Crash Bag Vol. 20: Where Have All the Relievers Gone?

I wish I had good news about the Phillies to kick off the Crash Bag with this week, but the team is bad. Well other than Aaron Altherr and Tommy Joseph who are #3 and #1 respectively in wRC+ for the month of May.

For now the best place to ask questions is on Twitter, either @ me (@Matt_Winkelman or @CrashburnAlley). But you can also reply in the comments here and I will will have some sort of better way for future mailbags.

@JPallo26: What are your go-to statistic/analytic/breakdown sites and what do each do particularly well in transferring good info?

This is a great question because it really made me think about what sites I use and why I use it.

  • Baseball Reference – This is still the gold standard, especially after their re-skin. The Play Index continues to be the most powerful research and search tool. I love that on both the minor and major league level that you can highlight a set of games in the game log and get the stats over that time. Their splits pages are also much more robust than anything offered by another site.
  • Fangraphs – This is my quick and easy stats site. They have BB%, K%, and batted ball data in a place that is very easy to grab. The percentage stats are just a lot more informative and intuitive to me than the per 9 stats that Baseball Reference uses. The new Splits Tool is very good, and I have not had as much time to really play with it as much as I would like to. They also just added minor league batted ball data.
  • BrooksBaseball – I trust their velocity and zone measurements more than anyone on the internet. If I’m writing something major league pitching related, there is a high chance I opened up Brooksbaseball at some point (this includes hitters vs pitchers).
  • Baseball Prospectus – I like their prospect stuff, but on the statistical side they are doing the most cutting edge research. DRA is the best ERA estimator we have, and it really allows you to think about all of the factors that go into a pitcher’s success. I am still trying to wrap my head around all of the value and long term implications of their framing and pitch tunneling data, but it is research no one else is doing.
  • MLBFarm – This is Daren Willman’s essentially defunct minor league site, but it gives you minor league spray charts that you can customize over date ranges.
  • MILB Stat Pages – They aren’t fancy, but they update faster than any other site and have basic splits. The MILB pages alse have the most accurate transaction logs.
  • Baseball Savant – There is a lot of statcast data here that I don’t really trust and I don’t think is delivered in a way that makes it easy to do your own analysis on. However, their searches are good if you want to really dive into pitch location and usage.
  • Baseball America – Not really statistical, but if you have a subscription there is a ton of archival information on players. Also it normally has the demographic information that you won’t always find everywhere else.

@KMC285: are Davis and Therien promotion candidates to the Phils this season (knowing they need AAA)?
@ClickKlentak: Is there a semblance of a competent reliever (prospect-wise, not like Venditte) on the doorstep in AA/AAA?

@LONG_DRIVE: Mark Appel. bullpen time? doesn’t he suck out of the stretch anyway? will bullpen even slightly fix him?
@anthong_arot: If Velazquez continues to pitch the way he has for the rest of the season, does he start next year in the bullpen?

I am just going to do all of these in one go. I am going to start with reliever prospects.



Victor Arano is the best of the bunch and could have been the kind of impact bullpen arm that fans are craving, but he got hurt this spring and won’t be back until this summer. Milner is the only “prospect” in AAA, and he is more of a funky delivery LOOGY. He could be a supplemental piece to Joely Rodriguez in place of Luis Garcia, but he won’t save the bullpen. Jesen Therrien has amazing numbers in AA, but he does not have dominating stuff. He is the same class of pitcher as guys like Colton Murray and Michael Mariot who can be effective MLB pitchers while their command is on. Rios has been just as dominant as Therrien, and he does have better stuff. He still needs more consistency in his breaking ball, and while he should get the AAA bump, he is more of a 2018 piece than a 2017 piece. Alexis Rivero is a classic middle reliever with a plus fastball and solid breaking ball. Miguel Nunez has a big arm and no control. He was someone who could have jumped forward this year, but his control may have regressed. Austin Davis just got to AA so he probably won’t help this year, but he is a big lefty should mid 90s velocity.

Outside of the pure relievers there are some rotation arms that could end up in a bullpen at some point. Nick Pivetta showed good stuff in the majors in his brief stint, but he still lacks the command and changeup to be a starting pitcher. Given his velocity and breaking ball, it is in the Phillies’ best interest to continue to develop him as a starter, but if that fails he could be a late inning type reliever, but that is more of a 2018-2019 move. Mark Appel is everyone’s favorite bullpen candidate, because they want to get something out of the trade. His stuff would need to step forward enough in short bursts to overcome his command and consistency issues for him to be an effective arm. He still has a three pitch mix and has enough worries that even a bullpen transition for him wouldn’t help this year’s Phillies. However, Ricardo Pinto probably could be bullpen ready in a matter of weeks. Pinto doesn’t have the breaking ball to turn over a lineup multiple times right now, but in a relief role his fastball should be 95-97. The increased velocity, coupled with a plus changeup makes him interesting as a potential late inning arm. Shane Watson with Reading has seen his fastball velocity return, but problems with command and secondary pitches have hurt his ability to pitch out of the rotation. He isn’t an elite level arm, but he could be capable in a relief role. The only problem is the Phillies want to see what he can do now that he is healthy again.

Now we get to the subject of Velasquez. Velasquez has struggled as a starter, particularly with turning a lineup over the third time. Part of his issue is command, and that is something that is going to be a problem in the bullpen as well. Velasquez has the pitch mix (he has 5 distinct pitches) to start, and you lose some of that in the bullpen. Maybe ultimately he ends up there, but the Phillies need to find 5 competent starting pitchers before we even broach the question of Velasquez in the bullpen.

@dannmaal: Andrew Knapp is due soon to graduate off the Phillies top 30 list. Who gets added? Pullin? Dominguez? Someone else?

The MLB Pipeline Top 30 is always one of the most confusing pieces of ranking out there. It gives the illusion of being updated, but really just has things tacked to the end. Here are my top prospects who missed MLB’s list.

#16 Arquimedez Gamboa
#23 Alberto Tirado
#24 Seranthony Dominguez
#28 Andrew Pullin
#29 Bailey Falter
#33 Jesmuel Valentin

Of that list, Dominguez and Pullin are the two best prospects (though I still really like Gamboa). Pullin is hitting the crap out of the ball, but he is limited to left field. Dominguez has been electric, and his fastball has been up to 99 this year and is sitting 94-97. I would personally go with the high upside pitcher, but I would bet on Pullin being the choice (though don’t count out Valentin).

@RichardHughes2: Do Pullin and Tocci get protected next year from the Rule 5 draft?

I think Pullin is a lock to get a 40 man spot this offseason, they are lucky he made it through last year. For Tocci it is not about the Rule 5 draft, it is about his minor league free agency. I think both him and Yacksel Rios are in danger of a team doing what the Phillies did to Elvis Araujo, which is getting them to sign away from the Phillies by offering them a 40 man roster spot. I think the Phillies will make a big trade of prospects for major league things at some point soon. If Tocci continues to hit like he is doing now, I think they protect him with a 40 man spot.

@brianhunn: Based on current stats this season, which Phillie is most likely to be traded come July?

It still has to be Jeremy Hellickson. I think he would have been moved had the Marlins not essentially held the Phillies hostage at the deadline from finding another deal. There are a lot of fringe teams hanging around, and while Hellickson isn’t great, everyone needs pitching. I don’t think they get a ton for him, but he will get them something back. The other two candidates are Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders, but Kendrick isn’t healthy, and Saunders’ club option gives the Phillies little incentive to move him for a non-optimal return.

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  1. Romus

    May 19, 2017 03:36 PM

    Really like to see if Andrew Pullin can take a few reps at 2nd base again, perhaps come this fall if he is selected to go to Arizona. The Mets did it the same age season with Daniel Murphy in ’08 when he went to the AFL for his first time.
    Not that Pullin will be the future 2nd baseman, that still looks to be between Cesar and Scott Kingery, but to give him more versatility if other teams come calling for him in a trade scenaro.

    • Mike Fassano

      May 19, 2017 04:52 PM

      For my money, Pullin looks like a real keeper. I’d love to see him in AAA now. With Kendrick due back soon, and Saunders taking up another place, we have too many outfielders in the bigs, and too many in AAA. We need to start dealing now. It’s called adding by subtraction.

  2. Mike Fassano

    May 19, 2017 06:25 PM

    So Pivetta is down, and Morgan is up. With Nola scheduled to start Sunday, another move must be made. Don’t bet the rent on it, but I have a hunch that tonight may be Hellicksons final game as a Phillie. Jake Thompson has been outstanding in his last 4 starts (2 runs in 23.1 innings), and Ben Lively keeps on winning.

    • Romus

      May 20, 2017 07:59 AM

      Mike….very prophetic on Hellickson.
      With a likely oblique strain he could be a on the shelf for awhile
      Matt Klentak has no luck with his ‘trade-chip’ pitchers.

      • Steve

        May 21, 2017 08:57 AM

        Hes been lucky that Hellickson has been a quality SP, to the point that they valued his contributions more than a mediocre trade return last year. Morton and Bucholz were unlucky.

      • Romus

        May 21, 2017 10:30 AM

        IMO, if Hellickson can get you 2/3 straight quality starts….strike while the iron is hot and move him.
        Since last August, the last four baseball playing months, he has had a back injury that shelved him for 2016, the legged-triple in a moderate temp Cincy fatigues him and had to be removed, then two weeks later his hand got distorted, froze and numbed up, then last start the oblique issue. To me…there are some medical red-flags going on or maybe just bad luck. Hopefully he can stay durable for awhile and becomes a valued trade-chip in a short time..

  3. Woody's World

    May 20, 2017 10:46 AM

    It’s incredibly difficult to come up with original story ideas on a daily basis. Kudos to all bloggers who produce original content, Right or Wrong, w/o over reliance on filler.

  4. Edwin

    May 21, 2017 04:28 AM

    Relievers gone down the shore

  5. Rei De Bastoni

    May 22, 2017 08:41 AM

    Nobody believes in Pat Venditte, huh?

  6. Suffering Phils

    May 22, 2017 08:24 PM

    If they trade Hellickson, they might lose 95. This team is a bad joke

    • TommyDigital

      May 23, 2017 08:12 AM

      It really is disgusting. Not that they were going to win 90 but I thought at least it would be watchable. It’s May 23rd and it’s already countdown to NFL. I can remember summers of not missing a game. No way i’ll go watch them…save the money go to a blue rocks game

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