February 24, 2024

Phillies 2024 spring training preview: Thoughts on every pitcher headed to camp

The Phillies surrendered the fourth-fewest runs in the National League last season, an accomplishment that sounds decent but is almost astonishing when viewed in a greater context. The staff has progressed every year — from 14th in runs allowed in 2020 to ninth in 2021, then seventh in 2022, and finally fourth. Since 1970, the Phillies have finished among the top four in the NL in runs allowed exactly eight times.

That’s eight times in 54 seasons.

So, they like the pitching situation. The current group is almost identical to a season ago. Is there enough depth to survive the 162-game grind? That will be the perpetual topic this spring as the Phillies audition relievers for one or two bullpen jobs and assess who can best serve as rotation reserves.

The group, for now, is considerably smaller than in previous years. The Phillies have 27 pitchers on their camp roster. Here’s a breakdown of every single one.

(An asterisk denotes a non-roster invitee to big-league camp. Listed ages are as of Opening Day.)

Mick Abel made 23 starts last season and also appeared in the Futures Game. (Steph Chambers / Getty Images)

Mick Abel*, RHP (22) — He’s not Andrew Painter, and that is fine. Maybe it has affected how people view him. But Abel, who doesn’t turn 23 until August, is right on track. He should open the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley as one of the youngest starters in the International League. He has work to do, and a better feel of his breaking balls will be critical.

Kolby Allard, LHP (26) — He is essentially replacing Bailey Falter, who was traded at the deadline, on the rotation depth chart; there are some similarities between the two lefties who live in the low 90s with their fastballs. Allard’s fastball has played at the top of the zone. The Phillies could accentuate that.

José Alvarado, LHP (28) — He didn’t always pitch with his top velocity, hitters made better contact, and he missed time with concerning elbow ailments. But he still posted a 1.74 ERA in 41 1/3 innings last season, with his lowest walk rate since he was a rookie. A healthy Alvarado is key to everything.

Connor Brogdon, RHP (29) — He faced 25 batters in the 2022 National League Championship Series and World Series. He struck out 11 of them. He was dominant on the biggest stages. He has not looked the same since, and now he’s coming to camp out of minor-league options. It’s a big spring for Brogdon.

Ryan Burr*, RHP (29) — He has that Rays shine, although he spent the entire 2023 season in the minors even as Tampa Bay deployed its typical churn of pitchers. He’s not too far removed from his time as an effective big-league middle reliever. But he went on the injured list four times last year.

Dylan Covey, RHP (32) — He’s still on the roster, and the Phillies were determined to keep him all winter because they believe he can be effective rotation depth. A career 6.18 ERA in 100 big-league games suggests otherwise. But Covey did well as a mop-up man after that gruesome Sunday Night Baseball experience against the Braves.

Seranthony Domínguez, RHP (29) — Fourteen of the 25 runs he allowed last season scored on home runs. All seven homers came on pitches in the zone belt-high or higher and most were in the middle of the zone. Domínguez couldn’t live on the edges with his fastball like he had before. But it’s not outlandish to think it can improve in 2024.

Jeff Hoffman debuted for the Phillies last May and put together the best season of his career. (Kyle Ross / USA Today)

Jeff Hoffman, RHP (31) — He held righties to a .423 OPS in 2023. That’s the third-lowest mark ever for a Phillies pitcher who faced at least 100 right-handed batters in a season. Ahead of him: Seranthony Domínguez (.374 in 2018) and Brad Lidge (.403 in 2008). If Hoffman does it again, he’ll make a lot of money in free agency.

Orion Kerkering, RHP (22) — The slider is an incredible pitch, but he might benefit from better balance in his pitch selection. Kerkering threw sliders 72 percent of the time in the regular season and postseason combined. Everything happened so fast in 2023; that experience will help.



Phillies rookie Orion Kerkering readies for key bullpen role, more tests in 2024

Yunior Marte, RHP (29) — There was a two-month stretch in which Marte pitched as well as any reliever in the Phillies bullpen. But there were too many hanging sliders and not enough strikes for him to stick in a regular role. That makes him useful depth.

Griff McGarry*, RHP (24) — The Phillies rebuilt his delivery after a disastrous end to his season (20 runs and 14 walks in 4 1/3 innings at Triple A). There is optimism about the changes, but no one will know until McGarry pitches in games. This season will determine whether he moves forward as a starter or reliever.

Tyler McKay*, RHP (26) — He’s a 16th-round pick from the 2018 amateur draft but has stuck in the system all this time without overwhelming stuff. His sinker sits 92 mph with a changeup and slider. He profiles as a middle reliever.

Michael Mercado, RHP (24) — His stuff ticked upward in 2023 while he transitioned to a bullpen role in Tampa Bay’s system. His 35.4 percent strikeout rate ranked 11th among every minor-league pitcher with at least 60 innings — and tops among Rays farmhands. The Phillies saw enough to trade for him.

McKinley Moore, RHP (25) — He was one of the camp standouts last spring, then could not throw a strike in his big-league cameo last April. He could help later in 2024 if he harnesses a powerful fastball-slider combo.

Nick Nelson, RHP (28) — Had the Phillies and Astros rematched in the World Series, the Phillies would have had home-field advantage thanks to Nelson’s only appearance — a strong 5 1/3 innings in Game 162. Alas. Nelson is back as rotation depth.

Aaron Nola signed a seven-year, $172 million contract with the Phillies in November. (Dale Zanine / USA Today)

Aaron Nola, RHP (30) — Maybe it’s nothing. But Nola looked more in control of stickier situations during the postseason thanks to increased confidence in his slide step. It is such a tiny detail. But it is something he will incorporate more in 2024.



Why the Phillies, who’ve changed so much, bet big on Aaron Nola, who’s changed so little

Luis F. Ortiz, RHP (28) — Whenever he came up from the minors last season, he threw strikes and handled multi-inning appearances. That’s a decent depth option.

Tyler Phillips*, RHP (26) — He could solidify his place on the rotation depth chart with a solid spring. The Phillies claimed the South Jersey native on waivers in July 2021. He reached Triple A and accumulated 122 2/3 innings in 2023, his first season since Tommy John surgery.

Michael Rucker, RHP (29) — He was designated for assignment by the Chicago Cubs last week and the Phillies jumped the waiver wire by paying a little extra cash to acquire him in a trade. He profiles as bullpen depth; having a minor-league option will work in Rucker’s favor. It hasn’t always clicked for Rucker, despite owning some decent stuff. Maybe a fresh look helps.

José Ruiz*, RHP (29) — He’s the most established player (219 1/3 MLB innings) in camp on a non-roster invite. But, after a July demotion last season, he wasn’t good enough to stick in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ bullpen.

Cristopher Sánchez, LHP (27) — Is it real? The Phillies are betting that it is. Sánchez was an afterthought until late June 2023 and now he’s coming to 2024 camp guaranteed a rotation spot. His changeup evolved into one of the best in baseball for three months.

Nick Snyder*, RHP (28) — He had Tommy John surgery in 2020, then hit 100 mph 11 times while in the majors in 2021. He did not throw a lot of strikes. He missed all of 2023 with an injury. He has thrown a grand total of 143 minor-league innings in seven professional seasons. A lottery ticket.

Gregory Soto, LHP (29) — All of the underlying numbers were strong. Soto posted the lowest walk rate of his career. Opponents hit .208 against him and 53 of his 69 outings were scoreless. He was prone to meltdowns and that created trust issues.

Matt Strahm, LHP (32) — Before 2023, Strahm had gone on the injured list in six consecutive seasons. But he proved to be durable and reliable in various roles with the Phillies. Can they count on 80-something innings again from Strahm?

Ranger Suárez gave the Phillies 125 regular-season innings last year. His career high is 155 1/3. (Ken Blaze / USA Today)

Ranger Suárez, LHP (28) — He will arrive early to camp for the first time in years; visa and injury issues have typically delayed Suárez’s work at the beginning of spring training. The goal: Get to 170 regular-season innings — something Suárez hasn’t done.

Taijuan Walker, RHP (31) — The splitter might be the “it” pitch across the sport in 2024; only two starting pitchers threw more of them than Walker did last season. Hitters slugged a mere .295 against Walker’s splitter. He is probably going to throw it even more this year.

Zack Wheeler, RHP (33) — He found a better secondary mix in 2023; it’s crucial to how Wheeler will evolve into his mid-30s because the fastball zip won’t be there forever. The Phillies want to extend Wheeler’s contract for numerous reasons. Their confidence in him being able to adjust — and be open to different suggestions — is a big one.

(Top photo of Zack Wheeler: Dale Zanine / USA Today)