Suddenly, the Outlook of the Dodgers Bullpen Doesn’t Seem So Gloomy

Sometimes, all it takes is an 11-1 drubbing of another contending club to quickly change a fan’s perspective about the direction of their favorite baseball team. When an offense works according to the way it was specifically designed, it takes a huge amount of pressure off a pitching staff, especially a bullpen which has struggled mightily over the past week. And, with the news that closer Kenley Jansen‘s healing progress has been accelerated, the immediate future of the Dodgers doesn’t seem so dismal after all.

According to Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, Jansen and skipper Dave Roberts hope the All-Star reliever will be cleared to pitch as soon as Monday.

“I’m miserable right now,” Jansen said on Friday afternoon. “I need to be out there. That’s why my fingers are crossed for Monday. We’ll see. If that happens, that would be great, so I can come back and help us get back in the race, and try to go where we want to go.”

Jansen had been placed on the 10-day disabled list on August 10 with an irregular heartbeat and has been prescribed blood thinners in the meantime to help alleviate the symptoms. He has been throwing light bullpens, though, with the most recent coming before the opener on Friday night in Seattle.

At one point this week, it appeared as if a poorly constructed bullpen would conceivably push the Dodgers out of the divisional race in the NL West. The front office crew of the Dodgers faced heavy scrutiny as it ignored making any significant upgrades prior to the non-waiver trade deadline last month.

Since Jansen’s illness, the Los Angeles relief crew blew leads in seven consecutive games heading into the Mariners series. The Dodgers lost five of those contests and surrendered control of the division to Arizona. During that time, the team was relegated to depend on the services of such unknowns like Zac Rosscup, JT Chargois, Dylan Floro and Erik Goeddel to provide quality relief. Ironically, it was the highly-criticized Pedro Baez who stepped up on Wednesday evening with an impressive appearance to seemingly bring the crew out of its funk.

What’s more, the rehab of hard-throwing righty Josh Fields was escalated to the Triple-A level on Friday night, when he threw a perfect seventh inning for the Oklahoma City Dodgers. Fields is expected to make at least one more appearance for OKC, then will be evaluated in terms of his readiness for the bigs.

With the prospective return of Jansen, coupled with a late-inning presence of Fields, Scott Alexander and Kenta Maeda—so long as he remains in the bullpen—the landscape of the Los Angeles relief corps would not seem so gloomy. Perhaps by not having the pressure of the ninth inning on their shoulders, Alexander and Maeda will slide back to their normal mindsets, allowing them to successfully setup Jansen.

Throw All-Star righty Ross Stripling back into the bullpen mix and the future looks even brighter. Stripling was placed on the 10-day DL on Wednesday with back problems, but the injury does not appear as serious as it sounds.

“I don’t have any bulging discs or anything like that, it’s basically managing symptoms,” Stripling explained this week. “Give it a couple of days, get on some good meds and try to get the inflammation out of there. I’m going to give it through the weekend, since they are going to Seattle, and I’ll stay here.”

The activation of veteran right-hander Daniel Hudson on Friday provides an additional boost to the relief crew.

Of course, one of the biggest enemies of the Dodgers right now is a gritty Arizona Diamondbacks crew, which still leads the division by a full two games. In the same breath, 39 contests still remain on the regular season schedule—plenty of time for Los Angeles to establish momentum and make a playoff push. Furthermore, the Dodgers will host the D-Backs in what’s shaping up to be a huge four-game series beginning on August 30.

 

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Dodgers Bullpen: A Look at 3 Emerging Relief Pitchers on the Farm

Considering the recent struggles of the Dodgers bullpen, there’s bound to be a number of moves on the horizon, even before rosters expand at the beginning of September. Besides the collapse of every available arm in the current crew, there’s been plenty of other news, most specifically the back injury to righty Ross Stripling and yet another setback for hard-throwing right-hander Josh Fields.

The minor league system has its fair share of relievers; however, it’s another case of having a bunch of arms who are somewhere around the mediocre level or below. We all remember Edward Paredes, who was designated for assignment earlier in the year, but was able to clear waivers and eventually return back to Triple-A Oklahoma City. There’s also Adam Liberatore, who has been fighting injuries all season and will likely be unable to join the big league squad down the stretch. Brian Schlitter, the 32-year-old righty journeyman, has 16 saves to lead OKC. And then there’s guys like Shea Spitzbarth, Josh Sborz and Joe Broussard, who may conceivably have enough talent to throw in the majors, yet they have been victimized by the hitter-friendly confines of the Pacific Coast League this season to some extent or another.

In light of everything said, we thought it would be interesting to look at the bullpen from a completely different perspective, this time considering three emerging arms who may have success in the bigs sometime down the road. Because they’re not anywhere near the 40-man roster, these players probably won’t see major league action this season, but they are pitchers who will have plenty of upside moving forward.

Nobody has been on more of an extreme roller coaster during their minor league career than flamethrower Yadier Alvarez. At one point, the Cuban righty was cemented in the organizational Top 3 prospects rankings, but injuries and lack of command eventually pushed him off the radar. The beginning of 2017 was no different; however, once he returned from the disabled list this summer, the scouting directors finally decided to let him throw exclusively out of the bullpen, a move which all of us here at TBPC have been anticipating for a very long time.

Currently on the Double-A Tulsa roster, Alvarez recorded his first save of the year last Saturday, tossing four full innings at San Antonio, where he struck out six opposing batters and allowed just two hits. Of course, it’s just one outing, but there’s still a ton of talent there and his arm has so much action that it’s plenty to be excited about, especially when considering the future direction of the big league relief corps.  As far as his repertoire goes, Alvarez features a four-seamer that varies in velocity, but it has been known to touch the 100 MPH mark on occasion. His slider is by far his best breaking pitch, often being clocked around 20 MPH slower than his fastest heater. He was never able to master a change or a curveball completely, but in theory, he won’t need them if he’s strictly throwing out of the bullpen.

27-year-old righty Stetson Allie is another interesting reliever in the system, having split time as both an outfielder and a pitcher over the course of his eight-year minor league career. The Pirates selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft primarily for his pitching skills, but eventually abandoned him after his 2016 campaign, seeing that he never rose above the Double-A level. The Dodgers appeared to be interested in him as a corner outfielder and signed him as a free agent later that winter. He looked promising in 2016 when he hit 16 long balls and 63 RBI, but after a dismal 2017 when he slashed just .216/.293/.341, the Dodgers decided to let him try his hand at pitching once again.

Allie began his 2018 campaign on the bump in High-A Rancho, made a quick 11-appearance stop at Tulsa, and is now opening eyes at OKC. Through his first five outings for Oklahoma City, he has posted an impressive 1.69 ERA while allowing a very stingy .133 BAA. Like Alvarez, Allie can exceed the 100 MPH mark on the gun, which makes the management crew of the Dodgers excited about his future, despite his age.

Righty Marshall Kasowski doesn’t throw quite as hard as Alvarez or Allie, but he has a special gift of having the ability to miss bats. We’ve talked about the 23-year-old Texas native plenty this year already, as his ridiculous 15.71 K/9 is the chief reason for all the exposure. The righty started the season at Low-A Great Lakes, dominated in the hitter-friendly Cal League and now is one of the principle relievers at Tulsa.

So far for the drillers, astonishingly, Kasowski hasn’t allowed a single hit or a run in any of his five appearances or 6-1/3 innings pitched. For the entirety of 2018, across three levels, he has a 1.68 ERA in 37 games, with a phenomenal 103 punchouts over 59 innings, while allowing an extremely impressive .117 BAA. Kazowski was drafted by the Dodgers in the 13th round of the 2017 MLB draft out of West Texas A&M, not long after being named the 2017 Lone Star Conference Co-Male Athlete of the Year.

In terms of his repertoire, Kasowski’s best offering is undoubtedly his heater, which sits in the low-to-mid nineties, sometimes topping out as high as 96 MPH. But it’s his unorthodox delivery which caught the eye of the major league scouts. He throws from a slot right next to his ear, which creates a very deceptive motion that leads to him missing plenty of bats. He still has some control issues, but that’s to be expected, considering he’s just in his first full year in the system.

(Mandatory photo credit: Jeremy Davis/MiLB.com)

 

Dodgers Worst Enemy: An Anemic Offense or a Second-Rate Bullpen?

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(Los Angeles Times photo)

Believe it or not, some people saw a bit of logic when the Dodgers ignored their suspect bullpen while trying to upgrade their offense at the non-waiver trade deadline last month. After all, there were some internal moving pieces which would improve the relief corps, and the addition of two of the best available offensive weapons would seemingly allow the squad to slug its way into the postseason.

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Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on an Otherwise Shoddy Bullpen

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(Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

It’s all that everyone’s been talking about—with good reason. What many followers of the Dodgers have considered to be the team’s biggest weakness all year long is finally proving to be true. It took an illness from the team’s All-Star closer to prove, but what folks are now learning is that Kenley Jansen was the single cog which was seemingly holding the entire Los Angeles relief corps together.

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Dodgers Activate Ross Stripling, Option Pat Venditte to Oklahoma City

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(Mandatory Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

The Dodgers on Thursday afternoon reinstated right-handed pitcher Ross Stripling from the 10-day disabled list and optioned switch-handed pitcher Pat Venditte to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

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Dodgers Roster: Will Hyun-Jin Ryu Make Another Positive Impact in 2018?

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Long before the 2018 starting rotation picture began to sort itself out, many folks close to the Dodgers believed that Hyun-Jin Ryu was embarking upon a potentially career-best season, just in time for him to successfully test the free agent market during the coming winter months. Through the end of April of this year, the 31-year-old southpaw had posted a 3-0 record with a 2.12 ERA, a 0.867 WHIP and an outrageous 10.9 K/9, at least by his own standards. Before the emergence of Ross Stripling, and with staff ace Clayton Kershaw fighting off several different ailments, Ryu was leading the charge of the entire Los Angeles pitching staff.

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Dodgers Prospect Watch: A Look at the Top 5 Players Stuck in Oklahoma City

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(Mandatory Credit: David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

On Sunday, one of our dedicated readers, the venerable Jeff D., brought up utility infielder Donovan Solano and the fact that he was having an exceptional year at Triple-A Oklahoma City. The 30-year-old Solano is slashing an insane .376/.421/.517 through 54 games this year and would probably have garnered a bit of big league consideration if he was in an organization other than the Dodgers. Solano’s success reminded me of a handful of other players, most specifically several on the Los Angeles 40-man roster, who would likely already be in the majors if they were in a different system.

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Dodgers 25-Man Roster: A Few More Random Notes on the Bullpen

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(Photo Credit: Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

There’s a good chance the current bullpen of the Dodgers will get a bit of a makeover before playoff time, assuming that the team is indeed able to secure a spot in the 2018 postseason. It could be accomplished by utilizing injured players like Josh Fields, Julio Urias or Hyun-Jin Ryu, or management may be able to find a way to orchestrate a waiver trade before the end of August. Furthermore, there will be a few starting pitchers left over come playoff time, conceivably allowing several arms like Ross Stripling, Alex Wood or even Kenta Maeda to throw in relief down the stretch.

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The Current State of the Dodgers Starting Rotation

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Although it’s been awhile since we’ve taken a look at the starting rotation of the Dodgers as a whole, the unit is far and away the best on the Senior Circuit with a 3.31 ERA, if you’re into that sort of stat. Even in terms of WHIP and OBPA, Dodgers starters still comfortably lead the NL pack. If we look at how good the Los Angeles rotation is on a broader scale, there are certainly several groups in the American League which may be better, but that’s something the club can consider later in the season, if the team is indeed able to clinch a spot in the postseason.

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How Will Dodgers Create Roster Space for Justin Turner?

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In a statement made before Wednesday’s contest against the Brewers, Los Angeles skipper Dave Roberts indicated that the Dodgers were preparing to move third baseman Justin Turner onto the club’s active roster Thursday, conceivably unleashing one of the most potent offenses in the National League.

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