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 Kelly, Pedro 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.
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 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.