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Sean Doolittle
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Saves and Steals

Bullpen Review: NL East

by Brad Johnson

Even though elite closer Craig Kimbrel is still a free agent, most teams already have a pretty good idea of how their bullpens will shape up in 2019. We’ll begin our division-by-division review with the NL East. On the whole, it’s a middling division headlined by the deepest relief corps in baseball, a trio of teams with quality closers, and one club that hasn’t even bothered trying to build a bullpen. For a high-level look at all 30 teams, take a peek at our All Bullpen Audit.

 

I welcome any and all criticism or suggestions. Think I missed somebody? Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @BaseballATeam.

 

 

Philadelphia Phillies

 

David Robertson

Seranthony Dominguez

Hector Neris

Tommy Hunter

Pat Neshek

Juan Nicasio

Jose Alvarez

James Pazos

Edubray Ramos

Victor Arano

 

This is likely the third-best bullpen in the league, topped only by the Yankees and Brewers units. What the Phillies lack in truly elite talent, they make up for in depth of closer-capable relievers. They will carry eight relievers to make better use of this stockpile.

 

Without trades or injury, Ramos and Arano will begin the season in Triple-A. They would both be the top reliever on the Royals, Marlins, Orioles, Tigers, and Mariners. Adam Morgan, a serviceable left-handed pitcher, is out of options and behind Alvarez and Pazos on the depth chart. If all six of their starting pitchers survive Spring Training, the club may want to carry Jerad Eickhoff or Zach Eflin as a long reliever. And this talk of depth completely ignores a cresting wave of minor leaguers, some of whom could arrive in a manner similar to Dominguez.

 

The ninth inning will likely be shared by Robertson, Dominguez, and Neris with a few others stepping in on occasion. Assuming Gabe Kapler retains his job, we can anticipate the Phillies to eschew a traditional closer. Robertson will probably finish the most games with Dominguez working multi-inning saves. Before you count out Neris due to his 5.11 ERA last season, it’s worth noting that he led the league in swinging strike rate. A slump from late-May through late-June accounted for most of the damage. As I’ve warned for years, Neris has a tendency to lose command of his elite splitter for several weeks at a time. When he’s on, opponents often look helpless.

 

In Alvarez and Pazos, the Phillies appear to have acquired two southpaws who can also handle right-handed hitters. It’s expected that the club will try to trade one or more of Hunter, Neshek, and Nicasio. They can afford to eat the entirety of their salaries in order to improve the return. The Rays appear to be the most obvious trade partner.

 

New York Mets

 

Edwin Diaz

Jeurys Familia

Seth Lugo

Robert Gsellman

Justin Wilson

 

The Mets bullpen has an incomplete feel to it. The club may try to use the final two spots to develop new talent. It’s also possible they’ll get involved for buy-low veterans like Ryan Madson, Bud Norris, and Sergio Romo.

 

Diaz was the prize of Brodie Van Wagenen’s winter wheeling and dealing. The top closer of the 2018 season figures to be used in a highly traditional manner. He’s set up by a familiar face to Mets fans. Familia is a closer-quality reliever in his own right. By comparison, Lugo and Gsellman are merely good. They can flexibly handle a variety of roles from spot starts all the way to competent high leverage appearances. Both could record over 15 holds, although you shouldn’t expect premium ERA or WHIP. In holds leagues, roster Wilson instead of Lugo or Gsellman. He’ll likely post stronger ratios and more holds as the primary lefty specialist.

 

Some scouts think Rule 5 pick Kyle Dowdy could see his stuff play up as a reliever. The Mets will hope for a similar outcome with former Padre Walker Lockett. Daniel Zamora is a left-handed specialist who leans heavily on his slider. Non-roster invitees Luis Avilan and Hector Santiago could also earn roles as left-handed specialists. Santiago doubles as a long reliever.

Brad Johnson
You can read more from Brad Johnson on Rotoworld, FanGraphs, and RotoBaller. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.