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Arizona Diamondbacks Hopes for 2017: #2, The bullpen grows up

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Time for the young pitchers to take it to the next level.

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The 2017 Diamondbacks bullpen is likely to have a very different look from the one was saw on Opening Day last year. That’s particularly the case at the back end, where there were no longer be Tyler Clippard, Daniel Hudson or Brad Ziegler. The team has added Fernando Rodney, and may not be done with new relievers yet, as we discussed on Tuesday. But let’s not forget the in-house options. For in overall pitching, the D-backs were the third-youngest team in all baseball, and much of that was due to the young relievers.

They had their struggles, true, as Michael noted earlier in the week, and that is partly why our bullpen ERA was barely below five this year, the 27th-best in the majors. Across starters and relievers, all fourteen Diamondback pitchers who were in their age 25 seasons or younger, had a collective 5.18 ERA. Some of these will not be around in 2017. I was sorry to see us lose Tyler Wagner to the Rangers on waivers; he had impressed me in what we’d seen, though injury issues appear to have been a factor there. The Angels took Vincente Campos, Edwin Escobar will play this year in Japan, and for some inexplicable reason, Dominic Leone is now a Blue Jay.

Below are the 2016 stats for the remaining young bullpen arms - though I have left Archie Bradley on the list, due to the ongoing debate as to whether he or Patrick Corbin will get the fifth spot in the rotation. They are listed in increasing order of FIP.

2016 D-backs pitchers, 25 or under

Player IP Age G H R ER BB SO ERA FIP OPS
Player IP Age G H R ER BB SO ERA FIP OPS
Steve Hathaway 14.2 25 24 18 8 8 6 15 4.91 3.22 .827
Matt Koch 18.0 25 7 9 4 4 4 10 2.00 3.76 .463
Archie Bradley 141.2 23 26 154 84 79 67 143 5.02 4.10 .802
Jake Barrett 59.1 24 68 47 25 23 28 56 3.49 4.14 .682
Enrique Burgos 41.1 25 43 38 27 26 23 43 5.66 4.38 .779
Silvino Bracho 24.2 23 26 31 22 20 10 17 7.30 7.04 .951

Let’s take a quick look at each of these.

Steve Hathaway

Hathaway had an unfortunate major-league debut on July 31, which went single, double, K, three-run homer to Corey Seager. But thereafter, he was pretty solid, being unscored on in 20 of 23 subsequent appearances, with a 3.14 ERA; overall, he fanned a batter per inning (15 in 14.2 IP). Left-handed batters actually hit him harder than righties, but that was largely due to a BABIP of .440 by the former.

Matt Koch

18 September innings for Koch, included two starts and five relief outings, showcasing his flexibility. He allowed one run over seven bullpen innings, though he’ll need to do better than a K:BB of 4:3 for that to be sustainable. His numbers were also very impressive in the Dominican League: a 1.19 ERA over four starts and a relief appearance, with just one walk allowed in his 22.2 innings of work.

Archie Bradley

As noted, his future may be in the rotation: going into spring, it looks to be either him or Corbin for the final starter’s spot. However, given his long-term future is hopefully still in Arizona’s rotation, Bradley may be better served starting regularly in Reno, to give the team depth, rather than getting intermittent work as a long man out of the major-league pen. He’ll get his chances, either way.

Jake Barrett

Had the most promising campaign of our young relief candidates, staying virtually the entire season on the roster. Michael mentioned the regression risk he faces this year, with left-handed batters potentially troublesome. But the current absence of more established names ahead of him, may open the door for Barrett to see higher-leverage innings in 2017. Hopefully, he’ll develop and fulfill those responsibilities.

Enrique Burgos

Remember when Burgos was the closer of our future? A debut season where he struck out 39 in 27 innings seemed to support that. Then the K’s dropped back to about one per frame this year, and with the walk rate still troubling, and led to him being less able to blast his way out of threatening situations. Indeed with runners in scoring position last season, Burgos walked more batters (12) than he struck out (11).

Silvino Bracho

Remember when Bracho was the Burgos of our future? 17 K’s in 12.1 innings on his first run promised much, but this year, he fanned exactly the same number of hitters - while pitching twice as many frames. Allowing seven home-runs in 24.2 IP didn’t exactly help his numbers either. On the plus side, this will still only be his age 24 campaign, but he needs to improve if he’s going to stick around.

2017 Debutants

There are some other players, who will be 25 or under in 2017, whom we didn’t see last year, but who could potentially come through and make their first appearances in the majors. Here are the names you should perhaps keep an eye on - not necessarily to make the Opening Day roster, though they are all going to be around SRF this spring, but perhaps for later in the season.

Daniel Gibson

He began the year with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances for Double-A Mobile, and his 0.40 ERA there was subsequently rewarded with promotion to Reno in early June. It was a rough baptism for Gibson, whose PCL control proved problematic, walking 14 batters in 21 Triple-A innings, on his way to a 6.86 ERA for the Aces. Being left-handed is likely a point in his favor.

Joey Krehbiel

Probably more of a fringe candidate than the others, since he has yet to appear above Double-A level. Though Krehbiel is also younger than most of this bunch, having only turned 24 in December. He had good strikeout numbers for Mobile in 2016 (66 in 55.2 innings) and followed this up with a solid Arizona Fall League performance, with a 2.70 ERA and a K:BB ratio of 20:6 in 13.2 innings there.

Jared Miller

Though if you want gaudy AFL stats, Miller is your man. He had 10 appearances there, covering 18.1 scoreless innings of work, with 30 strikeouts. That came on the heels of a 2016 minor-league campaign, where he seemed to be promoted every month. Jared appeared at four different levels between May 1 and August 1, holding all batters faced this season to a microscopic .169 average.

Jimmie Sherfy

Added to the 40-man roster this winter, Sherfy put up video game numbers between High-A and Double-A in 2016: 28 games, 32 innings, one run allowed, 52 strikeouts. He did struggle with the Aces, as his home-run and walk rates both spiked, but as with Gibson, wasn’t the first 24-year-old to have issues with that transition. His presence on the 40-man likely makes him a good candidate for an early bus-pass down from Reno.