Some nights, the bullpen of the Dodgers looks almost untouchable. Other nights, its performance is so ineffective that fans of the team imagine dozens of trade possibilities they hope might go down at the summer deadline.
The good news is that the back-end of the bullpen is starting to shape up nicely. Dylan Floro has been outstanding this season, and if he’s able to remedy a few minor command issues, he could ultimately emerge as one of the most effective relief options in baseball during the second-half of the year.
As we all know, Pedro Baez certainly has the talent to succeed. His good outings are becoming greater than his bad ones, and there’s no question that his arm will play large for the Dodgers during the second half of the season.
Kenley Jansen also seems to be regaining his mojo as his cutter is seemingly returning to its old form. As he continues to fine-tune his four-seam and slider, it’s easy to see the big man’s confidence returning in full force sooner rather than later.
Nevertheless, there will undoubtedly be a revolving door among the remainder of the relief crew. Some will be placed on the shelf because of injuries and others will be demoted simply because of performance. We’ve already seen a quartet of fringe players in the big league pen—Brock Stewart, Dennis Santana, Josh Sborz and Jaime Schultz—but if the Los Angeles management team stays true to form, we could see even more players who fans have yet to consider, especially because there are still unfilled vacancies on the team’s 40-man roster.
Here are four under-the-radar names that could quite possibly see action for the big league squad this year:
Kevin Quackenbush—The Dodgers signed righty Kevin Quackenbush not long after the conclusion of the World Series, but any enthusiasm surrounding the deal has since dissipated. The 30-year-old journeyman appeared in 193 games for the Padres between 2014 and 2017, posting a 13-14 record over 198-1/3 innings. His best season was also his first in the big leagues, striking out 56 over 54-1/3 frames in 2014. So far this year, the Florida native has struck out 25 batters over 13 appearances and 17-2/3 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City in the hitter-friendly confines of the Pacific Coast League. Quackenbush is another example of one of Andrew Friedman’s low-risk/high-reward investments and could see some big league action depending on the needs of the team.
Luis Vasquez—Make no mistake—yes, this is the same Luis Vasquez who was firing 100 MPH heaters as a 22 year old back in 2009 when the Inland Empire 66ers were still an affiliate of the Dodgers. Vasquez left the organization after latching on with the Braves in 2014 and later the Royals in 2018, but has recently returned to the Dodgers’ farm on a minors deal. Between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A OKC this year, he has thrown an even 13 innings over 10 appearances, allowing eight hits while striking out 18 batters. Now at 33 years of age, his fastball certainly isn’t the same as his younger days, but his experience could prove to be valuable in the big league pen.
Jordan Sheffield—Yesterday, our Twitter friend @FutureDodgers pointed out that hard-throwing righty Jordan Sheffield was promoted to Tulsa after finding success in the hitter-friendly confines of the Cal League. So far this season, he has made 15 appearances, registering seven saves and striking out a whopping 26 batters over 17-1/3 innings of work. Once highly regarded as a starting pitching prospect, the 23-year-old Tennessee native has shifted back to a relief role. Sheffield’s four-seam sits in the mid-nineties, but topped out as high as 98 MPH last year at Rancho. He also features a hard three-quarter slider which sits in the upper-eighties, and a circle change that shows a ton of nasty movement.
Marshall Kasowski—Last year, Marshall Kasowski was one of our favorite prospects to discuss, specifically when it came to all the bullpen arms in the minors. He wowed the Los Angeles fan base after punching out a ridiculous 111 batters over 41 appearances and 64-2/3 innings of work across three levels in 2018. So far this season, the 24-year-old righty has made 11 appearances for Tulsa, striking out an impressive 26 batters over 13-1/3 innings while allowing just three runs. His heater, which sits in the low-to-mid nineties and tops out as high as 96, is definitely his strength. But it’s his unorthodox delivery which initially 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.
On a final note, June 3 may be a date worth remembering, not only because it is the first day of the 2019 MLB draft, but also because it is the first day that any big league club can sign righty reliever Craig Kimbrel without having to return a compensatory draft pick back to the Red Sox.