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2021 Player Previews: Ranger Suarez, Ramon Rosso, and Cristopher Sanchez

You’ll probably see at least one of these guys pitch for the Phillies this year!

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Ranger Suarez

Of these three pitchers, Ranger Suarez has the best shot at making the team. While last year was a lost season for Suarez, he was quite good in 2019. In fact, he was good enough that going into the 2020 season, he was in contention for the fifth starter job until he tested positive for COVID-19.

Joe Girardi, nor anyone else with the Phillies, has yet to say much about Ranger Suarez’s role this season, probably because visa issues delayed his arrival to Spring Training and now he’s nursing a minor quad injury. I presume that he’ll be in serious contention for a bullpen spot so long as he can warm up his arm in time, but I there’s a still chance that the Phillies want him to work as a starting pitcher in AAA. At this point, however, Suarez hasn’t been a starter for nearly two years, so I think a permanent move to the bullpen is more likely.

What could go right for Ranger Suarez in 2021?

As far as I’m concerned, Suarez’s terrible numbers in 2020 don’t really mean anything. It’s doubtful that COVID-19 affected his performance, especially since he was never symptomatic, but the month he spent quarantining certainly did. During the summer, Suarez went a month without pitching and didn’t return to a mound until August.

If Suarez returns to his 2019 form, he’ll be a very important member of the bullpen. What was most impressive about Suarez that season was that he was able to hold his own against right-handed batters while absolutely dominating lefties. Now that the three-batter rule is in place, a pitcher like that is more valuable than ever. Over his career, Suarez has terrible numbers against righties, thanks to a couple really bad performances in 2018 and 2020. However, in 2019, Sanchez put up a 4.36 FIP and a 3.88 xFIP against right-handers in 37.1 innings. That’s more than good enough as long as he can continue to get out lefties like he has in the past.

What could go wrong for Ranger Suarez in 2021?

The Phillies have plenty of left-handed bullpen options this year (Jose Alvarado, Jojo Romero, Tony Watson), so Suarez will need to be more than just a LOOGY if he wants to secure a role with the major league club. No matter how good Suarez is against lefties, he won’t be a necessary member of the Phillies bullpen unless he can pitch competently against right-handers as well.

After such a difficult 2020 season, and now a delayed start to his 2021 season too, Suarez could struggle to keep his head above water. It’s almost certain that he’ll see time with the major league club, but he still has minor league options, so he might see himself shuttling back and forth between the Phillies and the Iron Pigs unless he’s pitching well.

Ramon Rosso

There was reason to be optimistic about Ramon Rosso going into the 2020 season. Over that offseason, he had trained at Driveline to add velocity to his fastball. He had previously been throwing in the low-90s, but heading into 2020, his fastball was touching 97 MPH (and this was when he was still exclusively a starting pitcher). At the beginning of Spring Training 2020 (the first one), Rosso impressed Joe Girardi with his newfound velocity, and Girardi mentioned the possibility that Rosso could make the team as a bullpen arm.

Unfortunately, Rosso’s fastball averaged just 93.6 MPH during the 2020 season. He was throwing close to 97 MPH in his first appearance, but as the season went on, his velocity dropped, and he averaged just 92.6 MPH on his fastball in his final game.

What could go right for Ramon Rosso in 2021?

In an ideal world, Ramon Rosso probably stays in AAA for most of the season. Until 2020, he was exclusively a starting pitcher, and he had success this offseason as a starter in the Dominican Winter League. He doesn’t have a path to a starting opportunity in the major leagues, so if he succeeds as a starter it’s going to be in the minors.

However, in a more realistic scenario, Ramon Rosso will be converted into a full-time reliever at some point this season. If he can regain his high velocity and maintain it as the season goes on, he could eventually spend some time with the Phillies bullpen this year.

While his 2020 wasn’t promising, last season was a difficult year for pitchers in general. Many lost velocity on their fastballs, and many had trouble maintaining their velocity as the season went on. I’m willing to believe that his performance last year wasn’t indicative of true talent level, and I’m hopeful that he’ll pitch some valuable innings for the Phillies in 2021.

What could go wrong for Ramon Rosso in 2021?

A 97 MPH fastball is great, but it doesn’t mean very much if a pitcher can’t throw it consistently. That’s why 2021 will be a big test for Rosso. There’s no more excuses this year. Does he have the velocity (and the ability to maintain that velocity over a full season) that’s necessary to make him a valuable major league pitcher? If not, Ramon Rosso is definitely a candidate to be DFA’d as the Phillies make some in-season acquisitions.

Cristopher Sanchez

The Phillies added Sanchez to their forty-man roster immediately after they acquired him because they had no choice – he was Rule 5 eligible, and he almost surely would have been selected in the draft. However, he wasn’t really major league yet; going into the 2020 season he was only 23 years old and had only thrown 1.1 innings above A+ ball. Sanchez didn’t pitch for the Phillies in 2020, even though he was training at the alternate site and the bullpen was desperate for any help they could get. Clearly, the Phillies really don’t view Sanchez as a viable major league pitcher quite yet.

What could go right for Cristopher Sanchez in 2021?

Even in a best case scenario for Sanchez, he still probably doesn’t make the major league team. Prospect guru Eric Longenhagen believes that Sanchez is likely to remain a starter for the next few seasons before eventually transitioning to the bullpen. Even if Sanchez pitches very well as a starter in the minors, it’s hard to imagine him making a spot start for the Phillies with so many other guys ahead of him on the depth chart. If the Phillies do decide to convert him into a reliever this season, it probably means that things aren’t going very well for the major league bullpen.

What could go wrong for Cristopher Sanchez in 2021?

It’s quite unlikely, but Cristopher Sanchez could be DFA’d if he really struggles this season. The Phillies wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t want to keep him, but the team is in a bit of a roster crunch right now. They’ll need to clear spots if they want to add Brandon Kintzler, Tony Watson, Hector Rondón or any of the other NRIs to the team. They’ll also need to clear spots as they add more players throughout the season. Sanchez is probably safe through the first round of cuts, but as the season goes on, he’ll need to be pitching well in order to keep his roster spot.