As the Philadelphia Phillies look to improve a bullpen that finished 26th in baseball last year in WAR, they’ll hope that their two setup men are able to stay on the field and a collection of young pitchers matures as the team enters a rebuilding era. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, there isn’t is a lot to choose from among Philly’s reliever corps as spring training gets underway.
Once a perennial member of the Elite Closer Club, Paps’ stock has fallen so low that he’s now being drafted 18th among firemen on Mock Draft Central. A quick look at the 33-year-old’s line certainly shows some disturbing returns, including an 8.6 H/9 that’s the highest since his rookie season, against the lowest K/9 (8.3) and save conversion rate (81 percent) of his career. Jason Collette recently dug deep into Papelbon’s diminished fastball and increasing reliance on his two-seamer, trends that leave little doubt as to Papelbon’s declining skill set. Although he remains durable as he enters his 10th big league season — and likely has the ninth inning sewed up so long as he’s effective — his days as a No. 1 fantasy closer are behind him.
Back after being entangled in the Biogenesis scandal last year, Bastardo is certainly the leading candidate to open the season as the Phillies’ eighth-inning man, and may retain that role regardless of Adams’ health. A lefty who’s historically been effective against right-handed hitters, Bastardo’s K/9 took a step back last year, though his fastball velocity and whiff rate remained on par with his career history. Although he finished with a fine 2.32 ERA last year, that was contradicted by a 3.00 FIP (4.09 xFIP) and an eyebrow-raising 82.4 percent strand rate, which is nearly seven and a half percentage points above his career level. Papelbon’s durability — and the Phillies’ inability to move his contract to another team — suggests that Bastardo shouldn’t be too high on fantasy owners’ radars as a draft day handcuff, but he’s useful in leagues that count holds, and the most obvious candidate to grab should there be a ninth-inning shakeup in Philly.
Adams, 35, is struggling to get his career back on track after undergoing shoulder surgery last summer. He’ll likely miss Opening Day, though he could be back by late April. Whether that means anything to fantasy owners is unclear at least until he throws his first bullpen session of the spring next week. If healthy, he could compete with Bastardo to be Papelbon’s primary lieutenant in the late innings, and perhaps a potential closer candidate should manager Ryne Sandberg shy away from using a southpaw in the ninth inning.
The lefty specialist
Diekman throws gas, as his preferred weapon of choice, his two-seam fastball, averaged 96 mph last year. He also managed to control some of the wildness that had plagued him in the past, with improvements in his first-pitch strike percentage leading to a BB/9 under four. Pitching in his second big league season last year, the 27-year-old got better as the year progressed, posting a 1.07 WHIP and 2.00 ERA in the second half, though some disturbing platoon splits suggest he’s more useful to the Phillies as a late-inning situational reliever, especially if he’s already the No. 2 lefty in the bullpen behind Bastardo.
Among those competing for the remaining roles, Lincoln, acquired from Toronto in December, probably has a beat on securing a spot, as he’s out of options. Unfortunately, the former fourth-overall pick hasn’t been able to translate a live arm to major league success, and his unsightly FIP and xFIP (5.48, 5.91) last year came packaged with a fly ball rate north of 50 percent — bad news for somebody who would be calling Citizens Bank Park home.
Meanwhile, Rosenberg offers a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, though he’s struggled with command over his career 44.2 big league innings. De Fratus posted a fine (11.7 percent) whiff rate but allowed a steady stream of baserunners over 58 appearances, left-hander Horst’s 2013 season ended in June thanks to an elbow injury and Stutes has battled arm problems since he enjoyed a fine rookie season in 2011. Martin produced a 10.6 K/9 last year as a starter and reliever, but also walked a ton, coughed up nine home runs in 40 innings and finished with a 6.08 ERA.
Although mystery man Gonzalez is expected to compete for a rotation spot, fantasy owners shouldn’t ignore the possibility of him and his $12 million contract ending up in the bullpen. But keep in mind that his contract last year was reworked after the Phillies reportedly saw something concerning about his elbow, and the team is already concerned about his arm strength as spring training gets underway.
Print This Post