What to Expect in 2013: Relievers

We end the preview of the system with a look at relievers including those still in the minors and the large group of young guys right on the door to the major leagues.

The common saying is that relievers are merely failed starters, in many cases this is true,  the Phillies however have been very good at finding college guys who will transition well to the bullpen.  The consequence is that the system is stocked with high upside arms who are not that far away from major league contributions.

As always please re-read gregg’s end of season bullpen recaps GCL/WPT, CLW/LKW, and LHV/RDG.  Just a note: I have left off players in the bottom level, if you would like see someone added to this list just ask and I can put them on.

Right Handers:

Phillipe Aumont (23) – Aumont may have the best raw stuff of any pitcher in the organization, a 70 fastball, 70 curveball, and a 60-70 splitter.  The problem is that it comes along with below average command, due to mechanics that often fall apart.  All of Aumont’s pitches have incredible movement, which cause both swings and misses in addition to weak contact.  If Aumont can consistently throw strikes he is a back of the bullpen reliever, with elite closer upside.

Justin DeFratus (25) – For the most part 2012 was a lost year for DeFratus with a shoulder injury after placing high on prospect lists in 2011.  DeFratus has a mid 90s fastball and a sweeping slider that has drawn comparisons to Brad Lidge.  DeFratus will pound the zone with both pitches for strikes, but he will walk batters at times.  DeFratus profiles as a high leverage reliever likely a set up man and is ready right now.

JC Ramirez (24) – In 2012 the Phillies moved Ramirez full time to the bullpen.  His stuff has played up so far, with his sinking fastball sitting 93-95 to go along with a good sharp slider.  Ramirez still has control issues but he has missed more bats out of the bullpen.  He is out of minor league options going into 2013 so he will have to stick on the big league club or survive waivers to have a future with the Phillies.

Kenneth Giles (22) – Giles has the best fastball in the system and can run it up to 100 with regularity and has shown both a slider and splitter, but the Phillies have scrapped the splitter to have work primarily on the slider which is still a below average pitch.  Giles can be wild at times but he misses bats, including a 15K/9 over 14 IP in Clearwater.  Giles could start 2013 as high as Reading and has long as he can have some sort of offspeed he could make it to the big leagues very quickly where he is a high leverage reliever.

Juan Sosa (23) – Sosa has a great arm with a fastball that sits 92-96 and a curveball that will flash plus.  Sosa has some control issues that he will need to improve on as he advances to Reading in 2013.  Sosa could be a good middle reliever with a chance to be more than that if he continues to develop.  Sosa will need another year or two but having avoided the Rule 5 draft in 2012, he will need to be protected if he makes the strides going forward.

Colby Shreve (24) – Shreve was an upside pick by the Phillies in 2008 coming off Tommy John.  Shreve’s stuff never fully returned and his fastball sits in the low 90s with good ground ball tendencies, and his secondary pitches could profile as average.  Shreve has shown average control, but he does not miss bats with his stuff which severely limits his upside.  Shreve is at best a middle reliever if he can make enough minor adjustments to make the majors.

Mike Cisco (25) – Cisco has actually strung together two back to back good years for the Reading bullpen before earning a late season promotion back to LHV.  Out of the bullpen his fastball sits in the low-90s and he has a decent curveball and slider.  He has struggled with control in the past but was ok in 2012.  His stuff points to a player worse than his ERA suggests but he could force his way in as middle reliever who can give you multiple innings at a time.

Ryan O’Sullivan (22) – Obtained in the Joe Blanton trade, O’Sullivan entered 2012 with outside chance at starting long term.  He has since moved to the bullpen where he has a low 90s fastball, an average to slightly below slider, and a changeup that shows some potential.  O’Sullivan does not really strikeout anyone and his control gives him some walk problems, but he does generate a good amount of groundballs.  Having ended the year in Clearwater O’Sullivan will likely continue on to join what is looking like a stacked Reading bullpen.

Ryan Duke (24) – Duke covered four levels of the minor leagues in 2012 but struggled in the upper levels.  He has an average fastball and an above average slider, in the low minors he showed good control and a good ability to miss bats, but he struggled with his control in a small sample size in Reading and LHV.  He will return to Reading, where if he can continue to miss bats at the rate he has he will move up as a good middle relief prospect.

Chris Nichols (22) – A late round pick based on his father’s position in the org Nichols showed he had enough in 2012 to possibly have a future in the org.  His biggest advantage is that he throws strikes.  He won’t strike anyone out but he also won’t walk anyone with 1BB over his 20+ IP in Williamsport.  It remains to be seen how this will translate but it is a good start.

Seth Rosin (24) – Obtained in the Hunter Pence trade Rosin has gone back and forth out of the starting rotation but his future is as a reliever.  His fastball sits 92-95 and can touch 96 out of the bullpen and he has a slider and curveball that are still a work in progress.  Rosin has a good command of his fastball and has shown a good ability to miss bats as well.  If the Phillies want to get him innings as a starter to work on his secondary offerings he is likely to return to Clearwater, as a bullpen piece he is destined for the Reading bullpen where he has high leverage upside based on the fastball command if he can develop an at least average breaking ball.

Tim Kennelly (26) – Up until 2012 Kennelly had been an org position player who could play all over the diamond.  While pitching in mop up duty Kennelly’s arm impressed management and they began to transition him to pitching full time.  Kennelly’s fastball sits mid-to-hi 90s running as high 98, he has some idea of a slider but it is very early in the process.  His control needs a lot of refinement but he has shown quick improvement.  Kennelly will move quickly but he will need a full year of pitching to learn and refine, but he could be ready by the end of 2013.

Tyler Knigge (24) – Knigge is a strong armed righty who can run a fastball up to the mid-90s fastball and a in progress slider with potential, and a changeup he can show you at times.  Knigge still has some control issues but he consistently miss bats at each level he pitches at.  Knigge will likely return to Reading to start 2013 but he could make it to LHV shortly into the season.  Knigge is a tireless worker and the biggest obstacle is going to be the high upside arms around him.

Justin Friend (26) – Friend had an incredible 2012 in which he posted a 0.23 ERA over almost 40 innings in Reading.  Friend’s biggest downside is his raw stuff which is a hi-80s fastball with good sink and a solid slider, his commands does help his stuff play up but it could be a problem at higher levels.  Friend will go to LHV in 2013 where he will have to continue to prove that he can dominate in order to get his shot in the majors.

Kyle Simon (22) – Simon was acquired for Jim Thome in mid-2012.  He was a starter in the Orioles system but the Phillies immediately moved him to the bullpen.  Simon’s fastball sits mostly in the hi-80s but he can touch up to 93, but the biggest part of that pitch is that it has a ton of sink and it generates a large quantity of ground balls.  Simon also has a slider, cutter, and changeup but he is working on shortening the arsenal in the bullpen.  Simon pounds the zone with all of his pitches and walks very few batters.  Simon will likely never be a high leverage reliever but he could be a good middle reliever who could give multiple innings at a time out of the pen.  Whether Simon goes to Reading or LHV will depend on the numbers at both level once all of the Phillies minor league free agents are signed.

Colton Murray (22) – Murray dominated after his promotion to Clearwater mid-season.  His fastball sits 91-94 and he has a solid slider, Murray also has good command of his fastball and his walk rate dropped sharply after his promotion.  He has set up upside due to his control and ability to miss bats and after his success in Clearwater he should start 2013 in Reading.

Hector Neris (23) – Another live arm righty reliever in Clearwater headed to Reading in 2013.  Neris has shown on every level that he can keep his control and miss bats.  Neris’s fastball sits 92-94  and he has a good slider to go with it that he can locate in the zone.  Neris has a good chance be a solid middle reliever, he will not only have to prove that he can pitch at higher levels, but he will have to distinguish himself from the other Reading arms.

Michael Nesseth (24) – Another injury reclamation project for the Phillies.  Nesseth’s fastball sits in the low 90s and he has a well below average slider and poor command.  His pro numbers don’t look too bad on the surface but Nesseth does not strike people out and walks quite a few.  His one advantage is that he generates a good groundball rate because of his frame.  Nesseth will have to cut the walk rate and continue the ground ball rate to have a future in the organization.

Left Handers:

Joe Savery (27) – Savery was a great story in 2011 as he moved to the bullpen and regained a low 90s fastball and sharp breaking ball.  The success did not carry over to 2012  where he walked more batters and struck out less.  If Savery has success again it may be as a LOOGY or low leverage middle reliever, but unless he shows large improvement he will be looking for a new organization.

Jay Johnson (23) – Johnson is a prototypical LOOGY.  He throws a fastball that he can run up to 95 from a low arm slot, to go with a sweeping slider.  Johnson misses bats but like many players on this list he also misses the zone quite a bit.  Johnson’s biggest problem however has been health, and he has continued an injury plagued college career into his pro career.  Johnson will likely return to Reading in 2013 where there isn’t a lot left he has to do to be a useful LOOGY for some team, however his upside his limited beyond that.

Brendan Lafferty (26) – A minor league Rule 5 draft pick Lafferty has a good arm with a fastball that can run up to 95mph and ok secondary offerings.  The biggest problem has been control, with Lafferty posting a BB/9 close to 6 in 2012.  The Phillies will likely send him back to AA to see if he can get it under control, if he does he has interesting LOOGY potential.

Mauricio Robles (23) – The Philles claim Robles off waiver this December.  A starter up until 2012 Robles has a low-90s fastball, an average curveball, and a plus changeup.  The problem is he has almost no control with a career BB/9 of 5.34.  At this point despite the raw pitches the hopes of him being a starter have passed, the Phillies are taking a flyer on his ability to refind the strike zone and become a usable reliever.

The Graduated:

Michael Schwimer (26) – Schwimmer has had some problems with management in the past two years but it appears he is still in the bullpen mix going into 2013.  Schwimer’s fastball has actually ticked up and he sits 91-94 which he pairs with a solid slider and a splitter that he used less in 2012.  Schwimmer has below average control but he does manage to get swings and misses.  Schwimer is a bit better than his 2012 numbers suggest and he profiles as a good middle reliever if he can earn himself a spot in the bullpen.

Micahael Stutes (26) – Stutes had a breakout year in 2011 in a set up role for the Phillies but then lost 2012 to injury.  Stutes sits 92-94 with his fastball and adds in a nice slider.  Stutes still has some control issues and had a BB/9 over 4 in his 2011 debut.  Stutes should settle into a solid middle reliever role going forward, but he will need to beat out some of the Phillies other arms to secure a spot in the bullpen in 2013.

Jake Diekman (25) – Diekman has started to establish himself has the LOOGY out of the pen, though he is serviceable against righties.  Deikman has a low sidearm delivery where his fastball sits 94-96 and can touch 98 to go with a good slider.  Diekman’s biggest problem is his control has he walked over 6 per 9IP.  Even if Diekman only has below average command, his stuff coupled with his ability to miss bats will make him a very valuable bullpen piece both as a LOOGY and possible late inning reliever.

BJ Rosenberg (27) – Rosenberg made his big league debut in 2012 with mixed success, with some real blow ups in occasionally.  Rosenberg’s fastball sits 95-96 and can touch 98, and he can hold this velocity through multiple innings.  His slider is fringe average and his changeup is well below.  Rosenberg has had struggled with control at times having whole outing where he cannot find the strike zone, also his fastball is very straight and he can struggle with the long ball  at times.  To have better success Rosenberg will have to work on developing a pitch with more movement to keep batters off of his fastball.  His ability to hold velocity makes him an ideal long man if he can improve elsewhere in his game.

Jeremy Horst (27) – Horst was an afterthought as he came to the Phillies in the Wilson Valdez trade.  Horst was dominant when called up to Philly, striking out batters at a career high while keeping his walk numbers the same (which are a bit high).  Horst brings a hi-80s to low-90s fastball from the left side, he adds an average changeup and a ok slider.  Horst will have a difficult time repeating his 2012 success but he can get righties and lefties out as well as pitch multiple innings making him a valuable bullpen piece going forward.

Some Questions:

Who emerges from the major league level guys to be bullpen pieces?

Can any of the power arm righties in Reading crack into that top group?

What is Giles ceiling if he can just throw his fastball in the zone consistently?

About Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has previously appeared on Phuture Phillies and The Good Phight. You can read his work at Phillies Minor Thoughts

46 thoughts on “What to Expect in 2013: Relievers

    1. Thanks, it was quite a chore to do all of the write ups and I know there are some mistakes in there thank you for catching that one. Fixed it and I am adding a Cisco report right now.

        1. Under your comment (while writing it), there’s three fields:

          Email
          Name
          Website

          I’m not positive, but I think filling in the third will do that.

          1. yea filling in last line of website they ask you to create an account….but doesnt let you log into an existing account.

        2. What Dan says works, you can also create a WordPress account that you can link to your positing and that will have all the information everytime you post.

  1. I’m usually not a Cholly basher, but having a LOOGY in the Phillies’ bullpen is a waste. Cholly will not use his LH pitchers as Loogys, so they must be able to get both LH and RH batters out.

    1. Speaking of which, what do you guys think of minor league managers who will lift relievers in order to get favorable (lefty on lefty and righty on righty) match-ups? As opposed to giving relievers the experience of pitching against both lefties and righties.

      1. I think it is a bad move, I know minor league crowds want to see wins but unless the direction from upper management is that they just want to have a reliever see same sided handness to prepare them for something, there is no reason to manage that way. The minor leagues are for development, winning is just an added bonus (I would say minor league playoffs are a different thing where you want to see your players win)

  2. Of the AA guys I really think that Lisalverto Bo… OH WAIT!

    But no, seriously, I think Simon could emerge this year. I doubt he’s a back of the bullpen type arm, but he could be a good middle reliever. He already had some success in Reading last year, where his GO/AO was a ridiculous 4.70 .

  3. When the series of what to expects are done, could you publish full roster predictions? i want to get a good sense of who will be in AA/AAA but i wanted something easier than sorting through all of the previous articles

  4. Hopefully Aumont gets his mechanics down. He, De Fratus, and potentially Diekman could all be breakout candidates for next year’s bullpen.

  5. Rosin will be the steal of the trades last year. Giants couldn’t make up their mind on how to use him. His slider and change are much improved – he could help us this year.

    1. Like all ‘good’ arms, Phillies should try to keep him as a starter as long as possible. It did not work at all with Aumont unfortunately but we will see what they do with Rosin.

      1. The problem is the numbers crunch. he is 24 right now, so do you send him back down to Clearwater where there may be room (at the expense of an arm like Martinez or Kleven) or do you send him to Reading which has a rotation including Biddle, Wright, (likely one of Morgan or Martin), and possibly Garner, Colvin, Hyatt, Buchannan, or JRod. That is a lot of starters you are trying to find innings for.

        1. Oops. Forgot about Garner. Numbers crunch it is.
          I was projecting Biddle, Morgan, Wright, Colvin, and Buchanan as the starters with Rosin as the ‘6th’ for AA. I’d keep Morgan in AA to start the year since he only had a few starts there last season and is it usually the biggest jump for minor leaguers.

          I had Hyatt as the ‘6th’ in AAA, assuming Cloyd, Pettibone, Martin, Vet, and (May replacement). I expected Rodriquez as a reliever but he could be AAA starter.

          It will be interesting to see who the Phillies keep as starters since their higher upside arms Colvin, Garner, Rosin might be leverage relievers while Bunchanan, Rodriquez, and Hyatt have better profiles for low end starters.

  6. Matt, bravo, these evaluations appear to be spot on accurate from everything I have seen and read. Folks, youncan forget about the garbage reviews you may read elsewhere and just rely on these. Matt did his home work and really nailed it.

  7. I really love stutes, he imo can be a eight inning guy this year.watching him pitch he is fearless, and the times I have seen him pitch,he is on the corners a lot.

  8. There are a lot of bullpen names, mostly because they have some major flaws. This list really points out the tremendous value difference between starters and relievers. Though I like many of the arms, these guys just have such limited trade value that the Phillies will have trouble leveraging their ‘talent excess’ to build up their weaknesses.
    The high powered arms Aumont, Diekman, Giles, Rosenberg, Kennelly, Johnson all seem to have no idea where their pitches are going.
    The others lack a strikeout pitch.
    I like the idea of having cheap, controllable options for the bullpen and with this many guys the hope is that one of them becomes a consistent quality reliever. Last year it did not work for the 8th inning most of the season but I agree with the strategy.

    The guys I actually have some confidence in are DeFratus and Murray, while Simon might be a good longman. Diekman is my pick for a breakout candidate since his stuff is quite good and he just needs slightly better command to be JC Romero effective.

    1. Sandy Koufax had no idea either when he first came up with the Dodgers in the late 50s. I wish our good arms similar careers.

  9. I am skeptical that Aumont’s mechanics will ever allow for control. His stuff is obviously elite, but the way he leans over through his delivery will make it difficult to maintain a consistent release point.

    I’m excited to see Giles, but getting him in the round we did despite the velocity he possesses makes me think he may have similar problems.

    Diekman obviously can get major league hitters out. I don’t think he will ever be a shut down guy, but neither was Ryan Madson. Just consistently effective.

    For me the wildcard is Kennelly. Position player converts generally have above average athleticism for pitchers so things can come together quickly for them

    1. It would be awesome to see Kennelly pitching in the Majors. Another guy worth rooting for.
      I’d love to see him in those position switches with Savery. Put one of them in LF and have the other one pitch.

  10. This article has great content, but I wish the author would check his grammar and use appropriate conjunctions.

      1. Actually I don’t mind at all when people point out small mistakes in my writing. I actually went back and cleaned up some of the reports earlier this evening after reading this. I am not a writer by training so it sometimes takes a reminder here and there to clean up my work. If I want people to read what I put out I should start with good content, but close behind is making sure the writing itself is good.

      2. Fair enough if that’s your view on the website. Personally, I really enjoy reading Matt’s work, and a little proofreading would make everything appear extremely professional. That’s why I started my comment with a complement and ended it with constructive feedback. I’m sorry that you’re so offended by my honest feedback; perhaps you’re not accustomed to such comments, but that’s what makes all of us get better.

        1. Thank you for the feedback Drew and for appreciating my work. I will try to give my stuff another couple of looks through before publishing it, because as you said it can make a difference in how it is read and perceived.

        2. I grow weary of people who spend time picking apart the submissions of volunteers who really have nothing to gain from their efforts, but since Matt appears to welcome such comments then that is fine. This really was more in reaction not to you but some of the posters on this site who add nothing to the substantive discussion but withering and unjustified criticism of the people who do so much. Got to protect my peeps!!

          1. just be appreciative for crying out loud. If you dont like it go some where else. Be thankful for a great job by someone doing this for free.

        3. “That’s why I started my comment with a complement ”

          Ironic to see a diction/spelling error by one such as yourself.

  11. I just wanted to say happy holidays to everyone on here. I really enjoy reading comments on here and even though I don’t usually agree, I always enjoy the opportunity to discuss things. Lets go Phils! Happy Holidays! Or is it Haladays?

  12. Phillies relief pitching prospect template:
    Mid to high 90s fastball
    Average to above average slider/changeup
    No real third pitch
    Lack of command/control

  13. With the glut of relievers in the system, and the relatively sparse amount of starters, it kinda makes me wonder if management has an itchy trigger finger when sending guys to the pen. Bonilla was probably the best example of the questionable philosophy.

    1. Several of their relief prospects were relievers in college too. I guess it can be done, but I imaging it’s a lot to ask of a guy to become a starter as a pro when he was a reliever as an amateur.

      I agree that Bonilla was moved prematurely to the ‘pen (and apparently so do the Rangers if it’s true that they’re moving him back into the rotation) but the other guys were either failed starters or moved to relief because there were better SP ahead of them. I don’t think it’s an oversight that the Phils make consistently.

  14. Can’t turn a guy into a starter if he doesn’t have the required skillset regardless of positional need. Kinda like saying that since the Phillies need a 3b they should just take one of their OF prospects and move them there.

    1. I like it, Start getting out the 3B gloves for Hewitt, Altherr, Dugan,
      Maybe Hudson can play SS with a great arm and good speed.
      Might as well try them at the hardest position to see if they can handle it. Plus we get to see more of the pitchers since they’d need to get 5 outs an inning with all the errors. Win Win for player development. (I’m kidding.)

      However,in some cases I do think it makes sense to test some young players at ‘other’ positions but a scout really needs to see something that makes them think it can be done and players need to know that the Front Office is willing to deal with their learning curve.

  15. A lot of promising arms in the pen. Good chance more than one of these guys turns into quality pitchers at the ML level. Hopefully this means they won’t have to dish out a long term contract for a closer again. Definitely the strength of the system even if it is the least valuable.

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