As of this writing, the Phillies bullpen is still in flux, and Jake Diekman is still in major league camp. I had a chance to watch him close out yesterday’s game against the Red Sox, and I have to say, he certainly deserves a spot on the 25 man roster. He is currently on the 40 man roster, and thus a move would not have to be made in terms of clearing a spot for his contract to be purchased. I wrote this about him this winter when compiling my Top 30 prospects, where he just missed:
Jake Diekman, LHP – The Phillies protected him on the 40 man roster, and he’s a conversion project of sorts, as he’s begun to throw from a low-almost sidearm angle. You can see his delivery here in action against former Phillies farmhand Anthony Gose. That just looks toxic on lefties. And there is a good chance he carves out a JC Romero-esque career. But I’m not sure that merits a spot in the Top 30. Maybe it does. But maybe not.
He struggled a bit with his control last season at AA, walking 44 in 65 innings. He has swing and miss stuff, evident in the 83 strikeouts in those same 65 innings. And lefties can’t touch him. But I was impressed that he was able to generate some bad swings against the RHB he faced yesterday. The final out of the game did come on a mistake fastball he left up that was hit sharply to centerfield, but after watching him pitch, I think he has what it takes to stick in the big league pen right now. More importantly, Antonio Bastardo is still not 100% healthwise, working through a bit of a dead arm period. The Phillies leaned heavily on Bastardo last season, and he started to wear down a bit in the 2nd half of the season. With the Phillies current rotation being what it is, the bullpen figures to see less work than any other NL team again this year. Looking at the pitching staff, assuming the Phillies carry 12 pitches, these guys are locked in:
SP: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Worley, Blanton
RP: Papelbon, Bastardo, Contreras, Stutes, Kendrick, Qualls
That is 11. That also assumes that Contreras is ready for Opening Day. If the Phillies do go with 12, they can slot Diekman right in to the final spot. If they go with 11 and Contreras is not ready, Diekman can take his spot. With Kendrick in the bullpen, there is no real urgency to carry another multi-inning reliever in Herndon. The only other competition for the final spot would come from Aumont (who was optioned) and Savery. While Savery has pitched well, Diekman’s ability to destroy LHP should give him an edge. Its a nice problem for the Phillies to have right now, but given what he has shown this spring, especially the fact that he’s issued only 1 walk in 5 innings, I think Diekman deserves the final spot. We should know more in the next week.