Dodgers Prospect Watch: Josh Sborz Gaining Ground as a Reliever

(Mandatory Credit: Rich Crimi/Tulsa Drillers)

With all the scrutiny that’s been following around the Los Angeles relief crew, there have been plenty of conversations regarding a number of prospects who could conceivably contribute to the Dodgers‘ big league bullpen at some point during the year. On occasion, we’ve offered up quite a few ideas ourselves, specifically converting a few live arms like Dennis Santana or Yadier Alvarez from starters to relievers. However, one recent convert, 24-year-old Josh Sborz, may be closer to the big league level than many think.

For those unfamiliar with the right-hander, 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 1.48 ERA with 12 strikeouts in an even 12 innings pitched.

The scouting directors on the farm liked Sborz’s potential so much that they decided to develop him as a starter. In 20 games—19 of which were starts—for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, he went 8-4, registering a 2.66 ERA with 108 strikeouts over 108-1/3 innings of work, eventually earning him a promotion to Double-A Tulsa for the stretch run of the regular season and ultimately being named the 2016 California League Pitcher of the Year.

His 2017 season started off in the right direction with a non-roster invite to big league spring training; however, the remainder of his season was mediocre at best, as he fought off a few injuries and tallied an 8-8 record with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP over 116-2/3 innings in 24 games—all of which were starts.

Sborz was passed over as an NRI to 2018 spring camp, but the Dodgers had new plans for the Washington, DC native. He would once again begin the year at Tulsa, but this time, he would work out of the bullpen. He started the season as the Drillers’ primary closer, and he compiled a 3-1 record with a 2.76 ERA with seven saves over 13 appearances. During that span, he amassed an impressive 24 punchouts over 16-1/3 innings of work which led him to a promotion to Oklahoma City on May 10. He made his Triple-A debut that same day, throwing two strong innings of shutout ball against Memphis. But while there have been a few rough outings during his early days at OKC, he has since settled down nicely, having registered a 1.50 ERA over his last five appearances.

Typical of a reliever, Sborz features two offerings that hover in the plus territory—a fastball which he can easily crank up to 95 MPH and a very tight slider with an incredible amount of break. To top things off, his heater has a ton of natural movement. In addition, throwing from the 3/4-slot, he hides the ball nicely in the delivery of all his pitches, creating an element of deception to opposing batters. His secondary pitches include a curve and a change which he may eventually abandon if he sticks around in the bullpen.

Although he’s currently not on the organization’s 40-man roster, depending on injuries and how some relievers perform in the summer months, there could be a chance that Sborz makes his way to the majors this year based on the current makeup of both the Triple-A and big league bullpens.


6 thoughts on “Dodgers Prospect Watch: Josh Sborz Gaining Ground as a Reliever

  1. Based on how a number of our current bullpen guys are performing, I would say there is far more than a remote chance that we’ll see Sborz before the year is out. If Stipling remains in the starting rotation, which it seems as though he will for the foreseeable future, we will have a need for another right hander who could conceivably throw more than one inning. I don’t see that guy being Stewart. He needs to be at OKC refining his mechanics as a starter. Baez and Fields are one-inning guys and inconsistent. Yimi looked great last night and I really hope he can continue like that for the rest of the season. But keep Hudson and/or Goeddel on the roster long term while Sborz continues to pitch well at OKC. No thank you.

    1. I’m in agreement, but I do think that Goeddel has maybe a little more upside than Hudson. They need to move on from Hudson—I think he’s almost stagnating the overall development of the pen. I wouldn’t mind seeing what Broussard could do, either. I think it would be easier for him if he were on the 40-man, though. In the same breath, if Sborz was on the 40-man, he’d probably be right on the fringe by now.

  2. I like Sborz a lot. Guy was born to pitch out of the pen in tight games and has done so more times than I care to count. He can take either Hudson or Baez’s spot on the active roster without so much as batting an eyelash in my not-so-humble opinion. Of course, if the Dodgers are still adamant about going after the next “Morrow” at the trade deadline then they should give Oakland a call again and see if either Dennis Santana or Yadier Alvarez (latter being paired up with a low-level pitching prospect like a Dustin May or a Tony Gonsolin) would be enough to pry their current closer Blake Treinen from their grasp. Treinen’s stuff is actually identical to Santana’s, but he has more MLB experience pitching high-leverage innings in relief by comparison (plus I feel Oakland wouldn’t pass up a chance to swap out a soon-to-be-expensive arm come arbitration time for one with a lot more cost-controlled years at their disposal). My two cents, as usual.

  3. Santana is on the way! No word yet as to whether they plan to put him in the bullpen or start him and it may just be short term, but I guess we’ll know soon enough. Maeda will probably be put on the DL so that will leave an opening in the starting rotation. On the other hand, Santana will be here within the next 24 hours so why bring him up now if they don’t need another starter until Sunday? Probably means he’ll be in the bullpen. That should make you very happy Manuel. A good performance by Goeddel last night but another bad one by Hudson. I’m guessing he’s gone by this afternoon. And that should make you happy Dennis. Is everybody happy?

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