The case for Jake Diekman to make the opening day roster

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.

44 thoughts on “The case for Jake Diekman to make the opening day roster

  1. Saw Jake pitch while on a flight. I really was impressed with his delivery and effectiveness against lefties. I agree that he can carve out the JC role, but I think he has that element of nasty that makes him more valuable.

    BTW, Madson out for the year. Sad to see that.

      1. I know the Madson thing doesn’t change the philosophical disagreement I and most others on this site have with the deal they gave Papelbon, but Madson’s injury makes it look like a better decision. Having said that, I feel awful for Madson, seemed like a great guy who did a lot for us over the years. Never saw this coming with him, really felt like he was always a picture of arm health.

        1. Love Madson and I feel terrible for him as well. Maybe the Phils will take a look at him again next year if he’s ready to go.

          1. He turns 32 this summer….IMO he probably will not be able to throw full throttle for another 15 months.

  2. Both Diekman and Savery were impressive in the game I saw Monday. Diekman seemed a bit nastier, but I think both can be effective if used properly.

    Aumont would seem to be out of contention as he was optioned last week. Probably a good call to let him continue to develop with high-leverage innings at AAA rather than being the last man out of the big-league pen.

  3. I agree that Diekman is in competition for the final bullpen spot on the opening day roster, but I strongly disagree that Aumont is in that competition. When Aumont was sent to minor league camp last Tuesday morning, Rich Dubee had this to say (according to Matt Gelb on Philly.com) “He’s erratic.” “Slow delivery to the plate. He’s inconsistent. He has a great arm. Great stuff. But we have a little work to do there.” “He has to be more consistent with his fastball and his secondary stuff. He has to be quicker to the plate. Too much of a chance to be a track meet against him.” It sounds like Aumont needs to spend at least at least another half season at Lehigh Valley to satisfy Dubee.

    I agree that Savery is part of Diekman’s competition, but instead of Aumont, I think the rest of that competition is with pitchers still in the big league camp, mostly David Herndon who has held that 12th bullpen spot the last 2 seasonons running, and Raul Valdes. Even if there were a slew of pitching injuries before opening day, I’d put Sanches, Schwimer, and Elarton ahead of Aumont right now.

    Diekman, Savery and Herndon are also in competition with positional players for the 25th spot on the roster, like Montanez, Luna, or a player to be signed or traded for soon. There is greater chance that the Phillies openng the season with 6th bench player who is a right-handed hitter and 11 pitchers than there is of Aumont making the opening the team.

  4. Qualls has been disappointing . Late signings usually end up like that.

    If they bring Conteras north into what might be cold weather ( nature is going to level this spring out) they are making a huge mistake.
    Savery should be in at least for a month to show what he can do. He has retired RH very well and what is needed is a “first responder” .
    Personally I hope to see both on the team by June 1.

  5. I think Diekman would benefit from a short stint with the Phillies. I wonder if he can keep his control or be a flsh like Perez last year. He should be able to go around once before they start to figure out anything about him. If Bastardo continues to have problems look for Diekman or Savery, not both, and Valdes to be on the 25 man roster.

  6. If the Phillies weren’t willing to use the D-train right, I doubt they’ll use Diekman as a LOOGY either. That said though, if he can get righties out on occasion, he would be a good option for the pen.

    1. You’re right that Charlie isn’t exactly Tony LaRussa when it comes to playing matchups, but no one’s a LOOGY in spring training. They’re there to pitch complete innings. Dontrelle was released not because he couldn’t get righties out, but because he couldn’t get anyone out, and also he was hurting.

  7. I may be slow, but I am not sure I get the Jake Diekman is ready for the major leagues, but Aumont is not, hypothesis. A double A pitcher that walks 6 batters per game at that level, and has walked that many at every level? Aumont, who has his own control issues, walks less batters and strikes out more batters, at a higher level than Diekman. This developing idea that Diekman is ‘unhittable’ is perplexing, too. How do you get a 1.4 WHIP and 3.07 ERA out of the Bullpen, at AA, and get this kind of attention.

    1. He has been lights out in the Arizona Fall League and this Spring Training. He should spend some time in AAA but he has been doing real well like Stutes did last year.

    2. The control is certainly an issue, though it hasn’t flared up in Spring Training. A reliever like him can make a drastic improvement year to year, it happens all the time. But given the results I’ve seen in the past (and personal impressions), I see no reason to rank Diekman above Savery. I do think though that Diekman is probably next in line. As it is, a little time in AAA won’t hurt in the least. Let him face some veteran hitters and see what he accomplishes.

    3. The Diekman hypothesis is a result of the Bastardo talk, which is arm fatigue, reduced velocity and ineffectiveness.

      Bastardo’s 2011 season was unexpectedly superb, though it ended on a down note, and right now he’s not the same pitcher he was this time last year. He has had labrum issues in the past. Truly, the Phillies are paper thin with lefty relievers, which explains in part the Wilson Valdez trade. Diekman and Savery are the likely backups to Bastardo. Savery’s splits aren’t LOOGY-like, he’s on the bubble. Seeing Dontrelle Willis struggle was doubly sad because he had a real opportunity.

      We miss Valdez, but Jeremy Horst may yet toe the rubber at the Bank. It’s not clear which position will be thinner, middle infielders or lefty relievers. If Diekman can settle into a role, and strike out enough left-handed hitters, he’ll make an impact. He needs to learn to throw strike one before he throws ball two. His arm angle makes him a weapon. Certain kind of hitters just can’t hit him, even some right-handers. If he gains command, and his fastball sits in the mid-90s, Diekman will be a shut-down reliever. The Phillies need to win a lot of games to take the division, but rather than burning out Bastardo early, as they did last season, maybe they can give some innings to Diekman. There’s no sense expecting one guy to do it alone every day. Diekman has an opening, he needs to make the most of it.

      Jeremy Horst isn’t far behind on the LH reliever depth chart. On the Phillies website, David Purcey’s page shows Scott Podsednik’s picture –does that bode well for Podsednick or badly for Purcey?

      If the Rockies pass, maybe Jamie Moyer can be a LOOGY on a one year deal?

      Keep an eye on the waiver wire, don’t let a lefty reliever slip through!

    1. I sort of agree with your statement. In fact…what about Herndon ? He seemed to get better last year as the year unfolded and despite his low leverage situations and that Charley has no confidence in him, he still seemed to improve. What about his splits – namely, first half of year vs. last half ? In 2010 I would shudder when he entered a game, less so in 2011, and even less so in latter 2011. Just a feeling— I can’t quantify it. Any thoughts ??

      1. I believe bullpen will be Papelbon, Qualls, Bastardo, Herndon, Kendrick, Stutes, and Diekman. I see Contreras staying in extended spring training for about ten days. He’ll come up and whomever has been least effective out of Herndon, Stutes, and Diekman will go down.

      2. It’s funny but the one guy I am sure will be on the roster is Herndon. He is not hurting for one thing. The next is that he has been very effective. The others have one thing wrong or another. I penciled in Herndon because he is the only one, besides Papelbon, I am sure will perform well.

  8. Trade Qualls. I don’t see a role for him if Conteras makes the start of the season. Someone desperate might give a prospect.

    1. The way Contreras has been pitching and his injury from last year Qualls will be the 8th inning guy.

        1. Not on the Qualls bandwagon either but with his track record (a guy who has pitched 70+ games in 6 of 7 years). He gives them a veteran presence. Bastardo will be the other 8th inning guy depending on the match-up w/Stutes pitching the 7th

  9. So there’s a good chance we go north with seven relievers and no LOOGY. Just Papelbon, Bastardo, and 5 righties who are all pretty similar. Weird.

  10. I don’t understand the Herndon love on here by some. What exactly has he shown us? That he’s capable of throwing multiple innings sometimes and if he gets grounders he’s somewhat effective? Oh hello there Kendrick… Now that’s not quite fair because Herndon can strike out batters at a bit better clip than KK, but I think you guys can understand my point.

    What strikes me as especially odd is that people point to the second half of last year as justification. Relievers are a fluid commodity (outside of the elite) because their results vary greatly from year to year. This is due, in large part, to the fact that they pitch so many innings. When they do incredibly or terribly, it is more often than not just caused by the small sample size. So I don’t get why people would cut that already small sample size in HALF and use that as justification. Let’s keep in mind that relievers, by and large, are pitchers that just couldn’t cut it as starters. There’s a reason for that. Herndon shouldn’t be considered anything special until he does something special over an extended period of time. Don’t discount the first half of the season or even the season before just because the second half of last season was more recent.

    /rant.

      1. Don’t rewrite history Stutes was more than good until he tired. If you have seen any game he has added pitches.

        1. Either way I never said anything about Stutes. In fact, I didn’t name any players other than Herndon and Kendrick, and I didn’t call either of them anything flattering (other than MLB players, which, in any capacity, is an impressive feat). I don’t think highly of relievers in general. People like Mo, Papelbon, and Madson are exceptions, but by and large I wish we could do away with relievers. But, realistically speaking, that either won’t or can’t happen.

        2. Stutes was excellent for most of last season. What’s more, he probably desreved to be with the Phillies on Opening Day. It was only GM Amaro’s ultra-conservative approach with him that placed Stutes in the minors for the first 25 days of the season. However, Stutes was the talk of training camp and would have been on the opening day roster of many teams.
          Those 3 1/2 weeks in the minors mean that Stutes got credited with less than a full year’s major leagues’ service time or seniority so that will delay his qualifying for free agency at some future time. (great for the front office, not so great for the player).
          Statistics show that he did decline and was less effective over the final quarter or third of the season and this may be explained by the fact that 2011 was only Stutes’ second full year since converting from starter to reliever and the added workload effected his performance. His future is still very bright and his prospects of remaining with the Phillies for a long time seem very good..

  11. I am surprised that Valdes doesn’t get more support. He has pitched very well this Spring. For example, one BB vs. 9 Ks in 8.2 IP. His limited MLB regular season statistics show one BB in 19.2 innings with 16 Ks. Personally, I favor a left-handed reliever who can come in and throw strikes over one who puts people on and then has to pitch out of trouble.

  12. That’s a shame for Jake but his future is bright and I’m sure he will pitch at CBP in 2012. This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to meet Jake and Justin DeFratus and talk some baseball … they were very, very, very pleasant, well-mannered and overall just great representatives of the Phillies organization. I always root hard for the Phil’s minor leaguers and take great pleasure in their successes. That being said these two young men jump right to the top of the heap for me!!

  13. Just confirming that Diekman was assigned to the minor league camp on March 27, nine days before the Phillies’ Opening Day. He made a good impression in camp and will almost certainly be moved up to start the season at AAA Lehigh Valley. He’s pounding on the door now Surely his major leagues debut is now not that far off.

  14. Again…Savery deserves his shot. Sink or swim. Resolving the lefty relievers spot calls for BOTH Savery and Big D within the ’12 season. Looking for better command from Big D at LV. When that happens, he should be up. Bastardo’s arm health is a concern; don’t know if he’ll complete the season in the bigs since he’s had plenty of arm problems in the past. Glad we have these two subs getting ready to fill in.

    1. I have never heard Rich Dubee praise a player the way he praises Diekman. Ever – not even close. I wonder, if Diekman can learn to command a breaking ball, if he becomes intriguing again as a starter. People need to understand that this guy is throwing 96 or 97 MPH from a deceptive side-arm angle. Since he went to the AFL he is been almost entirely unhittable. It astounds me how many people left him off their top 30 lists. This kid could be a big deal.

      1. After several seasons given to wonder if he was a wasted draft choice as he proved unworthy as same, they found a means to success for him as a scary lefty reliever. Should he gain better command plus an effective 2nd pitch, he could be a fixture as THE lefty in the pen—.as such he bring significant value to the big club. No reason to mess with a good thing. The rotation and the system do not lack starting pitching.

        Imagine Papelbon,Big D, DeFratus, Savery, Aumont. Tough to score after the 6th inning.

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