Contemplating the Bullpen’s Final Bubble Spots


While it’s certainly still a bit too soon to offer any type of 26-man roster projections, most folks who follow the Dodgers closely wouldn’t have much difficulty in putting together the bulk of the Opening Day roster right now.

The bullpen, though, may be one department that requires some extra thought. Conceivably, the final roster decisions could revolve around several different relievers, as performances during Cactus League play might be the deciding factors.

In reality, it would not be an exaggeration to say that up to 12 arms are competing for the squad’s eight relief spots.

Without citing a ton of endless numbers, it’s easy to guess the primary arms of the 2020 bullpen, assuming everyone stays healthy through Opening Day. Already, both front-office boss Andrew Friedman and skipper Dave Roberts have repeatedly said that the closer role is Kenley Jansen‘s to lose, so there’s one spot filled right off the top.

As far as the main setup men go, there are a trio of candidates—Joe KellyPedro Baez and newly acquired righty Blake Treinen. Depending on how things play out over the next several weeks, Friedman and Roberts might have a good idea of their chief eighth-inning guy right out of the gates. Still, it would not be surprising if the primary setup roles change often throughout the regular season.

At this stage, the fifth spot is locked down by righty swing man Ross Stripling. For a moment this winter, it looked like his days in Dodger Blue were over, but it appears that he’s here to stay, at least for the early stages of the regular season. If there happens to be some type of injury bug spread among the starting rotation, Stripling could be considered as a replacement, but as of right now, he’s a lock for the relief crew.

Theoretically, the remaining three spots are completely up for grabs.

It’s probably easiest to start out with the southpaws. It’s only a guess, but for the sake of matchups, I’d say the Dodgers employ two lefty relievers in the Opening Day bullpen.

There has been plenty of chatter about Adam Kolarek potentially not earning a spot because of the elimination of a LOOGY due to the new rule changes. Over the course of his career, lefty hitters have slashed just .198/.243/.281 against him, while righty batters have hit a whopping .300/.368/.480.

Having not thrown a pitch in the majors since June 5 of last season, 30-year-old Scott Alexander may be on the outside looking in, depending on how he fares this spring.

The final legitimate lefty candidate is Caleb Ferguson, although we might be hearing quite a bit about up-and-comers like Victor Gonzalez and Reymin Guduan over the next several weeks of Cactus League play.

Minor league options shouldn’t be an issue among the main left-handers, as Alexander, Ferguson and Kolarek all have two. Gonzalez has three. Guduan, a dark horse candidate, has no options.

If the Dodgers do indeed select two left-handers, the eighth and final spot could go to newcomer Jimmy Nelson, assuming that Alex Wood and Julio Urias are included in the rotation like many speculate.

That leaves 29-year-old righty Dylan Floro, who has one option remaining on his contract, possibly beginning the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Also in the picture is right-handed swing man Tony Gonsolin, who could potentially end up seeing MLB action as either a starter or a reliever.

Other contending pitchers who have big league experience include Brusdar Graterol (who could be among the first pitchers recalled), Dennis Santana and Josh Sborz.

Further down the totem pole are relievers like Joe BroussardMarshall KasowskiJordan SheffieldLogan Salow and Shea Spitzbarth, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see either Mitchell White or Josiah Gray throw in relief at the big league level, even though both are being groomed as starters on the farm.

As we’ve said previously, whatever the final roster decisions end up being, fans can expect the bullpen carousel to be spinning quite rapidly by mid-season. Even with the changes to the injury list rules, Friedman will be certain to utilize the IL to its maximum throughout the year.

Furthermore, there’s always a reasonable chance that Friedman adds a bonafide, MLB-ready arm or two before the summer trade deadline passes.


26 thoughts on “Contemplating the Bullpen’s Final Bubble Spots

  1. After 3 clean games, today against the D-Backs things are a little sloppy. Broussard failed to get an out and it led to 4 D-Back runs. Good news is that Pollock hit an opposite field 2 run dinger. Pitching has been the strong point up until today, and defense. Gore has shown nothing in any game he has appeared in and his speed is moot unless he gets on base. Thanks Dennis, I got the 2 cards in the mail yesterday. Much appreciated.


      1. Probably because they want him in a Dodger uni. I bought a Betts heritage card that looks like the 58 topps. I just thought it was a cool looking card. I have a Kemp that looks like the 53 Topps, another favorite of mine. Do you have any of the Dodger bobbleheads? I know there is at least 1 coming this year I would like to get, and no, it is not the Muncy Go get it out of the ocean, which is the first one they are giving this year. Nope it is the Drysdale which is 3rd on the list. They gave one of him with Wills, and I have that, but the only one of him alone is one of the old style ones where the players looked nothing like them selves. More cartoon like. But this one looks pretty good. The Belli triple award one is the second they will give away this year. I am still upset they never came through with the Gilliam like they were supposed to, but the trade for Machado made them change and give that out instead. I think they are giving away like 14 different ones this year.


  2. I think with that many options the dodgers will have a decent bullpen.
    I’m not as worried about the bullpen as I was at the end of the season.


    1. I’m not really worried about pitching. We have a plethora of powerful pitchers from which to choose. I have no predictions yet, but I have guys I want to see. May, Gonsolin and Graterol are at the top of that list. Gray later in the year. My confidence level is high.


      1. Your level of High has my confidence, lol

        Collectively, pitching appears strong with many options. However, when I see individuals in our pitching ranks I still have my concerns. My biggest concern is Jansen really still a dominant closer or are blown saves and poor performances still a matter to fret over?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “Fret not for the future, men of discernment deal only with the present moment.” Chanakya.

        Now looks pretty good.

        My take is simple. Matchups. Best man up. In my world I could see him come in the 7th or 8th to certain hitters, then let someone else finish the game. Saves are an individual stat. I want guys to buy into the team win concept. We’ll reward your performance in high leverage situations more than Saves. I could give examples but I think you get the idea. A lot of games are won and lost in the 7th and 8th.


  3. We need something to complain about! They’re griping about the music being too loud on another site! Let me try. Roberts keeps pulling his pitchers too soon this spring! He’s always good for a complaint!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pitching was mediocre today, neither Gonzalez nor Broussard that good. Gave up 5 runs between them. Santana, de Geus, Kasowski, Sborz, all threw clean innings. Only 5 hits on the Dodger side with Seager getting 2 of them. Turner, White and Pollock the others. 8 walks and 2 hit batters along with 9 hits given up by the pitchers. Santana struck out the side in his inning. Yankees lose Severino for the season. TJ surgery.


  5. Of all the pitchers who threw today, Santana is the most likely to actually appear in a Dodger uni some time this year and he threw very well. He’s a great kid with a great attitude and a great arm. Although I think he’ll start the year at OKC I really hope he’ll have a long career in our bullpen (much more likely than as a starter).
    Tentative starters for the next four days: Gray, Gonsolin, Kershaw, Buehler. Really looking forward to seeing Gray.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think we are all anticipating gray’s start tomorrow, I think I’m going to go home for lunch tomorrow, so I can watch the first inning or two.


      1. Usually in spring they are on. Do not black out anything until the season starts. I am even getting the Rockies if I want. Rick Monday was talking about Baker yesterday. And the other guy, Neverett, were discussing 30 homer players and saying that the Dodgers have not had 4 players with 30 homers in the same season since 77. Baker, Smith Cey and Garvey. And Rick was saying how Dusty hit #30 on the last day of the season, which was totally right. What he got wrong was where and who they were playing. He said it was against the Giants in SF. Nope, it was at Dodger Stadium against the Astros……how do I know you might ask??? I was there. He hit the homer off J.R Richard and it went into the left field pavillion. 2 other players hit homers that day, and they were the only homers those players hit all year. One was Manny Mota, and the other…….Glenn Burke. You can look it up. Oh, and Neverett said Betts hit 30 last year. Nope, he hit 29. In 2016, and 2018 he hit 30 or more. Neverett was also wrong that the last Dodger team to have 4 players with 30 or more was the 77 squad….1997, Karros, Mondesi, Piazza and Zeile…..U can look it up!


  7. The Rockies have done it the most, 4 times including 3 years in a row. 95, 96 and 97. Castilla and Gallaragga were the ones who did it all 3 years. Gallaragga did it again with the 98 Braves who also had 4 30 homer guys. Only Dodger ever to hit more than 30 homers more than 3 years in a row……Duke Snider, who hit 40 plus 5 years straight. Piazza hit more than 20 all 5 years in LA. But that one year he hit 24, 1994. Probably because he only played 107 games.


    1. I think it’s safe to say Betts’ offensive production will go down a bit in the NL West. The parks are different and …. he won’t know what pitch is coming. I say .284/.370/.515. OPS of .885.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I get that. His HR production will drop off some too. Maybe 20-25. Now they did move the fences in up in SF. Have to see how that affects games there. SD, and SF were the hardest fields to homer at last season. AZ has been pretty consistent. We will have to see how the new Dodger Stadium plays.


  8. Wow Scoop. Those don’t seem like 40 mil stats to me. Muncy may well top those numbers. If that’s what Betts gives the Dodgers would you sign him to a 380-400 mil contract? I wouldn’t. I expect better from him this year


    1. This is a contract year for him, so, I expect him to stay on the field all year. It’s possible he hits 25-30 home runs, I think he will score well over 100 and play solid defense. $40 million? No. That’s just too much of a team’s cap. He ain’t Mike Trout. I think Bellinger could have a better year. Betts is 27 now so his new contract will begin at the vertex of his production curve. As good as he might continue to be, you are paying to witness the descent. Boston got the 9 and 10 WAR years. I expect Mookie to be good, but I don’t expect him to be great until he’s 38.


  9. I don’t think he is going to get his 400 mil, not to question whether he is worth it or not, but the amount of teams that can afford him is a very small number. Most of the big money teams already have big money contracts, if you go down the list of teams there is the dodgers, Maybe the rangers, cards, Mets, blue jays and bosox, I can’t really think of anybody else. I think the dodgers will be bidding against themselves next season.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true Keith. I think you have to wait and see what he brings to this team, and the fact that he is relatively young compared to guys that signed this off season. Rendon and Cole both older. Teams off the top of my head that can meet or come close to the kind of money he is going to command, Texas, LA, Boston, and NY. Almost everyone else, forget it. I think he will get a contract that pays him more than 36 mil a year though. Length is the biggest concern. And remember, LA has a lot of money coming off of the books. They are going to have to figure out if they are going to try and offer a long term deal to Bellinger, which would be wise, and Seager, depending on if they feel comfortable moving Lux there in a couple of years.


  10. I just turned on the game, and missed grays first inning, now kenley is coming in. How did Gray look? Did any of you guys see his inning?


  11. I think you could add Toronto to the list, but there just starting to get their young guys on the field so I’m not sure about them. I assume you’re talking about the Mets when you write NY. The cards would be a dark horse, but they didn’t seem to want to spend to much this off season.


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