Having previously given out the 2015 report cards to the Philadelphia Philliesinfielders, outfielders, and catchers, it’s now the turn of the team’s relief pitchers to be evaluated.
What most thought would be one of the few strengths this season turned out to be largely disappointing.
As the club headed to Clearwater to open spring training back in February, the bullpen was likely the least of manager Ryne Sandberg‘s concerns.
He had a proven veteran Jonathan Papelbon as the closer, flamethrower Ken Giles as a setup man, and the lefty-righty tandem of Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus to handle the 7th inning.
Papelbon and Giles performed at least as strong as expected, with the former serving as the closer for a final four months during which he set a new franchise career Saves record.
Once Papelbon was dealt away to Washington at the trade deadline, Giles took over and never missed a beat.
However, with Giles taking over the closer role, there was really no one to take over that setup role.
Both Diekman and De Fratus proved major disappointments. Perhaps based on the expectations coming into the season, they were the two biggest disappointments on a 99-loss team.
In all, eight different pitchers appeared in more than 30 games out of the bullpen for the Phillies this past season. Those are the pitchers to whom a grade has been assigned.
Jonathan Papelbon – ‘A‘:
Yes, Papelbon was indeed a jerk in the end. But this isn’t a grade based on personality, it is one based on performance.
As the closer for the Phillies for most of a fourth season, Papelbon was excellent. He pitched 39.2 innings over 37 games, fashioning a 1.59 ERA and a 0.983 WHIP while with the Phillies.
He had a 40/8 K:BB ratio, and allowed just 31 hits. Papelbon was also the club’s lone representative on the National League All-Star team.
His trade was a foregone conclusion, but that it was to the division-rival Washington Nationals came as a major surprise.
The return was 22-year old Nick Pivetta, a big righthander who appears at best to be a mid-level prospect at this point. Papelbon will turn 35 years old next month, and was not nearly as effective after his trade to the Nats.
He was strong while with the Phils, and he yielded a prospect arm in trade. Definitely earned this final Phillies grade.
Ken Giles – ‘A‘:
Prior to the Papelbon trade, Giles was performing well in his role as the setup man. From the start of the season through his appearance on July 24th, Giles had a 1.85 ERA and a 54/20 K:BB ratio, allowing 39 hits in 43.2 innings across 45 games.
After the Papelbon deal, Giles recorded his first career Save in his first opportunity on July 28th. From that point on, he was even stronger, stepping up his game as his responsibility increased.
As the closer, Giles fashioned a 1.71 ERA and a .198 opponent batting average against. He allowed just 20 hits in 26.1 innings over 24 games, with a 33/5 K:BB ratio.
He could be the team’s closer for years to come. He could also end up being a key trade piece, bringing back talent at a position of greater need during the Phillies’ rebuild.
Jake Diekman – ‘F‘:
Expected to be the main shutdown lefty out of the bullpen based on his effective and sometimes dominating 2014 performance, Diekman was a major disappointment from Day One of the 2015 season.
He allowed four earned runs over just 1/3 of an inning during the club’s Opening Day shellacking at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, and never recovered.
In the end, Diekman had a 5.15 ERA and 1.745 WHIP with the Phillies. He allowed 40 hits in 36.2 innings, with a 49/24 K:BB ratio.
Diekman still had his big fastball, still had his “stuff”, but his command was seriously lacking, and he simply appeared lost.
At the trade deadline, the fireballing 28-year old lefty was tossed into a deal that sent starting pitcher Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers.
With Texas, something seemed to click almost immediately, and he was a key member of the Rangers bullpen as the team won the AL West crown. This grade is only for his work with the Phillies.
Justin De Fratus – ‘F‘:
He was expected to be the righty compliment to Diekman for 6th and 7th inning work, and his performance over the previous two seasons had fans, and likely the organization, figuring that De Fratus would serve as a key member of the bullpen for some time.
Instead, he had a major regression season this year. His numbers were ugly: a 5.51 ERA and 1.550 WHIP. allowing 92 hits in a pen-high 80 innings pitched, with a 68/32 K:BB ratio.
He also allowed nine home runs, and had seven games in which he allowed at least three earned runs. De Fratus just turned 28 years old a week ago, and is arbitration eligible.
It will be interesting to see if the club offers it to him, tries to negotiate some kind of deal, or simply cuts him loose.
Was this one bad season, or can he put it back together and get back to the valuable middle reliever that he looked like in the 2013 and 2014 seasons?
If he does return, he’ll have to fight for a job this time around in spring training.
Luis Garcia – ‘C‘:
He is inexpensive and will stay that way for a couple more seasons, was able to take the ball often, and stayed healthy. In short, Garcia was much of what De Fratus was not, a reliable middle reliever.
He pitched in a staff-high 72 games, allowing 72 hits in 66.2 innings, so he wasn’t overpowering by any means. He had a 63/37 K:BB, with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.635 WHIP.
Those are not numbers that will elicit fear in the opposition, and he will turn 29 years of age in January.
Garcia was generally effective, but has not automatically earned anything at this point. Garcia will come to camp having to prove himself again if he wants to keep making first-class flights and staying in first-class accommodations in the big leagues.
Jeanmar Gomez – ‘C‘:
While I never said so publicly, I had a feeling coming into the season that Gomez would prove to be an underrated, positive performer out of the Phillies bullpen.
He didn’t pitch as well as I thought he might, but he had his moments.
Gomez pitched in 65 games, which was 3rd on the team, and tossed 74.2 innings, which was the 2nd most of any member of the bullpen. He had a 3.01 ERA and a 1.326 WHIP, with a 50/17 K:BB ratio.
He’ll turn 28 years old just before the team is due to report to Clearwater for spring training and, like De Fratus, is arbitration eligible.
He is certainly not overpowering. But I like him.
Another one who will have to keep earning a role each season going forward. We’ll see if he returns with the Phillies, but he will pitch somewhere in the big leagues next season.
Elvis Araujo – ‘B‘:
Though it was somewhat of a small sample size situation, Araujo did a nice job in the 40 games he pitched in for the 2015 Phillies following his early May call-up from the minors.
Araujo allowed 29 hits in 34.2 innings, including just one home run, with a 34/19 K:BB ratio.
His season ended early thanks to a groin injury suffered out on the mound during his final appearance on August 27th, but he is expected to be recovered in time for spring training, and the injury should not affect him going forward.
The 24-year old southpaw, who was the subject of an evaluation just yesterday by David Mosemann at TBOH, should be a leading contender for a Phillies bullpen role next season.
Hector Neris – ‘B‘:
Called up briefly for two games in April, Neris returned to the Phillies in early July and stayed up for the balance of the 2015 campaign.
The 26-year old earned that stay, allowing just 38 hits in 40.1 innings over 32 games, with a 41/10 K:BB ratio. It all added up to 3.79 ERA and 1.190 WHIP figures.
Those numbers would have all been much better were it not for three awful performances during a series in late August at Citizens Bank Park against the tough New York Mets. In those three outings, Neris allowed 10 hits including 3 homers, and 8 earned runs in 4 innings.
Neris made it into two more games against New York before the season was out, and gave up nothing, so whatever it was, it may have just been a bad stretch.
Another surprise solid performer who will enter 2016 with a real shot at staying in the big leagues.
THE FIELD: Ten more players tossed at least one inning out of the Phillies bullpen in 2015, none more than the 23 innings over 18 games pitched by righty Dalier Hinojosa. None of those was deemed to have pitched enough to receive a fair grade.
Among the group was Jerome Williams, who received 21 starts and made a dozen bullpen appearances. He will be graded in the coming report card for starting pitchers later in the week.
Also among this group was outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who memorably tossed two innings in a 19-3 blowout loss to the Baltimore Orioles on June 16th at Camden Yards. I don’t think that Chase Utley was at all happy with Frenchy being allowed to take the mound for that 2nd inning.
Heading into the 2016 season, the Phillies bullpen is going to be an interesting mix with a wide open competition at almost every spot.
I would expect the team to try to sign one or two inexpensive veteran options who might come available.
And every pitcher above, with the exception of the traded Papelbon and Diekman, will be in the mix for roles.
The only thing certain is that Giles will be the closer – assuming that he isn’t traded himself.