(Photo Credit: David Minton/DRC)
While the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ bullpen has already fallen upon frequent scrutiny over the course of the 2016 campaign, many fans can’t help but take a quick peek at the rosters of the minor league affiliates to see just what’s available on the farm.
At first glance, the relief corps doesn’t seem nearly as talented as the future starting pitching group, however, with a little persistent digging, it’s not difficult to find a handful of blossoming stars who may be on the fringe of making their respective debuts in the bigs.
With the halfway point of the season rapidly approaching, the brain trust at TBPC decided to take a stab a ranking the best relief prospects in the Dodgers’ organization, with the most influential criteria being which reliever is the most likely to appear on the big league squad the soonest.
(These opinions are mostly subjective and original, and aren’t sanctioned or endorsed by any group or entity other than us here at this site.)
#5 — Jacob Rhame
(Photo Credit: David Minton/DRC)
Last season, Jacob Rhame started out with High-A Rancho Cucamonga, but was quickly promoted to the Double-A Tulsa bullpen after five shutout appearances for the Quakes. His combined numbers for 2015 resulted in 57 innings of work with a 2.68 ERA, 0.982 WHIP and a 11.1 K/9.
Having earned a non-roster invite to the 2016 big league spring training camp, the 23-year-old righty began the regular season at Triple-A Oklahoma City where he has shown flashes of top-notch effectiveness. So far this year, Rhame has thrown 27 innings over 23 games, and has compiled a 2.96 ERA with 33 strikeouts, while being a perfect three-for-three in save opportunities.
Rhame’s strongest pitch is his four-seam fastball which sits at 95-98 MPH and peaks at 100 MPH. He equally mixes a cutter in the low 90s that offers plenty of movement. He also throws a really hard slider, which is recognized more for its velocity than break. He’s currently working on a change-up as a weapon used primarily against left-handed hitters.
TBPC profiled Rhame back in February.
#4 — Caleb Dirks
(Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Like Rhame, the early success of right-handed pitching prospect Caleb Dirks also earned him a non-roster invite to spring training this year in Glendale.
Last season for Rancho, the 22-year-old appeared in 10 innings over nine games, recording a 0.90 ERA and a .998 WHIP while ringing up 18 strikeouts and allowing just one earned run. He closed out the season by posting a 1.35 ERA, a .975 WHIP, and fanning 17 batters in just under 14 innings of work in Tulsa.
In 2016 for the Drillers, Dirks has appeared in 21 games over 24 innings, with a 1.82 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP with 24 strikeouts.
Dirks’ close friend and collegiate teammate, Trevor Oaks, was chosen by the Dodgers in the seventh round of the 2014 draft and is a prominent member of the Tulsa starting rotation.
Dirks doesn’t throw as hard as Rhame, but can still dial up his heater to about 94 MPH consistently. He compliments his fastball with a solid average slider and changeup. He patterns all his pitches off his fastball, and throws everything from the same arm slot. He uses his 6’4″, 225 lb. frame to create a very unorthodox, yet deceptive delivery, employing a hop-like motion as he pushes off the rubber. He keeps the ball hidden until the very last moment of the release point.
TBPC profiled Dirks back in March.
#3 — Grant Dayton
(Photo Credit: dodgersnation.com)
Proving to be much more valuable than an exclusive LOOGY, Grant Dayton has impressed early, especially with his ability to miss bats.
Dayton was acquired from the Marlins in exchange for southpaw pitcher Chris Reed last summer. After appearing in 12 games for Tulsa, Dayton was promoted to OKC where he has put together a 1.84 ERA and a 15.3 K/9 in just over 14 innings of work.
The 28-year-old isn’t a flamethrower, as he features a fastball that sits in the low-90s, but it is illusive and has plenty of movement. His changeup is perhaps his best offspeed weapon, and he uses it often as his out pitch or when behind in the count.
Dayton was drafted in the 11th round by the Marlins in 2010.
#2 — Scott Griggs
(Photo Credit: Bill Mitchell)
Scott Griggs is probably the biggest unknown on this list, but has undoubtedly put up the best numbers among all relievers in the Dodgers’ organization this year.
Chosen by the Dodgers in the eighth round of the 2012 draft, the 25-year-old Griggs is considered a late bloomer due to early shoulder issues and missing almost two years after having labrum surgery in 2013.
A 6-foot-2 right-hander, he has been known to be inconsistent with his command, but his raw stuff is very impressive and has been showing steady control as of late. Griggs’ fastball tops out at 96 mph, sitting in the low-to-mid 90s, and he spins off an excellent curveball and slider.
He began the season with Rancho, making 12 appearances and recording seven saves, while tallying a 0.73 ERA, a 0.41 WHIP and a .073 opposition batting average. Since being promoted to Tulsa, he’s thrown in seven games, having yet to surrender an earned run, while posting a 0.43 WHIP and a 2.50 ground ball rate.
If Griggs continues to impress at Tulsa, look for him to be promoted to OKC very quickly.
#1 — Frankie Montas
(Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Frankie Montas was acquired in three-team deal with the Reds and White Sox in December that also netted the Dodgers second baseman Micah Johnson and outfielder Trayce Thompson. Third baseman Todd Frazier landed in Chicago, while Los Angeles sent infielder Jose Peraza, infielder Brandon Dixon and outfielder Scott Schebler to Cincinnati.
A short time after the trade, the 23-year-old flamethrower suffered a complicated stress reaction that required rib resection surgery to remove his first right rib. The procedure was performed by Dr. Greg Pearl in February, the same physician who removed a rib from former Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett early in 2013.
Although president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman indicated back in December that he’s intrigued more by Montas’ potential as a starter, the current state of the Dodgers’ bullpen may be a higher priority in determining exactly where he fits in on the roster. Now at the tail-end of his rehab assignment, Montas may be poised for an appearance on the big league club very soon.
MLB Pipeline ranks Montas as the Dodgers’ fifth best prospect, and began discussing his velocity almost immediately in the first few sentences of their scouting report.
“One of the hardest-throwing starters in the game, Montas maintains mid-90s heat into the late innings and can reach back for 102 MPH. His fastball has some sinking and cutting action but also can straighten out when he overthrows it. His mid-80s slider also can overpower hitters, though it too flattens out at times,” the commentary revealed.
With the current Dodgers bullpen almost at a state of disarray, coupled with a favorable chance that current closer Kenley Jansen doesn’t return next season, look for one or more of the aforementioned names to emerge among the top relievers in the organization sometime soon, and perhaps make an appearance for the Dodgers in the very near future.