammate of Cody Asche. He is 6’0″ and just turned 27 years old this past fall. Mariot started in the Royals system for most of his first 3 seasons, before becoming a full time reliever halfway through his AA season in 2012. In 2013 he was good for the Royal’s AAA team putting up a 3.56 ERA over 60.2 innings, with ok walk and strikeout rates. That was solid enough to rank him #15 in the Royals system according to Baseball America. This is what they had to say about him then:
As the Royals watched Mariot’s stuff get better and better, it’s been hard for them not to flash back to the development of current closer Greg Holland. Like Holland, Mariot is a short righthander drafted out of college. And like Holland, Mariot’s stuff has improved as he’s climbed the ladder. Mariot sat at 89-93 mph early in the 2013 season, but by the end he was consistently touching 98 with his fastball while also aggressively using his average slider. He mixes in a fringy curveball and a tick-below-average changeup. Mariot’s control, an asset previously, wavered a little as he adjusted to his newfound velocity. He finished the year by giving up one unearned run in his final 21 innings and finished fifth among Triple-A Pacific Coast League relievers in strikeout rate (9.8 per nine innings). The former starter shared the Omaha closer job, but he worked two or more innings 11 different times. Added to the 40-man roster in November, Mariot will begin 2014 back at Triple-A but could work his way into a crowded Royals bullpen at some point.
That is pretty high praise, and Mariot did indeed make the majors in 2014 as he put up a disastrous 6.48 ERA over 25 innings, while walking 12 and striking out out 21. This left him buried in AAA for much the 2015 season where he performed well for the Omaha Storm Chasers.
So why do we care? For one, the only relief pitcher with any sort of guarantee of making the Phillies’ roster is David Hernandez. That means it really is an open competition this spring, and anyone with a live arm is going to have a chance. Mariot does have a live arm, in his 2014 stint in the majors he averaged 93.4 mph on his fastball and touched 96.7 with it. In his 3 2015 innings he was a bit slower sitting in the 91-95 range. That puts him on at least even footing velocity wise with players like Hector Neris and Colton Murray. The 2 year old scouting report points to below average secondary pitches, and I have yet to find anything recent to dispute that fact, which is a bit scary for a guy on the edge of the majors.
Despite his pitches not appearing dominant there are some other things to be interested in with Mariot. I lied a little earlier when I said he “performed well” for Omaha, he was actually dominant for Omaha. His 28.2% K% was 6th in hitter friendly PCL (his home park was not hitter friendly) and because he only walked 6.3% of batters, he was 3rd in K%-BB% at 22.0%. His ERA was 6th in the league and his FIP was 5th to round out a fairly dominant full season of relief performance. He is not young and it was his 4th season seeing some time in AAA, so there is plenty to be worried about with regards to his stats.
Solid stuff and great numbers make Mariot a very interesting bullpen flyer for the Phillies, but he is almost certainly not going to make the Phillies’ bullpen without an absolutely dominant spring. Because he was added to the 40 man roster after the 2013 season, he still has an option left, that makes him very valuable as an open and down piece for the Phillies as they look to expand how many pitchers they use over the 2016 season. Expect to see Mariot up and down all year, and maybe one of those time he can translate his AAA success into some solid middle relief innings for the Phillies as they look to rebuild their bullpen from nothing.