(Photo Credit: Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)
For those of you keeping a very close eye on the Dodgers‘ expanded roster, you’ll know that the club currently lists a whopping 35 players, and depending on a few classifications that could go either way, 14 of those players could more or less be considered relief pitchers.
As of right now, it looks like the September roster will top out at 36 players when Brett Anderson is activated from the 15-day disabled list to start the series opener against the Rockies on Thursday. Technically, Chris Taylor, who is already on the 40-man roster, could be recalled without any required corresponding move, but the team hasn’t yet shown any indications about utilizing him during the final 11 games.
So what’s the story with the 14-man bullpen? And how will the Dodgers trim the relief corps down to eight or so players when the NLDS begins early next month?
First, we could probably cross Ross Stripling and Julio Urias off the list because both are coming close to their predetermined innings limit for the season. Stripling was our initial choice for the fourth starter/swing man when the roster is trimmed down, but the fact that he’s been throwing in relief lately seems to suggest otherwise. Knowing that both Strip and Urias have apparent limitations would almost assure their absence on the playoff roster, unless the front office has another strategy in mind. Neither has been throwing on a regular basis, at least in game situations, so the chances of them being factored into a postseason spot could be slim.
And we all know that hard-throwing righty Josh Ravin is ineligible to participate in the playoffs, thus any positive mileage the club gets from his arm is considered a bonus.
Our line of thinking right now is that the Dodgers will carry at least an eight-man bullpen into the postseason, and outside of Kenley Jansen, Joe Blanton, and maybe Grant Dayton, we see it as a wide open audition for those respective spots down the stretch of the regular season. In our first rough draft on paper, we had J.P. Howell earning the final relief spot, with Luis Avilan and Josh Fields both on the bubble. Considering the team isn’t getting much length from most of its starters these days, it could be possible that the club decides to carry nine relievers, while conceivably sacrificing an extra body on the bench.
As Adam Liberatore and Louis Coleman are pretty close to being locks in the playoff bullpen, neither has been the same since returning from injury last month. Liberatore has thrown to the tune of a 9.82 ERA and a .946 OPSA in just over seven innings of work since being activated, while Coleman has posted an 8.44 ERA with four walks in 5-1/3 innings.
We haven’t had a look at Alex Wood yet, so it’s probably not safe to draw any concrete conclusions in regards to the lefty as far as the playoffs are concerned. It would be nice to say that he’d be a perfect long man or emergency starter if he was at the top of his game, but until he makes a few appearances, he joins Fields and Avilan on the bubble. If Anderson throws well on Thursday, he could potentially jump into contention for the fourth starter role that we mentioned earlier.
After redeveloping his changeup during a brief minor league stint last month, righty Pedro Baez appears to be a certainty to nail down a playoff roster spot. Since being recalled on September 6, the 26-year-old had struck out 11 batters in 7-1/3 innings thrown, and hasn’t yet surrendered a run.
We really don’t know the exact line of thinking from the front office when looking ahead to the postseason, but it’s definitely safe to say that all homework will be finished and no stones will be left unturned. Quite easily, several spots on the playoff roster could be determined by the prospective opponent in the first round of the NLDS.
As soon as the Dodgers approach the point of being a high mathematical probability to clinch a postseason berth, we’ll put together a detailed list of all our playoff roster projections. Please be sure to check back frequently down the stretch of the regular season for updates or any new developments.