Tag Archives: Mark Melancon

NL East Division position comparison: bullpens

My evaluation of the National League East Division teams has moved on from the position players to a ranking of the pitching staffs of each ball club. I began earlier today with a look at the projected starting rotations. Now, the bullpens will undergo that same evaluation and ranking.

The performance and even the make up of Major League Baseball bullpens are extremely difficult to evaluate at this time of year. Many teams enter spring training with as many as half of their projected relief pitcher spots up for grabs. Injuries will also take their toll on the relievers, both in the spring and then during the season.

As I evaluate each club, I will list the handful of arms that I feel are most likely to be impactful for that team during the season. This will include the projected closer as well as any quality setup and match-up arms.

I will give mention during the team write-up to any pitchers who could begin the season in the bullpen, but who may ultimately end up impacting the rotation as starting pitchers due to injuries. In parentheses after their names you will find a designation for whether they are left- or right-handed.

Combine the starting pitching rankings from earlier today with these bullpen rankings, add them to the examinations of each of the other positions around the diamond which took place over the previous ten days, and you will get a good idea of where each team stands entering spring training.

Early next week, I will take a look at the managers, giving them that same evaluation and ranking treatment. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida on February 11, just 10 days from now, for the opening of Phillies spring training.


  1. Atlanta Braves: Mark Melancon (R), Will Smith (L), Shane Greene (R), Sean Newcomb (L), Darren O’Day (R), Luke Jackson (R), Chris Martin (R), A.J. Minter (L), Touki Toussaint (R), Jacob Webb (R)

The two-time defending NL East Division champion Braves possess an embarrassment of pitching riches. That extends to their bullpen group. Smith is an especially solid addition as a southpaw, signing as  free agent back in November after two strong seasons in San Francisco, including an NL All-Star season a year ago. Right-hander Patrick Weigel could emerge from the minors this season to help out if needed. The Braves also have veteran Felix Hernandez and youngsters Kyle Wright Bryse Wilson competing for the fifth-starter job. Any or all of them could impact the bullpen if not being used in the rotation at the majors or at Triple-A. There is still more pitching depth nearly ready among their top prospect group. Atlanta appears to be well-insulated from any type of pitching injury issues.

2) New York Mets: Edwin Diaz (R), Dellin Betances (R), Seth Lugo (R), Jeurys Familia (R), Justin Wilson (L), Robert Gsellman (R), Paul Sewald (L)

It would be hard for me to believe that young closer Diaz, who turns 26 during spring training, won’t bounce back from a somewhat down season in 2019. Even during a year where his ERA ballooned to 5.59 and his WHIP to 1.379, Diaz had a 15.4 K/9 rate and a 99/22 K/BB ratio across 58 innings. If he cannot beat out Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello for a starting rotation nod, Steven Matz will contribute out of the pen as well. Betances, Lugo, and Familia all have closer stuff. Wilson is leaned on heavily as a southpaw arm. He could get help in that regard from prospect David Peterson during the season. The health of former Yankees stud Betances, who turns 29 during spring training, will go a long way towards the New York pen maintaining this ranking during the season.

3) Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris (R), Seranthony Dominguez (R), Jose Alvarez (L), Francisco Liriano (L), Adam Morgan (L), Bud Norris (R), Victor Arano (R), Ranger Suarez (L), Robert Stock (R)

The Phillies bullpen has the potential to finish anywhere from second to fourth on this list by the end of the 2020 season, which can also be said for the Mets and Nationals relief group. If I had more confidence in Dominguez being and remaining healthy for the full season, I might even have ranked them ahead of New York already. New skipper Joe Girardi has a ton of arms with which to work and to sort out during spring training. Those could ultimately include arms like Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin, and Enyel De Los Santos, all of whom will try to win the fifth starter job at the outset. The Phillies might have  the deepest selection of lefty relievers in the division. If only they had a strong starting southpaw for their rotation. If the team can stay in contention, they just might finally get some value out of David Robertson late in the season. They also bought a lottery ticket in former Nats closer Drew Storen this winter.

4) Washington Nationals: Sean Doolittle (L), Will Harris (R), Daniel Hudson (R), Roenis Elias (L), Wander Suero (R), Tanner Rainey (R), Hunter Strickland (R), Ryne Harper (R), Javy Guerra (R)

The bullpen was a problem, perhaps the only real problem, for Washington during much of the 2019 season. Recognizing that fact and not wishing to go down that road again they inked free agent righty Will Harris. The Nats also re-signed free agent Daniel Hudson, who was outstanding after coming over in an early-August trade from Toronto last year. Hudson is forever etched in Nationals history after recording the final out in their World Series victory. A trio of youngsters vying for the fifth starter job – Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth – could also impact the bullpen. If they use Doolittle as the closer, the rest of the pen lacks an impact southpaw, where Elias is likely to be asked to handle the load, at least initially. Prospect arm Seth Romero could ultimately be the answer in that role.

5) Miami Marlins: Brandon Kintzler (R), Drew Steckenrider (R), Jose Urena (R), Jarlin Garcia (L), Ryne Stanek (R), Tayron Guerrero (R), Yimi Garcia (R), Adam Conley (L), Jose Quijada (L)

The Fish signed the 35-year-old Kintzler last week to serve as the closer, allowing a talented group of young arms more time to develop in the setup and match-up roles earlier in games. This is indeed a talented, albeit largely inexperienced, bullpen crew. When top prospect Sixto Sanchez is ready it will bump someone, likely either Elieser Hernandez or Pablo Lopez, to the pen. If enough of these pitchers take a step forward, the Miami bullpen could quickly become a legitimate strength and begin to shoot up these rankings.



Giants Must Strike Now, While Window Still Open

The San Francisco Giants have been consistent contenders in the National League West Division for much of the last eight years, but the club’s window of opportunity may now be closing.
It’s always a difficult decision when a club such as the Giants begins to hit a crossroads. How do you continue to win while restocking your big league team and your farm system with quality young players?
Few teams are able to pull off the feat well. Most who undertake the attempt have failed for a couple of seasons before realizing they simply have to cash in as many of their aging, higher priced veterans as possible in exchange for that younger talent.
The Giants have reached that crossroads. Their decisions are especially difficult because they do remain legitimate contenders who have division rivals with significant weaknesses. The window of opportunity to contend remains open, but general manager Bobby Evans needs to be aggressive this offseason.

In 2016, the Giants ended their “even year” streak of World Series victories. The club had won the crown in the 2010, 2012, and 2014 campaigns. It wasn’t for a lack of trying.
San Francisco finished second in the NL West to the arch-rival Los Angeles Dodgers, four games back in the standings. They were, however, able to secure an NL Wild Card playoff berth.
The Giants then rode a Madison Bumgarner gem to a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets in the NL Wild Card Game before losing a dramatic NLDS in four games to the eventual world champion Chicago Cubs.
The San Francisco Giants have been consistent contenders in the National League West Division for much of the last eight years, but the club’s window of opportunity may now be closing.
It’s always a difficult decision when a club such as the Giants begins to hit a crossroads. How do you continue to win while restocking your big league team and your farm system with quality young players?
But for all the drama in late September and into October, what happened over the second half of the 2016 regular season cannot be ignored.
The Giants led the division by as many as eight games on June 26, when they were 21 games over the .500 mark. They would go to 24 games over at the MLB All-Star break, still with a 6.5 game lead.
But from that point on, the Giants collapsed to a 30-42 finish. The Dodgers drove past them in August and never looked back. Meanwhile, the Giants had to win their last four in a row to finish tied with the Mets and hold off the St. Louis Cardinals by just a game for that Wild Card berth.
So where does San Francisco stand heading into 2017? The club will return its twin pitching aces, some clutch veteran hitters, and perhaps the best defense in the game.
Those pitching aces are Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, the best left-right combo in the National League. Cueto will turn 31 as the team reports to Spring Training, and is signed for another five years. There are affordable team options on Bumgarner through 2019. The ace left-hander will pitch all of next season at age 27, and thus is just now entering his prime years.
The clutch veteran hitters would include catcher Buster Posey, who turns 30 at the end of Spring Training. Posey, like Cueto, is signed through 2021.
First baseman Brandon Belt will turn 29 in April, and is also signed through that 2021 season. Right fielder Hunter Pence also has an April birthday. But he hits 34, long in the tooth in today’s game. His deal runs for two more seasons.
Center fielder Denard Span is signed up with a team option that could take him through 2019. He turns 33 as Spring Training gets underway.
The defense should remain locked down thanks to the presence of perhaps the game’s best keystone combo in second baseman Joe Panik and shortstop Brandon Crawford. Both men took home Gold Glove Awards last week, as did Posey.
Crawford was further honored with his second Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award, and the team was honored as the Defensive Team of the Year. The biggest part of that equation is the up-the-middle defense.
The problem moving forward is the aging status of Pence and Span in the outfield, and the fact that there is now a gaping hole in left with the departure of veteran Angel Pagan.
Add that to light production at the third base position, and the looming specter of Bumgarner’s contract, and the fact that the Dodgers have major holes to fill. The Giants have an opportunity in 2017, but need to strike now to take advantage of the situation.
There is talent coming from the minor league system, but that talent does not appear likely to impact the big league roster very much in the 2017 season.
Evans seems to have money to work with. The Giants have carried a payroll north of $170 million each of the last two seasons. Fans support the team extremely well, flocking to beautiful AT&T Park at a rate more than 41,000 per game. Forbes ranked them as the fourth most valuable franchise in MLB this season at $2.25 billion.
Making a move on a couple of key free agents at left field and third base should make the Giants at least co-favorites with the Dodgers for the 2017 NL West crown, and make them legitimate contenders to push the champion Cubs as well.
There are players available this offseason. The two perfect fits may be the top bat on the market, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and a player who would come right from those Dodgers in third baseman Justin Turner.
The Giants could also decide to get involved on one of the big closers in Kenley JansenAroldis Chapman, or Mark Melancon.

While it was a rough final three months by the bay, the Giants showed at the end that they still have the spunk and the talent to make things rough on the most dangerous teams in the game. With a couple of big moves right now, they can return to that status themselves in the 2017 season.