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Diamondbacks Pre-Winter Meetings Outlook: Bullpen

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The biggest area of need is in the Diamondbacks bullpen, a unit that was supposed to be a strength in 2016 before the team’s circumstances led to the front office dealing them away. The Big 3 from last season are not on the team, with Daniel Hudson and Brad Ziegler now free agents while Tyler Clippard will pitch 2017 in the Bronx. The team has a glut of young relievers available, but none of them were able to provide a reliable option from start to finish. Part of that is youth, the rest being inconsistencies. The team has a decent amount of young talent that just got to the majors and a couple relievers high up in the system demanding a chance.

Righties

Randall Delgado: Delgado is consistent, if not spectacular or even good. Since being acquired prior to the 2013 season, Delgado has been used mostly as a middle reliever. They did use him in some high leverage situations at the end of the year, but that’s not an experiment I want to see again. Delgado really doesn’t cost much from a dollars standpoint, which is probably why he’s on the team despite continued seasons of middling performances in a low-situation role.

Jake Barrett: Barrett was the most consistent reliever of that glut, although he came with some faults as well. Barrett can be dominant with a 95+ MPH riser coupled with a devastating slider. However, there were also a lot of games where he got lit up, especially in pressure situations (14:13 SD:MD ratio). Barrett pitched to a respectable 3.49 ERA (0.8 bWAR), but advanced metrics were not a fan of his high walk rate. Barrett will definitely be in the mix for one of the top bullpen spots although the back-end could use multiple veterans to add depth.

Enrique Burgos: Burgos came into the 2016 with a chance to develop on a promising rookie campaign, but fell flat for most of the year. Burgos has the makings for a dominant reliever and was at one point in line to take over the closer job in August, but a string of bad relief outings pushed his numbers south. Command is a big problem for Burgos, as his swinging strike rate and chase rate fell 3% each and caused his strikeout rate to dip and his walk rate to increase a little. That killed his peripherals as his FIP jumped to 4.38 and xFIP to 4.42. It’s no longer a question of ability, because he’ll flash elite closer ability, but putting together consistency.

Matt Koch: Koch doesn’t feature a single elite pitch, but has a trio of average pitches. Out of the bullpen, the fastball velo plays up to mid 90s with arm side run. His primary secondary pitch is a high 80s hybrid slider/cutter. His stuff is fringy for an MLB starter and advanced metrics have him due to regress from his final two start performance. I see Koch playing a swingman role where he eats up innings when the starter gets knocked out early. If the team wants to develop him as a starter, he’s probably ticketed for Reno.

Jimmie Sherfy: Sherfy made a ton of progress in 2016, able to improve his command after a demotion in Class A Visalia. He dominated the Cal and Southern League through the end of July, earning a promotion to AAA Reno in August. Sherfy seemed to hit the wall at the end of the season, but the overall progress that included a 30 consecutive save streak to start the season put him on the organization’s radar. Sherfy earned a 40-man spot and should be up by the end of 2017. His stuff is a mid 90s rising fastball with a lot of life which is complemented by a filthy slider that caught my best friend’s attention back in 2012. The fastball grades out better and is more consistent. Sherfy’s stuff is comparable to Barrett and Burgos’, even though those two are big body types and Sherfy is a small, scrawny type guy. I expect the team to put him in Reno in 2017 barring a big Spring.

Silvino Bracho: Bracho was a rising star up the minor leagues even though most excluded him from prospect lists until he debuted in August 2015. Bracho had a solid Spring, but the good pitching ended there. His strikeout rate significantly decline and was constantly up the Reno-Phoenix shuttle, which is rarely good for a young pitcher hoping to build consistency. His HR/FB rate jumped to 15.9%, which is very bad when more than half of the contact allowed is in the air. While the batted ball profile was very similar to where it was in his 2015 debut, the numbers all went south. Bracho relies mainly on deception to make up for average stuff overall. The deception combined with a sneaky fast fastball at the top of the strike zone is how he normally pitches, hoping to induce weak fly ball contact or whiffs.

Evan Marshall: Two seasons ago, Evan Marshall was a promising setup man but for whatever reason has not been able to repeat his 2014 season. Marshall was another attendee on the constantly moving Reno-Phoenix shuttle, which I stated is rarely good for any young pitcher. Marshall has some of the best pure stuff as his pitches have a ton of movement, but can’t locate any of them. Marshall relies on a mid 90s sinker, a knuckle curve, and a change-up and usually is effective when he can command the sinker. Marshall is now a year removed from a traumatic blow to the head off of a batted ball, which is never good for a pitcher physically or mentally.

Lefties

Andrew Chafin: Chafin is very much like most of the righties in the bullpen mix. A strong rookie campaign that he couldn’t build upon. Chafin struggled with injuries and a loss of command, both likely related, although he was mainly effective vs. lefties with a .268 wOBA against. Advanced metrics such as FIP and xFIP believe that Chafin’s 6.75 ERA was a result of bad batted ball luck (.368 BABIP) and relievers behind him giving up his runs with a strand rate below 50%. When healthy, Chafin is the best lefty in the bullpen and was successful in 2015. He sits 92-94, but can run it up to 96 with the four-seamer and uses a big, sweeping slider that gives lefties fits.

Steve Hathaway: Most lefties in the bullpen have a platoon split where they get hit hard by the opposite hand. In 2016, Hathaway had major platoon splits but backwards. In both AAA and MLB, lefties performed better. Lefties put up a .388 wOBA against Hathaway while righties were .310. The sample size is 40 batters against lefties and 25 against righties, so there’s no certainty behind it. Hathaway’s path to the majors to start the year not only depends on his ability to get lefties out but also Patrick Corbin being able to start games. Hathaway sits low 90s, can run it up to 95, and uses a curveball as his main out pitch. He features a change-up to righties. While Hathaway isn’t a LOOGY type, his success will depend on his ability to get lefties out.

Patrick Corbin: I explained this when I discussed starters. I have no idea where he’ll end up in 2017, but I have no doubt he’d be successful in the bullpen. I do worry that him and Chafin are very much the same look for hitters, although Corbin is more used to facing right-handed hitters at the MLB level than Chafin.

Jared Miller: Arguably the biggest rising star in the Diamondbacks system, Jared Miller went from a non-prospect as a starter to a big time relief prospect in the span of 9 months. Miller has added a hybrid cutter/slider to his repertoire and that pitch has produced results. Miller produced strikeout rates of 40.4%, 36.4%, and 31.3% in Kane County, Visalia, and Mobile before an end of the season promotion to Reno. From there, he took his talents to the Arizona Fall League where he stole the show. Miller faced 62 batters, recorded 55 outs (30 via strikeouts). Miller allowed only 6 hits and 4 walks over that span. Against some of the top prospects in the game Miller showed he belonged and should be in the Diamondbacks bullpen soon. Barring any more amazing stuff from his left arm, which I won’t doubt he’ll do, he appears ticketed for Reno to start the season.

Daniel Gibson: I have no idea if Gibson will survive the Rule V Draft, although they could add him to the 40-man roster whenever they feel like. Given the lack of current options and the possibility he might survive the Rule V draft, I have at least consider him for the lefty mix. Gibson has the least amount of upside of these left-handed options and is projected mostly as a LOOGY. His fastball hits low 90s complemented by a slider. He scuffled against right-handed batters in AAA Reno, and LOOGYs are usually a dime a dozen.