Although the Dodgers have already racked up 101 wins and have secured home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs, there seem to be several spots on their prospective postseason roster that are still up for grabs.
Even with just five games remaining on the regular season schedule, injuries may end up playing more of a factor in those decisions rather than pure ability alone.
Of course, matchups and the setup of the opposing roster will play huge factors for the Dodgers when they make their final roster announcement. Furthermore, if Los Angeles advances past the NLDS, there are no guarantees the same players who made the initial roster will be selected for the NLCS.
As far as the 25-man roster itself goes, the prospective relief corps could end up being among the most controversial roster decisions. I thought I’d try to take an early stab at figuring out how the bullpen will look when the NLDS begins on October 3.
The biggest factor in terms of actual personnel may revolve around the health of Rich Hill. The veteran lefty “opened” the game against the Padres on Tuesday night in San Francisco, and to say he provided fans with a mixed bag of emotions would be an understatement.
Hill went from looking comfortable in warmups to losing command of his pitches to looking sharp again to grimacing in pain to sprinting back and forth to the bullpen after his official outing on the diamond was complete. He even hit a double to help the team’s offensive cause at the plate.
As it stands now, Hill will be in line to make one final start against San Francisco this weekend, but that could conceivably change if there are any ill effects that crop up after the appearance he made on Tuesday.
With or without Hill, it’s probably safe to say the Dodgers will carry a 12-man pitching staff. There are three confirmed starters—Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler—so that leaves nine players to build a crew of relievers and/or an “opener” or two.
Despite all the controversy surrounding closer Kenley Jansen, he’ll definitely be on the roster. What’s more, he’ll probably remain the squad’s closer until something drastic happens in the postseason, if that indeed becomes the case.
Consequently, there has been a bit of secrecy behind the health of fireballer Joe Kelly, but as far as we know, he should be healthy enough to pitch in the NLDS. Skipper Dave Roberts has already said that Kelly will not be available again for Wednesday’s contest in San Diego, but Kelly’s lack of appearances should not have a bearing on how effectively he throws in the postseason.
At this point, whether fans agree or not, Pedro Baez and Julio Urias are two of the most dependable setup guys on the squad. And, it’s safe to say that Adam Kolarek has definitely cemented the “LOOGY” spot. Since arriving to the Dodgers from the Rays before the trade deadline, Kolarek has made 24 appearances, posting a 0.79 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP over 11-1/3 innings, mostly in lefty on lefty situations.
Regarding the long guys, those spots will be awarded to Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Tony Gonsolin. As a matter of fact, if Hill isn’t able to go as the opener for a prospective Game 4, either Maeda, Strip or Gonsolin will likely assume that particular role. Either way, all three should be included on the NLDS roster.
Coincidentally, Sadler hasn’t made an appearance in nearly a week. Over his last eight games, his ERA is 4.92 after being extremely effective upon his arrival.
Based on those conclusions, here’s my hypothetical relief crew:
- Rich Hill (L)
- Kenley Jansen
- Joe Kelly
- Pedro Baez
- Julio Urias (L)
- Adam Kolarek (L)
- Kenta Maeda
- Ross Stripling
- Tony Gonsolin
It should be interesting to learn any news on Sadler, but if Hill is not able to go for the NLDS, the final spot will certainly involve a difficult decision on the part of Los Angeles management.