This is going to be one of those player previews that requires a stretch of the imagination. It’s fair to assume that neither of these players will be on the roster when the calendar turns September. Hale because he has been let go to free up a roster spot, Falter because...well, he just was depth in case of emergency anyway.
But what if they were successful this year?
What could go right in 2021
Remember the bullpen last year?
David Hale was a part of that bullpen. He didn’t shine or stick out like a sore
Workman thumb. He was just kind of that guy who was not quite dependable, but not quite a tire fire either. His average LI (leverage index) for his appearances last year was 0.70, meaning the team didn’t put him in those high pressure spots. He gave the team 0.3 bWAR, but even then, it just wasn’t anything to get excited about.
And you know what? That’s not a bad thing at all.
In fact, that might be the best case scenario for Hale this season. Every team need that guy who can mop up a few innings here and there. The score is 7-2 in the eighth inning and rather than run out someone that is normally used in high leverage situations, the guy who can keep the score close(ish) is brought in, thus preserving the arms of the bullpen while also not letting the score get too out of hand. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’d argue there is value in that kind of a reliever. If Hale can provide the team with 50-60 innings of an ERA around 3.80, finding a way to scratch out somewhere between 0.7-1.5 WAR, that is a successful season.
With Falter, I’m going to point out this exchange from Fangraphs between Eric Longenhagen, their lead prospect guy, and Kevin Goldstein, former Astros employee and well-known prospect guy in his own right.
EL: A few years ago on The Phillies list I wrote that they had so many interesting sleeper arms in the 35+ FV tier (wild relievers with huge stuff, deception arms, guys with unique underlying pitch characteristics) that it was likely one or two of them would eventually break out, and it sounds like Bailey Falter did in the Fall. His 2019 ended with an elbow strain but still there were rumors teams kicked the tires on him prior to the 2019 Rule 5 Draft. He was back for 2020 instructs and his velocity was up (89-92, touch 94 in 2019, 93-95 in 2020) and Philly was compelled to 40-man him. Now he’s a hard-throwing lefty with a plus changeup.
KG: Falter is a nice pick by Eric if the velo bump holds up. If not, he’s a guy with a fringy fastball depending on deception and command.
If that’s not enough to get you excited about a fringey prospect, I’m not sure what is. While that isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for Falter to remain a part of the rotation’s plans, there is something there that can become a left-handed weapon out of the bullpen, one that uses a good changeup to compliment a hard fastball. And left-handers that throw mid 90s do not lack for opportunities too often.
What could go wrong in 2021
It’s not difficult to figure out what could go wrong. Hale is probably the pitcher most in trouble if the team needs to make a move. He was never considered much more than a mop-up guy as it is, and if the team needs to improve their roster at some point during the season, he is the logical candidate to go. The simple reason is that there are better options available to the team ahead of him. He’s probably three or four rough appearances away from a DFA crossing his path.
With regards to Bailey, he just might...falter...in the minor leagues (I’m so sorry, Bailey). As someone who isn’t a major prospect in the first place, a lot needs to go right in order for him to be an effective major leaguer as it is. Judging from many of the scouting reports out there, he’s going to need a lot to break right, the odds of which happening seem low.