Tag Archives: James Russell

Phillies 2016 Lefty Bullpen Options

Somewhat surprisingly, the Phillies have announced that starting rotation candidate Brett Oberholtzer is being moved to the bullpen, leaving the 5th starter battle as a head-to-head showdown between Adam Morgan and Vincent Velasquez.
Besides the obvious effect on that rotation battle, the move of Oberholtzer to the pen also muddles an already intense battle for relief pitcher spots. 
Other lefties who have been fighting for a role include incumbent Elvis Araujo and newcomers Bobby LaFromboiseDaniel Stumpf, and James Russell.
Oberholtzer would appear to be a lock to head north once the regular season opens. He has big league experience, is out of minor league options, and his experience as a starting pitcher would suggest that he could provide multiple innings in an emergency.
Assuming that Oberholtzer has a spot as a left-hander, the club would appear to have room for no more than one or two more southpaws. To this point, the three newbies have clearly out-performed the holdover Araujo.
Araujo has allowed five earned runs on four hits across 4.2 innings over five Grapefruit League appearances to this point. He has walked three and struck out three thus far.
The 24-year old made his big league debut with the Phillies last season and was mostly effective, allowing just 29 hits over 40 appearances in which he threw 34.2 innings with a 34/19 K:BB ratio.

Stumpf, who was profiled at TBOH just yesterday by our Mike Azzalina in an ongoing series on the Phillies bullpen candidates, has been the arm that the club has been trying to evaluate the most during the spring. 
He has pitched a pen-high nine innings, allowing 10 hits and four earned runs with a 9/3 K:BB ratio.
The 25-year old Stumpf was the Phillies’ 2nd round choice in December’s Rule 5 Draft from the Kansas City Royals organization. 
He must remain on the big league roster all season, or the Phils would need to either offer him back to Kansas City or try to work out a trade in order to keep him.
LaFromboise has been outstanding to this point in spring. The 29-year old has yet to allow a hit or run over his first six appearances and 7.1 impressive innings. He has also registered an effective 8/3 K:BB ratio.
The Phillies originally added LaFromboise back at the end of January in a move that caused them to release former prospect Jesse Biddle, who just signed with the Atlanta Braves organization. 
He has appeared in parts of the last three seasons with both the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Russell is by far the most experienced of the left-handers in this fight. The 30-year old has tossed 330.1 innings in Major League Baseball across parts of six seasons spent mostly with the Chicago Cubs. 
He has pitched little this spring, allowing two hits over just three innings with a 4/0 K:BB ratio.
The Phillies want to see more of Russell now that the season is fast approaching. They have scheduled him for a starting appearance on Saturday afternoon at Bright House Field against the Detroit Tigers in what will be an opportunity to give him at least two innings of work.
Mario Hollands is another left-hander who could eventually push himself into consideration for a role at some point in the 2016 season. 
The 27-year old Hollands is getting set to make his way back from Tommy John surgery last spring, will start out in the minors, and should be ready at some point this summer. 
He tossed 47 innings over 50 appearances with the Phillies back in the 2014 season.
At this point, I would rank the Phillies left-handed options in this order: Oberholtzer, LaFromboise, Stumpf, Russell, and Araujo. 
The middle three arms are so close at this point that performances and health over the final two weeks of spring could become the decisive factor. 
Araujo appears headed to the AAA Lehigh Valley bullpen come April.

Phillies 2016 Closer Options

With the trade of Ken Giles to Houston, the Philadelphia Phillies have a few options for the 2016 closer role.

Giles was always considered the heir apparent to Jonathan Papelbon, took over that role when the veteran was dealt to the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline this past season, and succeeded as most evaluators believed he would.
In fact, Giles was so impressive as both a setup man and in the closer role that he became easily the team’s most valuable remaining trade piece following the deals involving Papelbon and ace Cole Hamels.
Now that he is gone, the closer role would appear to be wide open. While that is likely to remain the case when the club reports to Clearwater for spring training, there is a clear frontrunner to fill the role.
Yesterday, on the same day that Giles talks were heating up and the deal being finalized, the Phils announced the signing of free agent David Hernandez to a one-year contract. 
That contract reportedly included incentives based on games finished. So it would appear that GM Matt Klentak was already thinking contingency plans with the Hernandez signing.

Hernandez has finished 84 games during his career, registering 19 Saves along the way. During the 2011 season, the righthander served as the Arizona Diamondbacks primary closer for a time, and at one stretch in July he recorded seven Saves in a 13-game stretch.
Other candidates would include Luis Garcia, who finished 25 games over the last three seasons with the Phillies, including a pair of Saves this past season. 
Edubray Ramos turns 23 years old next week, and has 19 Saves on his resume in the Phils minor league system, 18 of those over the last two seasons.
Alec Asher could turn out to be an option. The 24-year old righty who was part of the package received from Texas in return for Hamels did not enjoy success in a seven-game audition with the Phillies. 
Asher allowed 42 hits, including eight home runs, across 29 innings, with a 16/10 K:BB ratio in his big league starting debut, and is much more likely to end up in the bullpen.
James Russell, who turns 30 years old in January, was signed as a free agent in November. He has finished 70 games across parts of six big league seasons, mostly with the Chicago Cubs, and has four Saves on his record. 
However, it is more likely that the Phillies will want to use Russell as a late-inning left-hander in the 7th and 8th innings.
One dark-horse candidate could be newcomer Frank Herrmann.  The big righty finished out 32 games over the 2010-12 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, has a 2010 Save on his big league resume, and registered 8 Saves with AAA Columbus in 2012. 
The 31-year old Herrmann signed as a free agent back in November after pitching in the LA Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates minor league systems over the last couple of years.
The Phillies also have a ton of talented arms percolating at the AA and AAA levels in the minor leagues, any of whom could develop into the closer role. 
Those possibilities could include Zach EflinRicardo PintoBen LivelyNick Pivetta, and Alberto Tirado . However, those are all longterm possibilities, and all but Tirado should remain in the rotation in the 2016 season.
It also remains a possibility that the club could sign an inexpensive free agent who might be looking at a short-term deal to better establish their own market. 
Pitchers such as Jonathan BroxtonMatt Albers, and even former Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo could be possibilities, should Klentak decide to take the free agent route.
While Hernandez is certainly the leading candidate, the Phillies 2016 closer role is no longer etched in stone. 
“100-Miles Giles” will be helping the Astros chase an AL West crown and a World Series berth. His former teammates will be searching for his replacement, at least in the short-term.