Considering the recent struggles of the Dodgers bullpen, there’s bound to be a number of moves on the horizon, even before rosters expand at the beginning of September. Besides the collapse of every available arm in the current crew, there’s been plenty of other news, most specifically the back injury to righty Ross Stripling and yet another setback for hard-throwing right-hander Josh Fields.
The minor league system has its fair share of relievers; however, it’s another case of having a bunch of arms who are somewhere around the mediocre level or below. We all remember Edward Paredes, who was designated for assignment earlier in the year, but was able to clear waivers and eventually return back to Triple-A Oklahoma City. There’s also Adam Liberatore, who has been fighting injuries all season and will likely be unable to join the big league squad down the stretch. Brian Schlitter, the 32-year-old righty journeyman, has 16 saves to lead OKC. And then there’s guys like Shea Spitzbarth, Josh Sborz and Joe Broussard, who may conceivably have enough talent to throw in the majors, yet they have been victimized by the hitter-friendly confines of the Pacific Coast League this season to some extent or another.
In light of everything said, we thought it would be interesting to look at the bullpen from a completely different perspective, this time considering three emerging arms who may have success in the bigs sometime down the road. Because they’re not anywhere near the 40-man roster, these players probably won’t see major league action this season, but they are pitchers who will have plenty of upside moving forward.
Nobody has been on more of an extreme roller coaster during their minor league career than flamethrower Yadier Alvarez. At one point, the Cuban righty was cemented in the organizational Top 3 prospects rankings, but injuries and lack of command eventually pushed him off the radar. The beginning of 2017 was no different; however, once he returned from the disabled list this summer, the scouting directors finally decided to let him throw exclusively out of the bullpen, a move which all of us here at TBPC have been anticipating for a very long time.
Currently on the Double-A Tulsa roster, Alvarez recorded his first save of the year last Saturday, tossing four full innings at San Antonio, where he struck out six opposing batters and allowed just two hits. Of course, it’s just one outing, but there’s still a ton of talent there and his arm has so much action that it’s plenty to be excited about, especially when considering the future direction of the big league relief corps. As far as his repertoire goes, Alvarez features a four-seamer that varies in velocity, but it has been known to touch the 100 MPH mark on occasion. His slider is by far his best breaking pitch, often being clocked around 20 MPH slower than his fastest heater. He was never able to master a change or a curveball completely, but in theory, he won’t need them if he’s strictly throwing out of the bullpen.
27-year-old righty Stetson Allie is another interesting reliever in the system, having split time as both an outfielder and a pitcher over the course of his eight-year minor league career. The Pirates selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft primarily for his pitching skills, but eventually abandoned him after his 2016 campaign, seeing that he never rose above the Double-A level. The Dodgers appeared to be interested in him as a corner outfielder and signed him as a free agent later that winter. He looked promising in 2016 when he hit 16 long balls and 63 RBI, but after a dismal 2017 when he slashed just .216/.293/.341, the Dodgers decided to let him try his hand at pitching once again.
Allie began his 2018 campaign on the bump in High-A Rancho, made a quick 11-appearance stop at Tulsa, and is now opening eyes at OKC. Through his first five outings for Oklahoma City, he has posted an impressive 1.69 ERA while allowing a very stingy .133 BAA. Like Alvarez, Allie can exceed the 100 MPH mark on the gun, which makes the management crew of the Dodgers excited about his future, despite his age.
Righty Marshall Kasowski doesn’t throw quite as hard as Alvarez or Allie, but he has a special gift of having the ability to miss bats. We’ve talked about the 23-year-old Texas native plenty this year already, as his ridiculous 15.71 K/9 is the chief reason for all the exposure. The righty started the season at Low-A Great Lakes, dominated in the hitter-friendly Cal League and now is one of the principle relievers at Tulsa.
So far for the drillers, astonishingly, Kasowski hasn’t allowed a single hit or a run in any of his five appearances or 6-1/3 innings pitched. For the entirety of 2018, across three levels, he has a 1.68 ERA in 37 games, with a phenomenal 103 punchouts over 59 innings, while allowing an extremely impressive .117 BAA. Kazowski was drafted by the Dodgers in the 13th round of the 2017 MLB draft out of West Texas A&M, not long after being named the 2017 Lone Star Conference Co-Male Athlete of the Year.
In terms of his repertoire, Kasowski’s best offering is undoubtedly his heater, which sits in the low-to-mid nineties, sometimes topping out as high as 96 MPH. But it’s his unorthodox delivery which caught the eye of the major league scouts. He throws from a slot right next to his ear, which creates a very deceptive motion that leads to him missing plenty of bats. He still has some control issues, but that’s to be expected, considering he’s just in his first full year in the system.