So with the acquisition of Craig Kimbrel, it looks like the Dodgers have a very loaded bullpen. We would think that would be a bullpen that will carry them through the season. However, we know that injuries happen and some of the pitchers do not necessarily reach expectations. The big example from last season was Victor Gonzalez. Fortunately, Victor looks ready to rebound.
Last year, the Dodgers were able to reach deep into the farm system for more options that most fans had not heard of, like Justin Bruihl and Darien Nunez. Both started the season in Double-A, with the Tulsa Drillers. Bruihl was solid for Los Angeles and was on the NLDS playoff roster.
So with that, let’s dive into some Double-A candidates that could sneak onto the major league roster at some point.
One of the pitchers the Dodgers used a bit in Spring Training was Guillermo Zuniga. He currently tops out at around 97 MPH but he told me there might be more as has thrown harder in the bullpen. He also uses a slider and a changeup. The Dodgers used him in four exhibition games this Spring Training including using him in the Freeway Series.
The 2 outs recorded by Guillermo Zuniga, one of the international prospects signed from the Braves after their mess, included a 3-pitch strikeout. Potentially relevant reliever. pic.twitter.com/y8C0FWpfEq
— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) March 22, 2022
At Dodgers 2080 wrote about Zack Plunkett a few weeks ago and had an interview with him also. Plunkett is a converted catcher who pitched a total of 1 inning in college yet has become a pitcher with the Dodgers. His fastball tops out at 97 MPH that he throws, along with a slider and a splitter. He has risen pretty quickly through the system and could continue his rapid pace.
Mike Washington is another right-handed prospect that was at AA Tulsa last year, also. The Dodgers seemed to want to get an extra look at him in Spring Training of 2022. He ended up making five appearances for the Dodgers. Washington is another player we wrote about in 2020. The Drillers used Washington as a multi-inning reliever many times in 2021 and that is something unique for a Dodgers bullpen arm. To be honest, I believed that if the Rule 5 Draft did occur in 2022 that Washington would have been picked up by another team.
Mark Washington's 2 Ks from his clutch, 3.0 scoreless, hitless innings for Tulsa. He picked up his 5th win, and lowered his team-leading ERA to 2.13 (min 20 IP, Washington is one of only 5 Drillers with 50+ IP) pic.twitter.com/I8wYJhBfVU
— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) August 21, 2021
I first saw Austin Drury at Rancho Cucamonga in 2019 he just kept making his way through striking guys out. His three-pitch mix consists of a fastball (topping out at 95), changeup, and slider. He appeared in some spring training games for the Dodgers and looks and he looks like he can get batters out at any level. Drury is one of the few lefties in this article so that might give him an edge.
Austin Drury's 5 Ks from his 3.1 hitless, scoreless innings for Tulsa, the last K was Pipeline #5 overall Julio Rodriguez, and, well enjoy ??
Also, it was nice to see some velo on the chyron – Drury was 92-93 t95 pic.twitter.com/izX9jKEArK
— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) July 1, 2021
Alec Gamboa is the only other lefty in this article. We also wrote about him in 2020 as another under-the-radar prospect. In 2021, he also had eleven starts but started 2022 in the bullpen. Along with both a two and four-seam fastball (95+ MPH) he throws a slider and a changeup. If the Dodgers keep him as a reliever it actually will give him a chance to move up faster.
Alec Gamboa's 4 Ks from his 2.0 scoreless innings for Great Lakes. In July and August combined, Gamboa has an ERA of 1.76. pic.twitter.com/YP1J3ucEdm
— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) August 22, 2021
The Drillers seem to have installed Aaron Ochsenbein as their closer. He was drafted by the Dodgers in 2019 in the 6th round and was moved quickly through three levels. After missing the 2020 season (like most minor leaguers) he began 2021 at Double-A and stayed there for the whole season. He is also starting 2022 with Tulsa but he should be in Triple-A soon. From what I can garner he throws a fastball, a slurve, and was working on a splitter.
Aaron Ochsenbein pitched a perfect 9th, striking out the side on 12 pitches to pick up the save for Tulsa pic.twitter.com/9tGDBTdUBE
— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) April 9, 2022
Another returning Driller is Justin Hagenman, and he’s another candidate to be promoted quickly. The fastball/slider combination looks devastating (see below). He seems to also get some save opportunities at Double-A (along with Ochsenbein) and seems to be ready to be promoted to Triple-A soon.
Justin Hagenman FB/SL overlay. Hagenman had a strong outing tonight, tossing 2.1 no hit innings with 4 Ks. pic.twitter.com/XjduznXNof
— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) September 3, 2021
Although Cameron Gibbens is not on a roster yet, he did finish last season in Double-A. He started out the 2021 season with the Low-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and dominated, striking out over two batters per inning. This earned him a quick promotion to Great Lakes and then soon promoted up to Tulsa. Like Mark Washington, Gibbens is very tall. However, his main pitch is a high fastball. I spoke with Gibbens at Spring Training he is starting to work on another pitch. Taking that next step will only make him a candidate to move up even faster.
Cameron Gibbens' 4 Ks from his perfect 2.0 IP debut for AA Tulsa. Ascending from Low A to AA in a single minor league season is always noteworthy, but doing so in a shortened season with 7 weeks to go yet, it certainly stands out. Congrats on the successful AA debut, Cameron! pic.twitter.com/iJspnphqPY
— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) August 4, 2021
Robertson floods the strike zone with his mid-90s fastball, power slider and firm changeup and could join the Dodgers bullpen in 2022. – Baseball America
This is a bold prediction from Baseball America, but I like it. I’m really excited to watch Nick Robertson pitch at Tulsa. I first saw him at Spring Training in 2020 and to see him quickly rise into the prospect rankings. He is the only one in this article that I have seen make a dent in the top 30 rankings.
If you were like me and had no idea who Nick Robertson was before tonight, he's the 2019 7th round pick of the Dodgers. He hasn't played above Rookie-ball yet, but safe to say that will change this season. pic.twitter.com/FgkB4ilapj
— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) March 3, 2021
If you look at the Tulsa Drillers roster, former hot prospect Yadier Alvarez is on the roster but is on the Restricted List. He is the ultimate wild card but I do not think he is close. This article is focused on who is close and we have a long list that might be ready for the Dodgers in 2022.
Just like any other baseball season, the Dodgers will end up pulling up people onto the Major League roster that you may not have heard of before. When it comes to relievers it is best to ignore the prospect lists and who is popular. The Dodgers have their own ways of figuring out what relievers can help them at the major league level. As the season goes on, some of the current bullpen arms might get hurt or is not effective. This will open a spot or two for the nine pitchers featured in this article.
Last season Darien Nunez and Justin Bruihl took this path. Who do you think will take that same path in 2022? If I had to make a call, the first one would be either Mark Washington or Guillermo Zuniga.