As we’ve been talking about the prospective Opening Day roster for quite some time now, there’s no doubt the bullpen is an area of the team which may not be solidified until the final days of camp.
Nevertheless, the front five of the Los Angeles bullpen—if the first half of spring training is any indication—certainly has the potential to be among the best in the National League.
Obviously, the Dodgers won’t be using the same eight relievers over the entire course of the year. There will be injuries, and there will be other stints on the injured list to provide arms any needed periods of rest.
So, the bigger question at hand is exactly how good is the depth of the bullpen after the first five primary arms?
It would probably help if we first outlined the players who appear to be locks for the Opening Day roster.
- Kenley Jansen
- Blake Treinen
- Joe Kelly
- Pedro Baez
- Ross Stripling
Barring injury, this group of five is as about as sure of a bet there is as far as roster projections go. Ross Stripling is the team’s quintessential long man. Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Joe Kelly and Pedro Baez—again, if they’re healthy—all have the ability to handle multiple roles in the latter innings of a game.
With regards to the southpaws, there might be a reasonable chance the team selects two, which could conceivably come down to a battle between Caleb Ferguson, Scott Alexander and Adam Kolarek. Additionally, Reymin Guduan could be considered at some point.
Other right-handers in contention for the Opening Day roster include Dennis Santana, Brusdar Graterol and Dylan Floro. Moreover, some feel that Jimmy Nelson could begin the season on the injured list, so there’s no sense in even counting on any type of contribution there. Young righty Marshall Kasowski—although not yet a member of the club’s 40-man roster—has suggested by his spring performance he might be soon ready for his MLB debut. Josh Sborz will also fit into the picture at some point.
In terms of options, Jansen, Treinen, Kelly and Baez have none. Nelson has none as well, which forces him to being listed on the active roster or the injured list. Guduan does not have any options, meaning his minor league contract would need to be purchased by the big league club before he’s promoted.
Stripling and Santana have one option apiece. All the other aforementioned names have at least two or more.
If it’s up to me, I’m awarding the final three spots to Ferguson, Alexander and Santana, while allowing the 21-year-old Graterol ample time to get his feet wet in the organization. Ferguson has been virtually untouchable this spring, as has Santana. The battle between Alexander and Kolarek might be considered a push either way.
With Ferguson, Alexander and Santana included on the 26-man, here’s how a totem pole of the depth chart might look, sans Nelson:
On paper, this group indeed seems to be very capable as fringe players, but let’s not forget about Mitchell White, Tony Gonsolin and Victor Gonzalez who could be used as swing men in the majors. For all intents and purposes, Gonsolin will likely be groomed as a starter at the beginning of the season in Triple-A, but he could be easily converted to a big league reliever should there be a need.
What’s more, there’s always the option of adding a capable arm or two before the summer trade deadline.
In terms of a broad landscape, the team certainly appears to be in good hands, at least at the onset of the season.