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2019 Phillies in review: Ranger Suarez

Hey, he actually turned out pretty good!

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals - Game One Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

The numbers

48 23 IP, 37 G, 20.5 K%, 5.9 BB%, 3.14 ERA (3.89 FIP), 0.4 fWAR

The good

Well this was kind of unexpected. If your assumptions about the future of Ranger Suarez were grounded in his 2018 performance, you might have a tepid level of enthusiasm for him headed into 2019. He was always a middle of the pack pitching prospect before his promotion. When he did pitch two games, he gave up 16 hits and 12 runs (8 earned) in nine innings. It was inauspicious to say the least. After spring training, he was more or less an afterthought, depth in case of injury to someone in the rotation. Then he was promoted on June 7th and sent to the bullpen. He didn’t start a single game in 2019. And guess what! It worked beautifully.

His first game went poorly (4 IP, 7 H, 4 R), but in the 44 23 innings after that, he was quite effective (2.62 ERA, 36 K, 11 BB). There were some spotty performances here and there (4 runs allowed in one appearance in July, 3 runs in another appearance in August) that affected the final ERA line, but for the most part, he was an unexpectedly effective bullpen piece that didn’t have that many to finish the year. Whether the team meant to move him to the bullpen or simply needed some fresh i.e. not injured, arms there, they happened to strike gold with Suarez as the second lefty out of the ‘pen. Plus - look at that walk rate! But that isn’t the best part about him. Take a look at the comparable pitchers to Suarez based on his Statcast profile.

Mike Soroka
Brett Martin
Jose Alvarez (!)
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Dustin May

Yowza that’s some good company.

The bad

I’m not so sure what would classify as “bad” about Suarez’s season. The worst about it might be that he was effective enough as a reliever, the team just lost another starting pitching depth piece. That was how he came up, that’s what got him on the prospect radar in the first place.

There is always the possibility that he flames out as a reliever as well. He only had an average fastball of 93 miles per hour, so he doesn’t dominate with the fastball as much as you’d like from a reliever, but it worked for him last year.

The future

The Phillies just protected a few left-handed relievers from Rule 5 draft exposure. That means that Suarez’s grip on a position in the bullpen might not be as firm as we all thought it might be. You’d like to think that he’d be granted some benefit of the doubt based on last year’s success, but we are all aware of how volatile pitchers can be, relievers especially. If there were a depth chart for the left-handed relievers on the Phillies current roster, Suarez would fit squarely behind Jose Alvarez and an inch or two ahead of Adam Morgan. The other lefties are going to be charging fast since they’ll want to win a job as well. It’ll be up to Suarez to hold them off.