The Bullpen: An asset or liability?
Bullpens have become an extremely important part of the game over the past few years. A major reason for this is because teams are trying to replicate the success the Royals have had because of how dominant their bullpen has been.
Unfortunately, the Rays do not have the luxury of signing big name pitchers in free agency because of their limited cap space/payroll. This makes it very challenging for the Rays to construct a bullpen that will be effective year in and year out.
Heading into the 2016 season, the Rays bullpen probably doesn’t have the personnel or assets to blossom into a top 5 bullpen in the American League, and it sure doesn’t help that closer Brad Boxberger will miss at least eight weeks following abdominal muscle surgery.
However, that does not mean it will be a pushover. They still have the pieces to make things work to become, at the very least, an adequate bullpen.
Last year, Matt Andriese served time as both a starter and reliver, posting a 4.75 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. The numbers aren’t great, but they also aren’t terrible for a pitcher in his rookie season. He has plenty of room to improve and should be an asset out of the bullpen or as a spot-start pitcher if an injury occurs.
The middle-inning duties will most likely be handed to Steve Geltz, Enny Romero, Ryan Webb, and Danny Farquhar.
Steve Geltz had some ups and downs in 68 relief appearances last season. He finished with an extremely low 1.07 WHIP but the ERA (3.84) probably doesn’t give Cash the privilege to strongly rely on him on a consistent basis. His BB% and HR/9 were down last year, so those may be a couple reasons why he had his struggles. Geltz has upside, and if he can lower his BB% and HR/9 numbers, he may be a nice surprise f0r Cash to utilize out of the bullpen.
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Romero, who will likely be one of the only 2 lefties in the bullpen, only pitched 23 innings last season and to put it nicely, it wasn’t pretty. His ERA was 5.10 with a WHIP of 1.73, which is discouraging. However, lefties are hard to come by, and the Rays are counting on Romero to take the next step this year. For Romero, the opportunity is there. Now, it’s time to produce.
The newly acquired Ryan Webb posted a 3.20 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 40 games with the Indians last season. He isn’t going to wow you by any means, but he has been a respectable reliever wherever he has been. He could be a go-to reliever if the youngsters don’t pan out. If the youngsters do pan out, look for Cash to often use him based on matchups in the latter innings.
There’s not much to say about Danny Farquhar. He will be probably be used solely on matchup situations in the latter innings, much like Ryan Webb. He has the potential to mold into an asset out of the bullpen because of his high upside, but time will tell if he can turn that upside into production.
This is where it gets fun. Alex Colome and Xavier Cedeno are studs, and with the injury of closer Brad Boxberger, these two will be handling the closing duties to start the season.
Colome pitched in 43 games for the Rays last season. Thirty of those were as a reliever and 13 were as a starter. As a reliever, he posted a 2.66 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. He put up incredibly low BB% numbers (4.3%) while not allowing a HR out of the bullpen all season. His stuff is filthy, and he should be a major boost out of the bullpen this season.
Cedeno is the best lefty in the bullpen now that Jake Mcgee is gone. Cedeno saw time with the Nationals and Rays last season, and posted a 2.09 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He also had an impressive 24.7 K% and a 6.9 BB%. Cedeno will play an important part to the Rays bullpen success this season and will need to be at his best when closing games for them in the 9th.
Overall, the bullpen has plenty of upside. I would also say there is plenty of room for concern, but I personally do not believe that. They have plenty of options (in the minors) to go to if the guys they’re relying on don’t pan out. They will also add a couple key pieces to their bullpen mid-season including currently injured closer Brad Boxberger and whoever the Rays decide to kick out of the starting rotation when Alex Cobb returns from injury.
The bullpen likely won’t be one of the league’s best because of the lack of dominant lefties, but it also won’t be anywhere near the bottom.