With the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline almost at the two-week mark, much of the recent chatter in the Dodgers‘ camp has been about potentially acquiring help for the bullpen. Plenty of prospective additions have been tossed around the baseball blogosphere thus far, however, if the availability of some of the better relievers eventually dissipates, there may be a few options that the club could decide to utilize from within. And while much of the speculation has suggested the need for a left-handed pitcher, it just might be one of the righty kids on the farm who makes the biggest difference in the end.
Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times began some interesting rumblings on Thursday, suggesting that Los Angeles may decide to shift hard-throwing righty Walker Buehler to a relief role to perhaps contribute to the big league squad during the stretch run of the 2017 campaign.
During the spring months, Buehler made himself known to fans during Cactus League play, and began the regular season at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, where he posted a 1.10 ERA over five starts and 16-1/3 innings, striking out a whopping 27 opposing batters in the process. Upon earning a promotion to Double-A Tulsa in early May, the 22-year-old Kentucky native has gone 2-2 with an impressive 2.98 ERA while striking out 56 batters over 45-1/3 innings of work. Recently, he was named Texas League Player of the Week for his efforts on the bump for June 26 – July 2.
As far as his pitching repertoire goes, Buehler can crank up his four-seam to a hefty 98 MPH, miss bats with his plus-plus slider and curve, and fool the best of hitters with his high quality changeup. Most importantly, scouts within the organization believe his stuff can play big at the major league level right now.
It seems as though we’ve been mentioning right-hander Joe Broussard‘s name quite frequently in recent weeks, and for very good reasons. Beginning his 2017 campaign at Tulsa, the LSU product made four appearances, throwing 5-1/3 frames of absolutely perfect baseball. After earning a quick promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City in mid-April, he has posted a 3-1 record with one save and a 2.23 ERA, having struck out 41 batters over 36-1/3 innings of work.
Broussard took the spotlight in the Arizona Fall League last autumn, where he posted a 1.59 ERA in 11-1/3 relief innings, including nine strikeouts, no walks and five saves. Across three levels of the farm last season, the 26-year-old went 4-2 with nine saves, tallying a 1.80 ERA and 81 strikeouts over an even 70 innings pitched. For his efforts, he was named as a 2016 Organizational All-Star.
Broussard’s best offering is certainly his heater, which normally sits in the low-to-mid 90s, but features a ton of nasty movement. Coupled with an effective breaking pitch arsenal and a very deceptive delivery, he sometimes appears borderline untouchable when his mechanics are all in tune.
Another conceivable option to consider would be 26-year-old right-hander Yaisel Sierra. Before being promoted to Oklahoma City last week, he compiled a 5-0 record with four saves over 26 appearances for the Drillers. In 49-2/3 innings pitched at Tulsa, he posted a 2.54 ERA with 64 strikeouts against 16 walks. For OKC, he has since made one appearance, surrendering one run and two hits against New Orleans in 3-1/3 innings of long relief last Sunday.
After defecting from Cuba in 2015, Sierra signed a six-year, $30 million deal with the Dodgers in February of 2016 while being one of the top available international prospects on the market. His primary weapon is a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and tops out as high as 98. He also features a hard slider with cutting action that his coaches see developing into a plus pitch on his road to the majors.
Several other relief options on the farm which the Dodgers may consider utilizing are hard-throwing right-handers Josh Ravin and Jacob Rhame, in addition to another very versatile right-hander in Madison Younginer.
Ravin has a 4.44 ERA over 24-1/3 innings in 21 appearances for Oklahoma City this year, and has thrown two scoreless innings for the big league club during two brief stints earlier in the season.
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