After a one game cup of coffee wit the Phils in 2014, Neris pitched 32 and 79 games in the next two seasons. He took a big step forward last year.
In those 79 games, Neris whiffed 11.4 batters per nine innings. That's impressive. He had a 2.58 ERA, a 3.30 FIP and a 1.108 WHIP. That's really impressive. Could he be even better in 2017?
This is the seventeenth in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. Our previous post looked at bounceback candidate Jeanmar Gomez. This post looks at Hector Neris' chance to establish himself as a lights out reliever.
Opposing players have just a .289 career on-base percentage against Neris. They slug just .380.
With his brutal stuff, the only thing standing in his way is getting ahead of batters. Neris got first pitch strikes on just 52 percent of batters the past two years. The MLB average is around 60 percent.
If Neris could get his first pitch strikes up above 55 percent, batters would be in trouble.
It seems so obvious, but pitching ahead really is a key to success. It gives you more options down the road in the at-bat. It also forces batters to consider swinging earlier in the count. Then a pitcher can use some of his off-speed stuff to get them out early on.
Neris is a workhorse. Only two National League pitchers took the mound more times than he did last year.
With his durability and stuff, he could be one of the ten best relievers in the league. The Phillies hope he takes that step this year.