Today Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle reported that the Phillies will be converting Austin Wright to a full time reliever (Brody Colvin back to the rotation). The move is one that I thought would come eventually but did not expect right now. More interesting to the move is what Joe Jordan said which piqued my interest.
Philles are converting Reading’s Austin Wright to the bullpen. He’s 5-5, 6.09 in 16 starts; pitching better lately after DL stint #phillies
Joe Jordan on Austin Wright: “We really feel he’s got a couple pitches that have a chance to play really good out of the bullpen.” #phillies
I have always maintained that a starter is better than a reliever, so to say I happy about this move and support should come as a shock. I am the guy who has said I think Wright and Ethan Martin (whole will start for the Phillies tomorrow) are relievers long term yet I say that Martin should continue to be a starter. For me it comes down to ceiling, team need, and proximity.
The difference between Ethan Martin as a starter and Austin Wright as a starter is large. Martin’s ceiling is a good mid-rotation starter and Austin Wright profiled more as a #4 starter (mostly because you couldn’t project both the changeup and control to come along). That is probably a two win difference right there. In the bullpen Martin still has the higher ceiling of as a high leverage reliever and Wright is probably more good middle reliever (though it will be interesting to see how the arsenal plays up). That on paper looks like a large gap but in reality it is probably not even a win of difference. Thus I will always support the higher upside arm to stay in the rotation because the payoff is that much larger.
Team need factors in here. Ethan Martin is pitching well in AAA and Wright is struggling in AA. That means Ethan Martin has value in a temporary start and Wright has little value to the big league club right now. Wright in the bullpen moves his ETA up a full year and makes him a player the Phillies could use relatively soon. This ties into proximity, moving a starter to the bullpen accelerates the timeline for a player. This means the sooner you do it with a player you know will end up there, the faster you can get them to the majors. I firmly believe Wright could fight for a job this year, and will definitely be in the mix next year. The same could be said of Perci Garner who could move very quickly if moved to the bullpen.
Overall though, I don’t know if I am actually consistent on the subject. It comes down to the individual player involved. For those of you concerned with Wright’s ceiling, with two plus pitches, a large frame, and left handedness he is a guy that could give multiple good innings at a time out of the middle of the bullpen. If the fastball plays up more towards plus plus he could be a back of the bullpen high leverage reliever. Either way Joe Jordan is looking at the resources he has and is moving players towards their long term strengths.