clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 season preview: relief prospects to watch

There ain’t much, but hey, they’ll probably show up

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve heard the saying “there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect” before in your fandom life. TINSTAAP, for the acronym loving crowd. Relief prospects aren’t really someone you draft thinking you’ll plug them right into a bullpen. Relief prospects are usually players that don’t have enough control for the rotation, or enough good pitches for the rotation. The Phillies have some of these players, some that’ll make a play this year in the big leagues, others that might be a few years away. With the way teams cycle through relievers (and their accompanying roster spots), it’s likely you’ll find one of these guys in pinstripes this year.

All of the scouting reports listed are from Matt Winkelman’s invaluable resource at

You’ll see him at some point: Andrew Baker

Ah, the gift of being able to throw 100.

Once an unheard of mile marker on a pitcher’s journey to dominance, it’s almost like a starting point for anyone who wants to get into the major leagues right now. If someone isn’t throwing in the mid to high 90’s yet, it’s likely he’ll spend some time in the offseason working out at one of the many pitching labs trying will those extra few miles an hour into his pitching arm.

It isn’t just the numbers with Baker, he backs it up with elite stuff. His fastball was sitting 97-99, touching up to 101, by the end of the year. It isn’t quite at the elite characteristics of Painter and McGarry, but has very good ride. His only secondary these days is a plus power curveball that sits 83-88. He has some definite similarities to Ken Giles, but his fastball is a bit more analytically friendly and his curveball is not quite where Giles’ slider was when he came up. The overall outcome of Baker’s development is not really a surprise in that it was likely to be a light switch going on rather than a linear growth. The surprise is that it happened so quickly.

That Baker has come along so well means that he should get a shot at some point if the team is in dire straits in their bullpen. Roster construction-wise, they’ll probably cycle through some of the more “easily droppable” arms they’ve stockpiled, but if Baker is pitching well wherever he is assigned to, the team probably wouldn’t hold him back if they feel he can be a weapon in the bullpen.

Ahoy!: Noah Song

The story is quite incredible. You’ve read about it a lot this offseason since it feels like the Phillies somehow hoodwinked another club into getting a top relief pitching prospect for basically no cost. With Song being hurt right now, the timeline to push him forward as a relief option can be relaxed a bit, which is advantageous to the Phillies.

What they have in Song isn’t going to make or break their 2023 season, but it will be important to their future. With the team not afraid to spend money in areas to improve the team, it’s still important that they develop players making the major league minimum. Most of the time, that can happen in the bullpen, which contains some of the more volatile parts of a roster. Should the team be able to continually churn out some players that can be real contributors, it can only help them spend in other areas.

That’s one of the reasons why they targeted Song in the first place. He was outstanding while in college, but his military commitment meant the Red Sox had to make a decision. If that decision turns out to be the wrong one for them, the Phillies might have gotten themselves a high quality arm for very little money. Of course, Song has to pitch so getting him back to health is the utmost concern right now. You also haven’t heard much about how he actually was throwing when he did pitch. So, while it’ll be interesting to see what Song can do as his rehab progresses.

Control yourself: Francisco Morales

Morales had a fun year last year, didn’t he?

He went from not being able to throw strikes early in the year to throwing some strikes with consistency to making the major leagues, but still not throwing strikes to getting demoted back to the minors to getting designated for assignment. It was quite the journey for a pitcher who many thought had a shot at dominating in the majors as a reliever with two pitches that looked major league in quality. Now that there isn’t a clock counting down the time the team has until they make a decision, perhaps Morales can just focus on making sure he can throw strikes. His stuff still has some believers in the prospecting world, but he just can’t put it over the plate. Will he be called up? Let’s put it this way: if he is, something has gone truly awry.

I don’t know if he’ll make it, but I sure like him: Andrew Schultz

I’m a simple man. I like high octane pitchers and pitchers who are funky. You might scoff at someone like Nestor Cortes, but me, that’s my jam.

I want to see weird.

I want to see funky.

Schultz still has an ultra short throwing motion, from which he was sitting 97-99, touch 100 late in the season and matching that with a short hard slider in low 90s. Control continues to be a problem for Schultz, and he just loses the zone for periods at a time. Given his long history of not consistently throwing strikes, it is unlikely he ever has better than below average control. He also had issues with left-handed batters who do get a good look at the ball out of his hand. All of that means that the ceiling for Schultz is probably not an elite high leverage arm, and is more a 6th/7th inning arm that can look dominant at times, but ultimately is too unreliable for late innings.

That’s right up my alley, baby.

While this video is four years old, the point still comes across.

101 is 101, not matter where it ends up. Schultz is likely another guy that probably doesn’t see time in the majors this year, but if he does, he at least has the octane to hang for a while. The control? Eh....