Well that’s not how you want to make your debut, is it?
Oof, the first pitch Connor Brogdon ever threw in the majors was hit into the stands. Luckily for him his debut got bett—
Then again, maybe not.
Brogdon’s first three games in the majors left him with an ERA at 16.88. He struck out three, walked three and allowed five runs, all earned, in 2 1⁄3 innings. It’s not the best ways to begin your major league career. He was sent down to the alternate site to work on things as the Phillies bullpen carousel continued to turn.
Then something happened.
Brogdon came back and showed improvement.
That pitch right there was Brogdon’s fastest recorded pitch of the 2020 season. Is it a strike? Don’t get me off track. The point here is that something happened to Brogdon, something that saw him gain velocity and leaves him poised to be a reliable arm in the bullpen while also making him one of the bigger success stories for the team’s development program.
What could go right in 2021
Obviously, the biggest thing that could go right for Brogdon would be maintaining that velocity spike he found in between stints in the majors.
The team identified a way that Brogdon would be able to gain some velocity on his middling fastball and all of a sudden it became a weapon. By adding the velocity to his fastball, he was then able to gain some swing and miss to his changeup as well as his fastball. In other words, instead of being a deer in headlights and going to the mound without swing and miss stuff, the team gave him some.
So, let’s stop right here and see what that means.
We have to first credit Brogdon with improving himself to the point where he is a major league reliever with stuff that can help him be a real success story for this team. He’s made himself into being someone Joe Girardi can trust in late innings as opposed to a mop up guy with middling stuff that only comes in to preserve the arms of better relievers. It’s not as if this came out of nowhere, since Matt Winkelman saw that there was good stuff coming.
After a transition year in 2018, the 2019 season saw Brogdon pitch full time as a reliever. He is a tall lanky righty who gets good extension on his pitches, especially his fastball, which has sat firmly 93 to 95, touching 96 out of the bullpen. His best secondary pitch is his changeup, but he does have a breaking ball as well. Brogdon’s plus control helps his whole arsenal play up. He should be ready to contribute to the major league bullpen in 2020, where he profiles as a 7th inning arm more than a closer.
But let’s also credit the Phillies. They have had issues with creating reliable relievers of late, forcing them into the free agency and trade markets with mixed results. Other teams seem to be capable of creating relievers from almost out of nowhere, leaving the Phillies, developmentally at least, behind. Brogdon continuing his success from the end of 2020 and even building on it will be a good lesson for how the team can get better and how they can point to someone that has given them results.
What could go wrong in 2021
Well, obviously, what could wrong is that none of it sticks.
Phillies history is littered with young relievers that just never made it. The list could go on and on were we to try and give it here, but it always seems that the team is just not able to create good, young relievers like other teams can. Even with Brogdon flashing at the end of the year, the fear is that it is something he will not be able to hold on to. Perhaps he can’t hold his velocity. Perhaps once the league gets used to seeing him, that the scouting reports get around, that he’ll be less effective.
Now, we’re not looking at a prime Mariano Rivera here. No one is going to confuse Brogdon with a lockdown closer of that kind of magnitude. But if he is able to be a reliable, capable 7th inning reliever who can get himself and others out of jams with regularity, the team has really done a nice job helping him create that role for himself. Kudos would be due all around.