Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 12/30/11

Yes, it’s still EXTREMELY early and tons of things could (and should) change between now and April 5th, but since we are now under 100 days until the season and there isn’t much else going on at the moment, here’s a look at the Bucs as they currently stand. I started with the rotation. Next up: the bullpen.

Here’s how the ‘pen would probably look if the season started tomorrow:

  • Joel Hanrahan (closer)
  • Evan Meek (setup…?)
  • Jason Grilli
  • Chris Resop
  • Daniel McCutchen
  • Tony Watson
  • Jared Hughes / Chris Leroux / Daniel Moskos / ??

Obviously, Hanrahan is about as good as it gets at closer. The set-up role, though, is very much in the air. Who knows what version of Evan Meek will come into camp? If it’s the All-Star version, that’s great, but All Star Evan was nowhere to be found this year among his injuries. If he struggles again, someone lower on the list will have to step up and take that role (most likely Grilli or Resop).

Neal Huntington has loved to pick up useful bullpen guys off the scrap heap in recent years, but it doesn’t look like there will be much turnover this season. The rest of the current group all performed reasonably well in their roles last year and seem like pretty good options, although Watson being the only sure lefty might be a bit of a concern. Grilli was awesome last year but pitched far better than he ever had before in his career, so counting on another strong season from him is probably a mistake. Resop has his rough stretches but I think he very much belongs in the bullpen, although I wouldn’t want him as my set-up guy. You never know with relievers, but D-Cutch and Watson did enough last year to earn spots on this year’s squad. It’s impossible to predict who will end up with that last spot – I could see any of those three fitting in.

Overall, I don’t think this is a bad bullpen. Relievers (especially relatively young unproven ones) are more unpredictable than any other position, though, so that could change in a hurry. Obviously a lot of it depends on Meek. If he can get back to All-Star form, that sets up a dominant 8th & 9th inning game-shortening duo that will help close out wins and reduce pressure on the other guys. If he can’t, the Bucs will be depending on the likes of Grilli, Resop, and Watson in countless late-game big situations, and I don’t see that ending very well.

Again, Huntington is all about grabbing relievers out of nowhere, some of which have turned out to be pretty useful. That could certainly happen again, but I don’t think upgrading the bullpen needs to be an enormous priority going into the season – the rotation and offense are much more serious concerns.

©2011 Raise the Jolly Roger. All Rights Reserved.

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