Who Should Return to the Phillies’ Bullpen in 2021?

MLB: SEP 08 Red Sox at Phillies
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 08: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez (21) delivers a pitch during the game between the Boston Red Socks and the Philadelphia Phillies on September 8, 2020 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

In the final installment of our series, today we look at who should return to the Phillies’ bullpen in 2021. It is no secret that the 2020 bullpen was among the worst in MLB history. With a 7.06 ERA, the bullpen cost the Phillies not only their first winning record but also their first playoff berth since 2011.

While that may be the case and Phillies’ fans (rightfully so) will want a completely brand new bullpen in 2021, that just isn’t realistic. So today, we are going to sort through the Phillies bullpen to find the diamonds in the rough to find who is worth bringing back in 2021, and who is worth ejecting.

(Rather than going player by player like we have so far in this series, we will sort the players into three categories: Stays, Stays (Minors), and Gone.)

Stays (Phillies)

Name (Age)2020 IP2020 ERA2020 K/9
Jose Alvarez (31)6.11.428.5
Hector Neris (31)21.24.5711.2
Tommy Hunter (34)
Blake Parker (35)16.02.8114.1
Vince Velasquez (28)34.05.5612.2
Seranthony Dominguez (26)N/AN/AN/A

Six names. One was a starter for most of 2020. One got nailed in the crotch by a line drive just six innings into his season. Three veterans who are likely past their prime. And a player who hasn’t played since June 5th, 2019. That’s it. That’s the list.

All jokes aside, there is a decent foundation to build a new bullpen here. Alvarez was the best reliever on the Phillies up until his terrible injury. Expect him to return with vigor heading into the next season and to act as the Phillies’ main left-handed threat out of the bullpen.

Neris is no longer a closer (if he ever truly was) but can eat up the sixth, seventh, and eighth inning roles alongside Hunter and Parker. Each pitcher brings experience to the table and can act as workhorses as long as they remain healthy. Not to mention, due to age and poor performances, they will be relatively cheap for the Phillies to bring back.

Velasquez is a bit more of a wildcard but, if he can successfully transition to a full-time bullpen role, he could provide two or three innings of steady mid-game relief whenever a starting pitcher has a poor day. He can also act as the emergency starter in case of any untimely injuries or (God forbid) any more doubleheaders.

Dominguez had an interesting 2020. After his non-surgery recovery plan failed and his UCL did not heal, the Phillies decided back in March that he was to undergo Tommy John surgery. Then, due to COVID-19, he did not have his surgery until the end of July. Given that the recovery time from Tommy John surgery is 12-16 months, it is unlikely that Dominguez will pitch for the Phillies until 2022. But, seeing that this list is who SHOULD be in the Phillies’ bullpen in 2021, I do maintain that a fully recovered Dominguez absolutely should rejoin the team as a late-season addition to the Phillies’ bullpen.

Chances are, a few of the players on this next list will also make the Phillies’ Opening Day roster. Namely: Connor Brogdon and Jojo Romero. But, the Phillies would be best served by bringing in two or three choice bullpen acquisitions this offseason to fill the gaps (especially in the eighth and ninth innings).

Stays (Minors)

Connor BrogdonJojo RomeroRamon Rosso
Reggie McClainAdonis MedinaRanger Suarez
Cole IrvinTrevor Kelley

Among this list are several promising relievers of the future for the Phillies. Connor Brogdon was the best of the lot and managed a 3.97 ERA in 11.1 innings in 2020. Expect the 25-year old to either earn his way onto the roster in Spring Training or as the first call-up in response to injury in 2021.

Jojo Romero, Adonis Medina, and Ranger Suarez all did not have great 2020 years but will be important pieces to the puzzle moving forward. Ranging from 23 to 25 in age, the three all have the best days of their career ahead of them and will likely spend the first portion of 2021 putting the finishing touches on their repertoire in Lehigh Valley. The added experience from 2020 will only help fuel their development as well. While they should start the year in the minors, expect them all to make crucial appearances in 2021.

The remainder of this list are players who should mostly be considered for depth. Rosso, McClain, Irvin, and Kelley, should make up a strong bullpen for the Ironpigs in 2021 while attempting to prove to the Phillies why they are still relevant to the team’s plans moving forward.

Gone (Phillies)

Brandon WorkmanDavid RobertsonDavid PhelpsHeath Hembree
Adam MorganDavid HaleDeolis Guerra

After a season like 2020, there will be heads on the chopping block. Ironically, those that should take the fall are mostly the same names that were meant to reinforce the Phillies’ bullpen as trade deadline trades. Workman, Phelps, Hembree, and Hale were all brought in by Matt Klentak as an attempt to save face and make a terrible bullpen slightly better. Instead, they combined to allow 41 earned runs in 41 innings. Yup, a perfect 9.00 ERA. Klentak brought them in, but its time for the new GM to let them go.

While fans are quick to blame Matt Klentak for David Robertson as well, it was an unfortunate injury that took Robertson’s two years with the Phillies away. Though he still got paid, his injury has set Robertson back a long way. Now 35 years old, the free agent may have to settle for a small contract in free agency. For the Phillies, it may be time to put their $23 million unfortunate mistake behind them.

Morgan and Guerra, meanwhile, have lost their chances. Morgan has been testing the tempers of Phillies fans for a few years now while Guerra has now had two unsuccessful seasons in the NL East in a row. Both would benefit from a new environment as they try to get their careers back on track.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire