Without any additional moves, the Phillies bullpen is in for yet another rough season in 2022
The Phillies bullpen in 2021 was better than the 2020 version that saw them set the record for futility with a 7.06 ERA. Yet, they still blew a league leading 34 saves and pitched to a 4.60 ERA (sixth-worst in the bigs) and 4.61 FIP (fourth-worst). The Phillies entire bullpen was worth 1.1 fWAR, good for the 28th worst mark in MLB.
It’s no surprise that it’s difficult for a team that cant hold leads to make the playoffs. Even with the new rules expanding the playoffs to a 12-team format for the 2022 season, the Phillies will need a performance closer to league average to still be alive come October.
You cant fault the Phillies under Dave Dombrowski for failing to try. Up against the luxury tax, the front office has been active in acquiring low cost reclamation projects. The past two seasons Dombrowski has taken a page out of the Rays playbook by attempting to stock their pen with tall, big bodied arms that throw in the high-90s. This a common theme that you will see in the list of guys below who the Phillies acquired over that timeframe and something that has definitely set the Phillies apart from more progressive thinking teams.
If the Phillies don’t make any further moves this offseason they will be heavily relying on younger unproven relievers. Some of the more familiar faces from the 2021 pen such as Hector Neris, Archie Bradley, Ian Kennedy, and Brandon Kintzler have all moved on.
Adding to the question marks surrounding the newly assembled bullpen is a shortened Spring Training stemming from the 99-day lockout. Normally younger players and veteran camp invites would have arrived in Clearwater during the first weeks of February. Now these same guys will only have a few weeks to gain the trust of the coaching staff and prove they can help the club. The Phillies are also incredibly short on proven left handed arms. Currently Jose Alvarado is the only left handed pitcher who is a lock to make the 25-man roster.
Five of the eight potential slots in the pen are all but locked up after the recent signing of free agent Jeurys Familia.
MLB rules place a 13-pitcher maximum on rosters meaning a few well known names will be forced to begin the year in Lehigh Valley. Lets begin with the six pitchers certain to be on the Opening Day roster.
Corey Knebel RHP
The Phillies signed former Brewers and Dodgers reliever Corey Knebel to a one-year, $10MM deal to serve as the team’s closer.
Knebel underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020 and missed four months of the 2021 season but was able to bounce back with the Dodgers posting a solid 2.45 ERA over 25 2/3 innings, with a 29.7% strikeout rate and 8.9% walk rate.
According to Dave Dombrowski’s recent comments he believes that Knebel can be the teams everyday closer. A belief supported by Knebel’s history of retiring both right and left handed hitters.
Jeurys Familia RHP & Jose Alvarado LHP
Familia, 32, the longtime Mets right hander signed a one year/$6MM deal on Saturday and will most likely be used in late inning situations in combination with left-hander Alvarado. One major issue with these two late in games is their walk rate.
Both Familia and Alvarado have fastballs that sit in the 95-98 range but have walk rates of 10.3% and 18.7% respectively. Both have been fantastic at inducing ground ball outs which is a major positive for a pitcher appearing at Citizen Bank Park, one of the better hitters parks in the NL.
Brogdon who was arguably the Phillies best reliever in 2021, appeared in 56 games and posted a 3.43 ERA over 57 2/3 innings. Brogdon picked up 10 holds and a save while posting a 1.0 rWAR/0.7 fWAR.
Brogdon was a pleasant surprise but it would be a mistake to automatically pencil him in for late inning high pressure situations. 51 of Brogdon’s 61 appearances came in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings. With the Phillies projected to have a strong starting staff Connor could often be one of the first options out of the pen.
Coonrod came out blazing in 2021 posting a 1.50 ERA with 13 strikeouts over 12 innings in April. He was sidelined in June with forearm tendinitis and while rehabbing in July he again experienced discomfort and was placed on the 60-day IL.
Coonrod returned in late August and was serviceable despite finishing the season with an ERA above 4. If he can stay healthy he looks to be a decent right handed option as one of the first guys out of the pen.
Seranthony Dominguez RHP
Dave Domrbrowksi addressed the media on Sunday afternoon and reported that although they are still trying to bolster the bullpen, they fully expect Dominguez to be ready for Opening Day on April 7th.
Dominguez missed most of the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2020. He was able to pitch one inning in the last game of the season. Before the injury Dominguez showed flashes of promise posting a 3.23 ERA over 82 2/3 MLB innings with a massive 30.3% strikeout rate against a 9.9% walk rate.
The Phillies will have two additional spots to fill if they choose to carry 13 pitchers.
It’s difficult to know how much trust the organization has in any of the following guys on the list considering the lack of innings they will get in spring training. Five of the six arms below are RHP so I would expect at least one, if not two of the remaining roster slots to go to southpaws.
Forced to make a prediction I would choose the next two guys to make the 25-man.
Bailey Falter LHP
Falter 24, appeared in 22 games in 2021, posting a 5.61 ERA despite post nearly a 5/1 K/BB ration. A 5th round pick in 2015 Falter has posted a stellar 1.76 ERA in 30 innings at AAA Lehigh Valley. Because Falter can pitch multiple innings he is a fantastic option to make the big league club as middle innings reliever.
Christopher Sanchez LHP
Acquired in a trade with the Rays for now Top 100 infield prospect Curtis Mead, Sanchez will have to pitch well to make up for that terrible swap by Matt Klentak.
The left-hander appeared in 7 games for the 2021 squad posting a 4.97 ERA over 12.2 innings. Standing at 6’6, Sanchez is yet another big bodied, hard throwing option in 2022.
Ryan Sherriff LHP
Acquired of waivers from the Rays in November. Sherriff was pretty bad in 2021 albeit in a small sample size posting a 5.52 ERA across 14 2/3 innings.
The Phillies are clearly hoping to get a bounce back season from the hard-throwing lefty who has been much better in his career posting a 3.65 ERA (3.98 FIP) in 44 1/3 innings.
Cam Bedrosian RHP – Minor League Deal
Son of Steve Bedrosian who won a Cy Young Award with the Phils in 1987. Cam, 30, appeared in 11 games for the 2021 squad posting a 4.35 ERA over 10.1 innings.
He walked over 15% of batters in the small that sample size and the Phillies are clearly hoping he returns closer to his 10.2% career mark. He signed a minor league deal in December and is a real option to break with the big league club.
Yoan Lopez RHP
Acquired of waivers from the Braves in late-November in the move that subsequently led to the release of Roman Quinn. Lopez, 28, was once a top international signing by Arizona.
In 2021 Lopez pitched well for the Braves AAA affiliate in Gwinnett posting a 3.03 ERA with a 26.7% strikeout rate to go with a 8.4% walk rate. Despite that he was never was called up to the eventual World Series Champions
Nick Nelson RHP
Acquired in a November trade with the Yankees that also netted the Phils catcher Donny Sands. In two big league seasons Nelson, 26, has posted a career 6.43 ERA over 35 innings. He has a monstrous 23.8 K rate but has struggled big time walking over 16% of batters. But again the Phillies are buying low on guys that can throw hard.
Nelson often gets guys to ground out which could help keep his balls inside CBP.
JoJo Romero LHP
The Phillies created a spot on the 40-man roster this evening by placing left-hander Romero on the 60-day injured list. The 25-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery last May and given the timeline of that procedure, it’s no surprise he’ll miss at least the first two months of the season.
Hans Crouse RHP
Acquired along with Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy in the trade that sent Spencer Howard to Texas, Crouse, 23, was a September call up pitching 7 innings and posting a 5.14 ERA.
A former 2nd round pick of the Rangers he is currently the Phillies 4th ranked prospect. This year he pitched in the Arizona Fall League. Crouse has electric stuff that could project into a late inning arm but often fails to repeat his delivery and is almost certain to begin the year at AAA.
Kent Emanuel LHP
Acquired off waivers from Houston in November, Emanuel, 29, is a former third-round pick who posted a 2.55 ERA over 17 career innings before undergoing his second Tommy John surgery in June 2021. He also served an 80-game suspension.
Emanuel will most likely begin the season in the minors allowing him to rehab and provide valuable depth later in the season.