Considering everything that went down in both legs of Saturday’s doubleheader in San Francisco, there’s bound to be a few roster moves on the horizon, especially in the bullpen. Righty Pedro Baez suffered his biggest pummeling of the season in the first game; however, it was the southpaw Scott Alexander who was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for the emergency promotion of outfielder Alex Verdugo. With the move, the Dodgers are back down to eight arms in the big league bullpen, but not many of them are fresh, to say the least.
In light of the relief crew’s recent struggles, we thought it would be interesting to look at the bullpen from a completely different perspective, this time considering only the most elite arms in the Los Angeles minor league system.
It was difficult to stick to one specific angle here because we have a number of very capable arms from all ends of the spectrum. We have ambidextrous pitchers, three pitchers over the age of 31 years, and a whole slew of starters who may be converted sometime in the near future, especially when considering the potential needs of the big league club.
As far as the senior crew goes, we have Brian Schlitter, Pat Venditte and Edward Paredes. Any one member of this trio could be among the candidates considered to get a promotion at some point this year, although the 31-year-old Paredes is the only one currently on the 40-man. Schlitter, 32, has emerged as OKC’s primary closer and has already tallied four saves with a 1.86 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP in nine appearances. The 32-year-old switch-pitcher Venditte has 13 punchouts over 12-2/3 innings of work. Paredes, like Schlitter, has made nine appearances with a 1.86 ERA.
Righty Yimi Garcia is in a category of his own. At 27 years of age, he’s a little young for the over-30 crowd, but he’s also a few years past the prime prospect age. In the same breath, because he’s on the 40-man roster, he could be the highest on the totem pole when it comes to the club handing out promotions. He just finished up his rehab assignment and was optioned to OKC last week. Officially, he’s thrown 5-2/3 innings over six appearances at Triple-A this season.
Yaisel Sierra is another one of those players who is on the fringe of prospect status at 26 years of age. He earned a non-roster invite to big league training during the spring, but he’s been missing in action for the early weeks of this season, as he’s not listed on the disabled list or any of the organization’s affiliate rosters. Presumably, he’s hanging out in extended spring training with guys like Mitchell White, Matt Beaty and Edwin Rios.
Among the better known true prospects in the system are right-handers Joe Broussard and Shea Spitzbarth. Beginning his 2017 campaign at Tulsa, Broussard made four appearances in Double-A, throwing 5-1/3 frames of absolutely perfect baseball before an early-season promotion to Triple-A OKC in the hitter-friendly PCL. Making a combined 48 appearances across both levels, he posted a 3,27 ERA with an impressive 73 strikeouts in 63-1/3 innings of work. So far this year at OKC, he’s made eight appearances and struck out 11 batters over 10-2/3 innings of work.
In 2016, Spitzbarth posted a 1.91 ERA with 43 strikeouts and six saves over 28-1/3 innings, helping Low-A Great Lakes capture the team’s first Midwest League Championship in 10 years. Across two levels in 2017, the 23-year-old righty made 43 appearances, tallying a 2.45 ERA with 77 punchouts and nine saves over 69-2/3 innings. So far in 2018 he has registered a 1.84 ERA, a 0.75 WHIP and 18 strikeouts in 14-2/3 innings at Tulsa. He features a traditional, over-the-top arm motion that oftentimes catapults his heater well into the mid-nineties.
Another right-hander, 23-year-old Corey Copping, was the chief closer for Tulsa last season. He was selected in the 31st round of the 2015 draft out of the University of Oklahoma, and was one of the guinea pigs the Dodgers sent to Driveline Baseball in 2016, which resulted in his heater increasing in velocity more than five ticks on the radar gun. Early in 2018, he has made eight appearances and worked 13 innings at Tulsa.
Just like we predicted over the winter, right-hander Josh Sborz has been re-converted to a reliever and, at the moment, is the primary closer for Tulsa. Sborz posted a 1.50 ERA with 12 punchouts in nine relief appearances over 12 innings for Single-A Rancho way back towards the end of 2015. For the University of Virginia during his senior campaign, he made 30 relief appearances while registering a 1.59 ERA with 15 saves and 62 strikeouts over 73 innings. So far this year, the 24-year-old has thrown 11-2/3 innings over nine games and has already tallied a team-high three saves.
In the early stages for the Quakes, 23-year-old righty Ryan Moseley has been the chief closer, having already made 10 appearances and notching two saves.
There’s a quartet of right-handed prospects—Brock Stewart, Dennis Santana, Yadier Alvarez and Jordan Sheffield—who are currently being groomed as starters but may be considered as relievers sometime down the road. Both Santana and Alvarez can hit triple digits on the radar gun, but Santana may be one step ahead by already being on the big league 40-man roster.
Sheffield was instrumental as a starter for Vandy during the squad’s 2016 championship run; however, in 2015 he made 16 relief appearances for the Commodores, registering a 2.85 ERA with 55 strikeouts over an even 60 innings of work. So far this season at Rancho, his four seam has been topping out at 97-98 MPH.