As the off-season continues on, the bullpen remains a key area of concern for fans, and likely for President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman.
The problem with relief pitchers is their volatility. Signing a big name reliever to a large contract doesn’t guarantee a successful bullpen. While I do believe they should make every attempt to sign Adam Ottavino, they’ve already made what is probably their main, and possibly only, major league signing for the bullpen in Joe Kelly. You should expect the team to sign some players to minor league deals for depth and spring training competition. So with that being said, let’s take a look at who they currently have on their 40-man roster. The Dodgers usually carry 8 relievers on their regular season roster so that is the format I will use.
The Bullpen Locks
Barring an injury, these guys will be on the team opening day.
Coming off the worst season of his career and an off-season heart procedure, Jansen still has the closer job. The Dodgers need Jansen to be better in 2019. Hopefully his issues are behind him.
Kelly signed to a 3 year, $25 million dollar deal, Kelly is expected to be a multi-inning, high leverage reliever for the team, much like Josh Hader, Andrew Miller, and Chad Green are for their respective teams. The Dodgers are hoping a mechanical adjustment and a change in his pitch sequencing should help him maintain his elite postseason production.
The most disliked Dodger, Fan Favorite Pedro Baez went from zero to hero for the Dodgers in 2018. After a rough 1st half of the season, he ended up establishing himself as the top setup man for Jansen. Membership for the Official Pedro Baez Fan Club took off as Baez pitched his way into our hearts. Expect him to be a bridge to the 9th inning once again in 2019. If you are interested in joining the fan club, contact @PedroBaezFanClb on Twitter.
What should I wear today…hmmm… pic.twitter.com/ZcRQayZwzq
— Pedro Baez Fan Club (@PedroBaezFanClb) September 1, 2018
Likely Hold A Spot
These guys will likely fill out 4 of the final 5 bullpen spots.
When the Dodgers acquired Floro, not many people knew about him but he was quietly having a stellar season for the Cincinnati Reds. He continued that success for the Dodgers as he was one of the most productive relievers in baseball since the day they acquired him. Floro should continue to be a key member of the bullpen moving forward.
The big acquisition of the 2017/18 off-season, Alexander put up solid but disappointing numbers. He will likely get every chance to be the go-t0-lefty out of the pen as the Dodgers hope for a rebound season. If he doesn’t reclaim his role as the high leverage lefty reliever, he will likely be their lefty one out guy and ground ball specialist.
Ferguson became one of the Dodgers best relievers at the end of the 2018 season. He was randomly left off the World Series roster but he should be back in the pen for 2019. He could also be a starting pitcher but with only 2 good pitches and previous success as a reliever, he is probably most valuable to the team as a reliever.
Stripling was an all-star starting pitcher and savior to the rotation last season. He ended up struggling down the stretch, possibly from fatigue, and was placed back in the bullpen. Due to the depth the Dodgers have in their rotation, he should be back in the bullpen for 2019, barring an injury to one of their top 5 starters. He should fill the role of long-reliever and spot starter for the team.
A Good Chance To Make It
One of these guys should take the final spot. The other 2 would be the first ones called up when the Dodgers need a reliever.
When Cingrani was acquired from the Reds in 2017, he became one of Dave Roberts’ top weapons out of the pen. In 2018, he struggled to stay on the field and it led to struggles on the field. He still posted a fantastic 31.6% K-BB% so there is reason to believe he can be effective once again. If Cingrani can stay on the field, he could become one of their top relievers again. I’d expect him to open the season on the disabled list or shaking off the rust in AAA.
Fields is an unspectacular and undervalued reliever. He threw 41 innings with a 2.20 ERA and 3.62 FIP last year for the Dodgers. While he isn’t going to become one of their best relievers, he doesn’t walk many hitters, he can get a strikeout, and he limits homers. Fields should pitch a decent amount of innings for the team once again.
In 2018, Chargois became the Dodgers right-handed specialist. The problem is most teams don’t actually carry one of those. He’s a good reliever to have in the organization but his struggles versus left handed hitters will limit his usage. He could easily fall into the depth category but he’s also probably ahead of the next 3 guys too.
These guys should pitch at some point in the season if they remain on the 40-man roster in the off-season.
Back in 2015, Garcia looked like he had a good future with the team. Since that season, he has thrown a total of 30.2 innings for the team. 22.1 of those innings came last year where he posted a 5.64 ERA and 6.34 FIP. The Dodgers must believe he can regain his form as he still possess the 23rd highest average spin rate in baseball.
McCreery was acquired from the Atlanta Braves this off-season. He’s a 26 year old left-hander who had the 17th highest average spin rate last year, although it was a small sample. He has only pitched 1 inning in the major leagues. Fangraphs ranks his fastball and slider with 60 potential grades on the 20-80 scale. He will probably see a few innings for the Dodgers this season.
Sborz was the Dodgers Competitive Balance Round B pick (74th overall) in the 2015 MLB Draft. He was added to the 40-man roster this off-season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Sborz has some upside but you shouldn’t count on a big impact this year. He will see some time in the majors this year.
Stewart can fit into my next category but he really isn’t a starter anymore. He’s also not really a reliever either. He might see a few innings next year but there’s probably a better chance he gets designated for assignment before the season starts.
Schultz was just acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday. He’s a 27 year old who made his debut last season. He has a high spin, high velocity fastball to go along with a slider and curveball. He strikes a lot of hitters out but he also struggles with control. Through his 30.1 major league innings, he has struck out 10.38 per 9 and walked 5.04 per 9. His minor league track record isn’t much different. Perhaps the Dodgers believe an adjustment with his mechanics can help him gain some control. Unless he makes a serious change, don’t expect him to be much more than AAA depth.
Starters Who Can Relieve
Don’t expect them in the bullpen any time soon but they are a potential option.
Maeda spent a lot of time in the bullpen during 2018 but expect him to open 2019 in the rotation. There is a good chance he will be moved back to the bullpen at some point in the season.
Santana is one of the Dodgers top prospects. He made his debut last season in Colorado before getting injured. He will probably serve as rotation depth in AAA but it wouldn’t be that surprising to see them use him out of the bullpen at some point.
In 2018, Urias returned from a major shoulder surgery and earned a spot on the postseason roster. While Urias could pitch out of the bullpen again at some point, their plan seems to be to use him as a stater. He will likely start the year in AAA but he will make an impact for the team. He should pitch about 150 innings for the Dodgers in 2019 with most coming in a starting role.
Once one of the team’s top prospects, Alvarez hasn’t developed like the team hoped. Like Sborz, he was added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this off-season. Alvarez might make his debut this year simply because he’s on the 40-man. Don’t expect much from him this year.
Gonsolin isn’t currently on the 40-man roster but really made a name for himself in 2017. He became one of the team’s top 10 prospects and became a favorite of a few prospect bloggers. While he hasn’t pitched past AA yet, he could rise through the system rather quickly now. He is more likely to make his debut as a starting pitcher but the team might want to get his talent on the roster.
Projected Opening Day Bullpen And Roles
Kenley Jansen – Closer
Joe Kelly – Multi-inning, high leverage, setup
Pedro Baez – Setup
Caleb Ferguson – Lefty Setup
Dylan Floro – Middle reliever, Right-handed ground ball specialist
Scott Alexander – Lefty specialist, Lefty ground ball specialist.
Josh Fields – Middle reliever
Ross Stripling – Long reliever, Spot Starter
[button link=”https://dodgersnation.com/sorting-out-the-dodgers-starting-pitching-surplus/2019/01/02/” type=”big” color=”red”] Sorting Out The Dodgers’ Starting Pitching Surplus[/button]