Zach Phillips, relief pitcher

Is he a candidate for a major-league bullpen job? Is he limited to the left-handed spot relief role, or could he be successful in a bigger role?

Although Phillips’ basic stats — an ERA of 3.49 as a relief pitcher in AAA — indicate that he could handle a relief role, the deeper you look the less there is to like. Phillips has given up more than one hit per inning pitched — 168 hits, 162 2/3 innings in AAA — and also walks 4.4 batters per nine innings. He strikes out only 7.2 batters per nine innings. Even though Phillips keeps the ball in the park — 31 home runs in 750 career minor league innings — it’s hard for a relief pitcher, who often must come in with runners on base, to be successful with those H/IP, K/IP, and K/BB ratios.

How about as a left-handed spot relief pitcher?

The problem with that is, at least in 2012, Phillips was substantially more effective against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. He gave up 25 hits and 8 walks to left-handed batters while retiring 61; he gave up 31 hits and 14 walks to right-handed batters while retiring 101. The only home run he allowed was hit by a left-handed batter. So while Phillips may get a chance as a left-handed spot reliever, the chances are good that he won’t be very good at it.

Phillips was declared a free agent after the 2012 season and signed a minor-league contract with the Marlins’ organization. At least he should have an opportunity.

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