(Photo Credit: Jeremy Davis)
With all the uncertainty surrounding the middle part of the Dodgers‘ bullpen heading into the 2017 campaign, there’s a trio of young relievers, Jacob Rhame, Joe Broussard and Ralston Cash, who are on the fringes of the big leagues and ready to get the call at any point in time. Yet hidden in the depths of the system at Double-A Tulsa, there’s another by the name of Josh Sborz, who has both the competitiveness and physical talent to climb the organizational ladder quickly and conceivably receive a promotion before the other three.
Sborz is currently ranked as the 15th best prospect in the Dodgers’ organization by MLB Pipeline, and is fresh off being named the 2016 California League Pitcher of the Year.
In 20 games for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga last year which included 19 starts, the 23-year-old righty went 8-4, registering a 2.66 ERA with 108 strikeouts over 108-1/3 innings of work, eventually earning him a promotion to Tulsa for the stretch run of the regular season.
Sborz was no stranger to fame even before the Cal League. In 2015, he was named MVP of the College World Series for the University of Virginia after tallying three victories and one save in the championship affair. Frequently shifted between both a starter and a reliever during his collegiate career, he threw mainly out of the bullpen for the Cavaliers during his freshman and junior seasons. He was eventually drafted by the Dodgers in the second round of the 2015 draft, and following a brief stint in rookie ball with the Raptors, was successful in Single-A Rancho’s relief corps that same year, recording a 1.50 ERA with 12 strikeouts in an even 12 innings pitched.
Moving forward, the Dodgers currently intend on developing him as a starter, but that notion may change quickly based on the needs of the organization and Sborz’s specific skill set. Typical of a reliever, the 2016 Cal League All-Star features two plus offerings — a fastball which he can crank up to 95 in shorter outings, and a very tight slider with an incredible amount of break. To top things off, his heater has a ton of natural movement somewhat similar to one Kenley Jansen, plus he hides the ball in the delivery of all his pitches, creating an element of deception to opposing batters.
When he does come out of the gate as a starter, however, he does have a few other developmental pitches in his repertoire, as explained in a recent profile by David Hood of True Blue LA.
“Sborz will also show a slower curve that has inconsistent break and will occasionally pop out of hand. Sborz also has a changeup that his behind his two primary offerings and could be ditched if he pitches in relief. Sborz can be effective with his two primary pitches because he can command them both and hitters struggle to pick of the slider coming out of the fastball slot.”
To add to the momentum of all his accolades from his 2015 campaign, the 6’3″ 225 lb. Virginia native recently received a non-roster invite to the big league side of camp at spring training next month in Glendale. There’s no question that this experience will be extremely beneficial in his potentially short path to the majors.
While there may be a considerable amount of talent ahead of him in the organization in terms of starting arms, Sborz certainly has the ability and competitive will to shine and forge his way to the top of the depth chart quickly. Nevertheless, based on the current makeup of both the Triple-A and big league bullpens, Sborz could quite conceivably have a shorter path to success with the Dodgers as a highly valuable reliever in the very near future.