We are finally out of the cold winter season filled with the loneliness of no baseball. Well, cold if you’re anywhere outside of the Grapefruit or Cactus Leagues. With the thawing process underway, let’s begin to look at the glaring problems on the D-backs roster – the bullpen. With so many contested spots here, I figured it would be worth looking at all of the possible, or rather probable, candidates coming into this next season for the Snakes.
This will definitely be dependent on what actually happens with the starting pitching situation. I believe you can almost guarantee that you’ll find Randall Delgado here; last season he did a decent job in the swing man/ long relief role, putting up a 4.44 ERA and a .265 average against opponents. However, a return back to his 2015 form, where he posted a wonderful 3.25 ERA and a solid .235 BAA, would turn him into a very valuable asset for any lackluster starts from the rotation. Zach Godley is poised to try and step into the role left behind by Josh Collmenter, albeit without that fantastic tomahawk delivery. He certainly was rough in the majors last year, an ERA above 6 in about 74 innings, but did well down at Reno and Mobile, not to mention his limited time in the bigs in 2015. The other slot here really belongs to the loser of the battle for the rotation, with the exception of Braden Shipley, who will probably start in AAA if he doesn’t get the spot. So that leaves it up to Patrick Corbin or Archie Bradley. Corbin would certainly pose an interesting look, and it is always nice to have another lefty in the bullpen. His slider looked closer to normal later in the season last year, providing some hope for the return of that, and the changeup is always there, even if his velocity doesn’t recover from the Tommy John surgery. Full seasons are, of course, very different from short glimpses. Bradley is coming off of his first year of heavy usage, and results were…mixed at best. Posting up a 5.02 ERA and .276 BAA is certainly a stat-line that can be improved upon. His strikeout totals were great, about 9K/9, but he let too many people on from free passes, 4 BB/9. If he can limit the damage of free base runners, I think he can really turn a corner, approaching closer to all of the top prospect hype that surrounded him in the minors, and has seemingly dimmed ever since the scary line-drive incident.
So many names to list here, so I will just focus on the ones I think are the most interesting coming into the next year. Silvino Bracho and Enrique Burgos were a rollercoaster last year. Bracho can go nowhere but up, hopefully, from last year, as it seemed as though every time he stepped on the mound there was a hit, then an uninspired visit from Butcher, then another hit, and he either got pulled or struggled through the inning. Burgos provides a lot more hope because of how he performed in Reno last year. A 1.95 ERA in the hitter friendly PCL is nothing to be scoffed at. That being said, he needs to gain some control. 5.5 BB/9 is just ridiculous, especially at the AAA level. His strikeout capability is there, if he can just harness it. Also here in the middle relief is Andrew Chafin, who can give us a nice lefty matchup, but there also another lefty that I am very curious about – Yuhei Nakaushiro, out of Japan. He came to us from the NPB after being cut post 2015 season. He then promptly carved his way through the minor league system, not allowing a run in his final stop at Reno, to the tune of 13 strikeouts in 10 and 2/3rd. What intrigues me about him is his stuff. That slider is straight up nasty, no doubt about it. But from all I can gather, the control is rough, and the fastball sits at about 90, so he’s not exactly a flamethrower. But I liken him to Javier Lopez, another guy who found his way late, a lefty with an unorthodox release, and a wipeout slider. I would watch Nakaushiro in Spring Training, and into the season, even if he doesn’t make the cut initially. LOOGYs are certainly valuable members of a bullpen, and something we in AZ have not truly experienced.
Set Up Man:
Jake Barrett is a guy who I have been hopeful about now for a few seasons. Is the fastball there? Oh you bet. Secondary pitches? Welllll therein lies his main struggles in the Majors thus far. I think if he develops control, and a decent finishing pitch other than just the fastball, he is the closer of the future. For now, he is going to be the bridge to the ninth, assuming this shoulder inflammation he has going on doesn’t turn out to be much more.
Well this is the easiest section. Fernando Rodney is where we are headed this year, for better or for worse. I, for one, believe in the eccentric archer’s ability to return to the form he had with the Padres last year before sputtering out while with the Marlins. Will he be cruising at a .31 ERA? No. But around the 3.00 level isn’t outrageous, and a mid 2.00 would be fantastic. Here’s to hoping we see a bunch of arrows going up to the sky this year. At the very least, it should raise everyone’s blood pressure a few ticks.
So there’s my ideas for the ‘pen, feel free to comment, and here’s to a good coming year for the Snakes!