2013 Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Relievers

Is this Friend's year? Photo by: Jay Floyd

Yesterday, we previewed the non-roster invitees who play the infield. Before that, we looked at the outfielders and catchers. Pete Orr, for the second consecutive season, is the clubhouse favorite among the infielders, while Jermaine Mitchell is a long shot but paces the outfielders. Humberto Quintero will likely start the year as Erik Kratz‘s back-up, having the best shot among any non-rostered position player to crack the roster for Opening Day.

Today, we will take a look at a tough group to predict: relievers. The qualifications for the group we’re looking at are as follows: the non-roster invitee in question must have served primarily as a reliever during last season. The Phillies used 17 pitchers in relief last year, not including Joe Blanton‘s early Pittsburgh bullpen cameo, meaning 11 players not on the Opening Day roster pitched in relief in 2012. The Phillies have 14 relievers on their 40 man right now meaning that if the Phillies use pitchers at the same rate as last season, three of the players listed below may see some time in the Majors in 2013.

The Veterans

Juan Cruz

Cruz put together a very effective season in 2012 for the Pirates (2.78 ERA, 8.3 K/9 IP) before being abruptly released in August as the Pirates season spiraled out of control. Out of control may be the perfect phrase to describe Cruz, as, despite his low ERA, Cruz posted a 1.626 WHIP and a 4.8 BB/9 IP. Cruz has always struggled with control but has occasionally dominated righties, pitching to a career to a career .230 BAA. The question then is: can Charlie Manuel resist the temptation to pitch Cruz against only righties if on the roster? If his treatment of lefty J.C. Romero is any indication, no.

I think Cruz is still a Major League quality pitcher and he may be as good or better than Chad Durbin. But Durbin’s deal is guaranteed and Cruz’s is not. I also think it would be more beneficial to let either B.J. Rosenberg, Michael Schwimer, or a younger arm whose developmental clock is running out take a stab at any role Cruz would play. Cruz was a really nice pick up as a depth signing but for the Phillies sake, hopefully Rosenberg maintains the progress he found at the end of 2012 or Schwimer perfects a secondary pitch.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: D-. Cruz was a nice pick-up but his walk rates and high WHIP compare very strongly with Chad Qualls. The temptation to have Cruz as a veteran righty specialist is a strong impulse to fight, but the time he would spend on the field would detract from development time from players like Phillippe Aumont, Rosenberg, and Schwimer.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: B-. Cruz has to be the favorite among this group to see some action on the Major League roster as a reliever.

Rodrigo Lopez

I don’t want to overstate what Lopez did for the Phillies in 2009 but I found it pretty special: stabilizes a division favorite’s suddenly spiraling out-of-control-because-of-injury rotation by earning wins in three of his first four starts with a 3.09 ERA. A lot of it was due to luck, but sometimes, it is better to be lucky than good.

Lopez is a nice to have for an inevitable injury. He firmly falls into the Steven Lerud and Orr category of “nice to have, safe because no one will claim them if you designate them for assignment”. Lopez pitched exclusively as a reliever last year for the Cubs before being sent to Triple-A Iowa, where he posted a 5.28 ERA in 15 starts, and struggled giving up hits at a high rate.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: None. Lopez was in this group because his primary function last year at the MLB level was as a reliever but any time he would see in 2013 would be as an emergency starter. The Phillies have a full rotation plus Tyler Cloyd and Jonathan Pettibone who are Major League-ready in their rotation. Lopez has a steep road to make the team out of Opening Day because of the depth created by the John Lannan signing.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: D-. I personally would use Cloyd or Pettibone for a spot or emergency start but it would use one of their options and would start Pettibone’s arbitration clock. Lopez has been around MLB-average for the last few years. Solid depth signing but should not figure much into the Phillies plans.

This Year’s Purcey

Cesar Jimenez

Jimenez had a particularly promising start to his career in 2008: in 34.1 IP, Jimenez posted a 3.41 ERA and a 1.311 WHIP as a 23 year old. Jimenez has struggled with a series of injuries that have kept him out of action but is a very interesting project arm. If Jimenez puts together a nice Spring and continue to builds on his ever improving K/9 IP rate, he could be a useful piece for the Phillies in 2013, but he would have to out play Antonio Bastardo, Jeremy Horst, and Raul Valdes for a role as a lefty in the bullpen. He reminds me a lot of this year’s David Purcey: solid lefty who is nice to have in your depth but that you don’t anticipate using.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: F-. Because of the emergence of Horst, utility of Valdes, and the flashes of potential Bastardo has used, Jimenez has a very similar projection that Purcey did last year.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: F. There are too many lefties ahead of Jimenez but never say never.

A Pair of Pleasant Surprises

Kyle Simon

Simon came to the Phils in the deal that sent Jim Thome to Baltimore. Simon, at the time, was thought to be the secondary piece to catcher/first baseman Gabriel Lino. How Simon surprised.

In his age 21 season, just his second professionally, Simon was converted to a reliever when he joined the Phillies system and dominated. Simon posted a 1.42 ERA in 13 appearances in a late call-up to Reading. Simon has played at four levels in two seasons and could reach Triple-A in 2013 even though he may start the year in Reading. Simon throws a lot of groundballs thanks to sinking movement on his fastball and a live slider. He has a low to 3/4 delivery which helps the 6’5 righty take advantage of right-handed batters but leaves him vulnerable to lefties.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: None. Much like Cody Asche‘s ranking yesterday, this is not based on talent. There is little impetus to rush Simon along when he has at least three years of protected Minor League service time before a decision has to be made. Plus, he’s got quite the logjam ahead of him.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: D. This is a fun one. The Phillies should be cautiously optimistic that they may have caught lightning in a bottle with Simon. He has a lot of names ahead of him but he is a fast riser and could catch and pass guys like Justin De Fratus, Austin Wright, and Kenny Giles. No need to rush him but should he impress again early, it will be hard to fight the temptation to keep on hold for too long.

Justin Friend

Friend, much like Darin Ruf, was a little bit too old for his level in 2012 but managed to set records and dominate. Friend, 26, set the Reading single-season saves record, earning 24 saves in 39.2 IP with a 0.23 ERA and 9.3 K/9 IP. Friend had a mid-season call-up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he posted a 4.40 ERA in 14.1 IP with better K and BB%. Friend was selected from the Oakland A’s organization in the winter of 2010 in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 and will likely get an extended run in Spring Training this year.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: None. By my calculations, this is the last season the Phillies can have Friend as a minor leaguer before they have to protect him in the Rule 5 Draft or sign him to a separate Minor League deal after he becomes a Minor League free agent. If Friend performs at least middle of the road, he will go deep into camp with the team.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: C-. This is another fun one. Because the Phillies have to make a move or get off the pot with Friend at the end of the season, do not be surprised if he is given a shot before some other players who may have been with the team before.

The Disappointment

J.C. Ramirez

J.C. Ramirez – what should have been. Ramirez should have been a number 2 or 3 starter. Now? He is once bright prospect who has lost his way who managed to clear waivers. Ramirez showed promise last year in the Reading and Lehigh Valley bullpens but has way too many people in front of him for 2013. He will likely start the year in Lehigh Valley.

Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: None. Now that his biggest asset is gone (being on the 40-man roster), he has way too many people in front of him.

Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: None. See above.

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