SHOULD HECTOR NERIS BE THE PHILLIES’ CLOSER?
Hector Neris got his first save of the season last night against the Cinncinati Reds.
This was the second save of the season for the Phillies bullpen. Believe it or not, Jake Thompson got the first save of the season for the Phillies, pitching the final three innings of the 20-1 win against the Marlins. Thompson will be a long reliever for this team, he really has no shot to be the team’s closer. However, there are a handful of guys who I think could be a good fit for the job. Obviously, Hector Neris (who was the closer for most of last season), but also Pat Neshek, and Tommy Hunter could be possible options.
Hector Neris finished last season with 26 saves in 29 save opportunities. Neris appeared in 74 games and struck out 86 batters. There is no question that Neris has the skill set to be a closer. His fastball is consistently 93-95 and he has a filthy split-finger change-up. Neris’ split is by far his best pitch, and hitters have a hard time hitting it. Last night, in his first save of the season, he struck out Tucker Barnhart with a 2-2 splitter to end the game. With all of this being said, Neris has struggled with command at points. Last season he finished with 26 walks in 74.2 innings. If he can attack the zone on a consistent basis, there is no doubt Neris could finish the season with at least 35 saves.
Hector Neris has converted his last 21 saves dating back to 6/28/17
— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) April 10, 2018
Pat Neshek was the Phillies’ lone all-star last season before being traded to the Colorado Rockies. Neshek posted a 1.12 ERA in 40.1 innings with the Phillies last season. He also tailed 3 saves in that time. Neshek is a very interesting guy to look at for the role of a closer. He has a funky delivery and throws side-arm to the point where it is almost submarine. The problem is, Neshek only has 8 career saves. Some people may not think of this as a problem, but I think it is. Pitching is the last inning of the game, trying to close the door on any hopes for a comeback is a different animal. It takes a certain type of animal in order to become a good closer. I’m not sure if Neshek is that type of animal.
— Phillies Talk (@NBCSPhillies) March 31, 2018
Tommy Hunter is the last real option I see as a potential closer for the Phillies. Hunter came up as a starting pitcher but transitioned to a roll in the bullpen in 2013 season with the Baltimore Orioles. Hunter was signed by the Phillies as a free agent this winter. He pitched with the Tampa Bay Rays last season and finished with a 2.61 ERA through 58.2 innings. Hunter is an interesting guy for the closer role. He has 17 career saves out of 29 save opportunities. Blowing 12 out of your first 29 chances is not a good sign.
It's a whole new Phillies clubhouse. Victories now include fog machine, lasers and strobe lights. "It's not just a business, it's a game," J.P. Crawford said. "You've got to win and when you win you've got to have fun," Tommy Hunter said.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) April 5, 2018
To me, the answer is simple. Hector Neris is the closer for the Phillies. He is the best option that this team has in its bullpen. Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek will be great relievers, but it will most likely be in the 7th and 8th innings. With Neshek, it will be interesting to see how Gabe Kapler uses him. Neshek has shown that he can get both lefties and righties out during his career. But the way that the game of baseball is trending, Neshek could be pitching in a huge spot during the 6th inning or even earlier. Especially with Kapler, nothing is out of the realm of possibilities.
One last thing that I think could be a possibility is a trade. There is no question that one of the position players the Phillies have is going to be traded. Right now they have four outfielders (Odubel Herrara, Aaron Alther, Rhys Hoskins, and Nick Williams) and four infielders (Scott Kingery, Maikel Franco, JP Crawford, and Cesar Hernandez) that are getting regular at-bats. Obviously; Hoskins, Carlos Santana, and Kingery are all here to stay. But I would not be surprised to see Alther, Williams, Franco, or Hernandez traded this season. If one or more of these guys gets traded, expect to see some bullpen arms coming back the Phillies way.
Statistics in this article are from mlb.com.
Featured Image: City of Philadelphia via Flickr