At the beginning of 2017 spring training, the bullpen of the Los Angeles Dodgers appeared as if it was in outstanding shape, especially in terms of having several quality lefty arms at its disposal. However, as the season began to take shape, so did the landscape of the relief corps. Grant Dayton was never quite the same as he was in 2016, and eventually fell victim to a ligament tear, which would ultimately end his season. Adam Liberatore, who was one of several workhorses in the relief crew last year, was hampered by injuries for most of the current campaign. And Luis Avilan, well, is Luis Avilan.
The front office team of the Dodgers, realizing the club’s need for decent lefty relievers, began their effort in improving squad by acquiring Luis Ysla from the Red Sox a few days before this season’s non-waiver deadline. And eventually, in the waning moments before the cutoff, Andrew Friedman and his gang snagged Tony Watson from the Pirates and Tony Cingrani from the Reds for virtually nothing at all in exchange.
Yet, 30 year-old Edward Paredes, another lefty who was grabbed in last winter’s Rule 5 draft, is still lingering around the big league roster, and may conceivably have just as good a chance of making the postseason roster as any of the other southpaws.
Avilan’s been mediocre at best, but his odds are solid for making the playoff roster, so long as he stays healthy. His ERA is 2.92 over an even 37 innings of work, however, the ERA has never even remotely been an accurate tool of measuring the effectiveness of a reliever. His whip of 1.405 is perhaps a little more indicative of his overall value, and his 3.9 BB/9 is a bit scary when thinking about a prospective tight spot in an important game. He’s let four of his inherited runners score this year, which doesn’t even show up on his own personal stat line anywhere.
The Dodgers felt they had some inside intelligence on Cingrani, believing that if the lefty changed the usage frequency of his slider, it would positively change his worth as a reliever. But, although he’s looked good in a few spots, he still has surrendered eight hits and five earned runs over eight innings of work. If it were that easy to transform the success rate of a reliever based on pitch selection alone, there would probably be quite a few clones of Andrew Miller working among a high number of bullpens around baseball. Based on what we’ve seen so far, Cingrani is merely on the fringe, and doesn’t have a lot of time remaining to prove himself.
Watson is another one of those guys who has an electric arm, but his potential hasn’t translated into anything substantial this season. His ability is very reminiscent of one Chris Hatcher — looking almost untouchable one outing, then not having any type of effectiveness at all the next. Early in the year, he was removed from the Pirates’ closer role on June 9, at which point he had an ERA of 4.44 and five blown saves in 15 opportunities. As a Dodger, Watson has a 6.01 FIP, and has surrendered five earned runs on seven hits, including two long balls, over 8-2/3 innings of work. He’s also allowed two of his inherited runners to score. If the front office feels they can also alter Watson’s pitch selection to produce better results, it hasn’t shown yet.
Ysla hasn’t thrown above Double-A since becoming a Dodger, and has a 1.890 WHIP for Tulsa, after surrendering six earned runs on 11 hits and six walks in only nine innings of work. That said, there’s a reasonable chance he’s designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for someone more valuable like Walker Buehler or Wilmer Font.
Liberatore is definitely on the rebound, having already ramped up his throwing to the Triple-A level at Oklahoma City. There may be enough time for the lefty to slide into the big league roster upon expansion on September 1, but he simply may not get enough opportunities to prove to skipper Dave Roberts that he has the goods to consistently succeed in high leverage spots with games on the line.
Last but certainly not least sits Paredes. He doesn’t have much of a big league stat line, but it is flawless, nonetheless. He’s made three appearances for the Dodgers so far this season, having been perfect over 3-1/3 innings while striking out three and walking none.
He has two quality offerings — a fastball, which he can crank up to 93-94 MPH and has plenty of movement, and a slider which can be deadly to opposing lefty batters. His repertoire, coupled with his propensity to strike out opposing hitters — a 13.5 K/9 in the minors this year — put him in a perfect spot to audition for a meaningful role down the stretch of the season.
And although he may be a candidate to be temporarily bumped off the 25-man to make room for Cody Bellinger this week, he’d theoretically be back in no time when rosters expand this coming weekend. Down the stretch, if the management crew is serious about giving Paredes a thorough look, he could indeed make appearances in double digits during the month of September. And during that time, Paredes just may end up proving that he’s just as effective as an other lefty reliever in the organization, and earn a spot on the playoff roster.
Crazier things have happened.
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