While it was much easier to project a working bullpen for the Dodgers about a month ago, the additions of both Alex Wood and Jimmy Nelson not only affect the landscape of the starting rotation, but will also have an indirect impact on the 2020 relief corps.
If anything, the presence of both Wood and Nelson create more of a competition for spots on the team’s active roster. Both players were signed to big league contracts, and neither have options, meaning that they will both very likely be included on the Opening Day roster, barring any injuries.
That being said, the back-end of the starting rotation might have a different look than what many fans anticipated. Furthermore, whichever pitchers aren’t included in the Opening Day rotation might be relegated to the major league bullpen, excluding a few arms who will be among the Triple-A Oklahoma City rotation.
As far as the bullpen goes, current projections and depth charts have changed since we put together a prediction post a few days after Christmas. In that particular story, I had three players fighting for the final spot in the starting rotation—Ross Stripling, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May. In theory, I suppose the rotation competition will now be among five players—with Wood and Nelson being in the mix—but my gut tells me that the Wood and Nelson duo may now be held in higher regard in the eyes of management, at least to begin the season.
Moreover, in the December post I had the final spot going to Casey Sadler, but we all know that won’t happen since he’s been traded to the Cubs. My reasoning for including Sadler in my projection was the fact he didn’t have any options remaining on his contract, similar to the situation which kept Yimi Garcia on the active roster for the entirety of the 2019 regular season.
Some fans have been discussing that the inclusion of Wood and Nelson may conceivably be blocking big league spots for both May and Gonsolin. This might be true in the early stages of the season, but it will be important to have quality arms that can make productive starts on deck at OKC when injuries arise. Besides, the active roster on Opening Day could be a far cry from how the team lines up in October. If either May and Gonsolin prove that they are among the 13 best arms in the organization by the time the playoffs roll around, management will most likely assure that both are included on the postseason roster, should the Dodgers make it that far.
Regardless, here is the way my current bullpen projections look a month away from the beginning of spring training:
- Kenley Jansen
- Pedro Baez
- Blake Treinen
- Joe Kelly
- Adam Kolarek
- Ross Stripling
- Scott Alexander
- Jimmy Nelson
Other contending pitchers who have big league experience include Caleb Ferguson, Dennis Santana and Josh Sborz. Further down the totem pole are relievers like Joe Broussard, Marshall Kasowski, Jordan Sheffield, Logan Salow and Shea Spitzbarth, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see either Victor Gonzalez or Mitchell White throw in relief at the big league level since both players have recently been added to the club’s 40-man roster.
It should be interesting to see how the competitions for both starting and relief roles shape up during 2020 Cactus league play. Aside from Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw, almost every other spot in the front five could hypothetically be up for grabs, as Wood, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias have all proven in the past that they’re effective at throwing in relief.