Dodgers Bullpen: Who’s the Best 8th-Inning Relief Option?

While most pieces of the bullpen have shown flashes of brilliance during the young 2017 campaign, Friday evening’s implosion against the Diamondbacks left many fans of the Dodgers wondering if the relief corps has the structural integrity to hold up over the long haul, or if the front office crew will feel the need to go shopping for a few upgrades before the trade deadline arrives in July.

Nobody’s anywhere near a panic point just yet, though. Fans will remember the beginning of the 2016 season, when the relief corps was nothing short of a nightmare. Besides Kenley Jansen, relievers Chris Hatcher and Pedro Baez were believed to be the best late-inning options, as the Dodgers’ bullpen struggled for nearly a month to establish some sort of identity. Yet once the management crew was able to develop critical player data regarding matchups, righty Joe Blanton quickly settled into the chief setup role, and along with the emergence of Louis Coleman and Adam Liberatore, the Dodgers’ crew eventually proved to be among the best in baseball.

Needless to say, there were some ups and downs. Coleman and Liberatore suffered significant injuries, perhaps from over-usage, and were never the same upon returning from the disabled list. Hatcher went on the shelf in July with a strained oblique and never came back at all. On the plus side, Ross Stripling evolved into a very dependable long man. Grant Dayton emerged from Triple-A Oklahoma City and showed tremendous value. Jesse Chavez and Josh Fields, who were both acquired right before the trade deadline, also made key contributions down the stretch run of the regular season. Josh Ravin returned from a half-year suspension to flaunt his triple-digit heater, showing fans that the Dodgers have a surprising amount of depth in the pen heading into 2017.

As it stands now, gone are Blanton, Coleman and Chavez. Dayton and Ravin are sitting on the disabled list struggling with injuries, while Liberatore is throwing at OKC trying to make a case for his inclusion on the big league roster. Alex Wood, who appeared to have some much-needed firepower for the relief crew, has already been shuffled back and forth between the bullpen and the starting rotation. And Hatcher has been used sparingly so far, appearing mainly in low-leverage situations or when the club is in need of a multiple-inning, mop-up type of role.

Fans also believed that the signing of righty reliever Sergio Romo would help bridge the gap to Jansen, assuming that the 34-year-old still had the tools to be an effective eighth-inning setup option, which he certainly is not. As it would appear that Romo would be phenomenal in a ROOGY (Righty One-Out GuY) role, his effectiveness against left-handed batters is often questioned.

Over the course of his 10-year career versus right-handed hitters, Romo has a stellar .188/.230/.313 slash line against, while surrendering a .241/.306/.366 line to lefty batters. Because of injuries, 2016 saw his vitals elevate against hitters from both sides of the dish, but over 70 games during his age-32 season in 2015, he tallied an amazing .170/.181/.286 line against righties, while surrendering whopping .371/.443/.486 averages against left-handed hitters. There’s no doubt that there’s a definite role on the club for Romo moving forward, but it may not be in the capacity that many fans perceived at the beginning of the campaign.

Baez certainly has the potential to be an eighth-inning savior, yet there’s still several aspects of his overall game that need polished before he shines in that particular role. Stripling and Dayton have turned many heads during their short stints in the bigs, but the sample sizes of both are still relatively small to be considered formidable setup options for Jansen.

Looking ahead, while an upgrade would indeed provide the club with more constructive alternatives down the road, there may be just enough relief depth in the system to get by until the trade deadline, barring any additional epidemic of injuries. And as the 2017 calendar has yet to turn to May, there’s still plenty of time for skipper Dave Roberts and his staff to evaluate his relievers, and to calculate more formulas while figuring which pitchers fill each specific relief role.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

Advertisements

Dodgers Prospect Watch: Yadier Alvarez Finally Beginning to Stir

Now that the regular season is quickly approaching its third week, we’re finding out a bit more on a daily basis about why a handful of players in the Dodgers‘ system mysteriously disappeared from their normal roster statuses during the early phases of the 2017 campaign.

Righty phenom Walker Buehler was held back at extended spring training for a little over a week, non-roster invite Josh Sborz spent a little over two weeks in Glendale, and prized prospect Yadier Alvarez hung around Camelback Ranch for almost three weeks before finally making his debut against the Lancaster JetHawks on Monday.

And if the more dedicated fans dig hard enough, they’ll find that there were plenty more beginning their respective seasons in extended spring training, perhaps a ploy by management to utilize a new type of strategy in the development of some of the younger players. All this is happening while 20-year-old southpaw Julio Urias is still taking his turns in the rotation at Triple-A Oklahoma City — something that fans didn’t expect to see until early May, after Urias was able to rest his arm in hopes of saving his fuel for the 2017 postseason.

Rumors were circulating in early spring whispering that Alvarez showed up to camp a bit out of shape and was sent to Glendale to tuneup for a brief time. Regardless, he did what was expected of him early, and finally made it to the bump to start a game for Rancho Cucamonga in the Cal League this week.

In the end, Alvarez’s debut was not pretty at all. He didn’t strikeout a single batter, which is extremely uncharacteristic of the 21-year-old righty. He ended up throwing 65 pitches over 2-1/3 innings, surrendering seven runs on nine hits, with two walks and two wild pitches in the Quakes’ 9-5 loss to Lancaster.

According to J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group, Alvarez’s fastball sat in the 93-96 MPH range in the first frame, and drifted down to the 90-92 range by the beginning of the third inning. Last season, Alvarez was clocked in the triple digits on more than one occasion. Yet while his initial performance of the 2017 season was indeed a bit gloomy, all signs point to the young Cuban regaining his form quickly during his next few turns in the Rancho rotation.

For the fans of the Dodgers who may be unfamiliar with Alvarez, he’s currently ranked as the second best prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline. Between Rookie League and Low-A Great Lakes last season, he posted a 4-3 record with a 2.12 ERA and a 12.3 K/9 over 59-1/3 innings of work.

When we initially took a glance at Alvarez in December of 2015, he didn’t have much of a track record in terms of organized baseball, and it remained somewhat of a mystery the exact type of skill set he would bring along with him to the farm. Now that he’s beginning to progress through the lower levels of the minors, reports from many of the scouts have been outstanding.

As far as his repertoire, Alvarez features a four-seamer that varies in velocity in the 94-100 MPH range. His slider is by far his best breaking pitch, often being clocked around 20 MPH slower than his fastest heater. His change and curveball are still in the developmental stages, but were already beginning to show promise with the Loons and in the Arizona League.

People who follow Alvarez closely believe that he could make an impact as a reliever early in his career, yet many of the pundits see his best potential as a starter, so long as he continues to sharpen his command. Some scouts have even uttered a conceivable ceiling of a No. 2 starting pitcher.

Having just turned 20-years-old in March, he’s still in need of some time to fill out his lanky 6’3″ frame, yet if he stays on course and consistently improves his pitching control, Alvarez may zip through the High-A level this year and conceivably see limited time with Double-A Tulsa by season’s end.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

Dodgers Send Forsythe & Segedin to Disabled List, Recall Taylor & Eibner

chris-taylor-mlb-los-angeles-dodgers
(Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

The Dodgers on Wednesday placed infielder Logan Forsythe and infielder/outfielder Rob Segedin on the 10-day disabled list and recalled outfielder Brett Eibner and infielder/outfielder Chris Taylor from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Forsythe is suffering complications from a fractured toe, while Segedin was diagnosed with a strain in his right foot.

Continue reading “Dodgers Send Forsythe & Segedin to Disabled List, Recall Taylor & Eibner”

Dodgers Roster: A Quick Look at the Organizational Bullpen Depth

liberatore
(Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

When long man Alex Wood was recently shifted back into the starting rotation and righty Josh Fields was recalled to the big league bullpen, a popular topic of conversation among fans of the Dodgers was the discussion surrounding the organizational depth of relief pitchers.

Continue reading “Dodgers Roster: A Quick Look at the Organizational Bullpen Depth”

Dodgers Send Grant Dayton to Disabled List, Recall Josh Fields

dayton
(Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday placed left-handed pitcher Grant Dayton on the 10-day disabled list with a left intercostal muscle strain in the rib area and recalled right-handed pitcher Josh Fields from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Continue reading “Dodgers Send Grant Dayton to Disabled List, Recall Josh Fields”

Dodgers Roster: Scott Van Slyke, Rob Segedin Vying for Same Utility Spot

svs
(Mandatory Credit: Jon SooHoo Los Angeles Dodgers)

In the greater scope of things, there’s probably not enough room on the Dodgers‘ 25-man roster for both Scott Van Slyke and Rob Segedin, especially if the majority of the club’s key contributors are 100% healthy. However, with lefty killer Franklin Gutierrez still nursing a tender hamstring and veteran southpaw Rich Hill back on the shelf for an undetermined amount of time, the team turned to Segedin on Monday with hopes of creating a jolt of offensive energy against left-handed pitching.

Continue reading “Dodgers Roster: Scott Van Slyke, Rob Segedin Vying for Same Utility Spot”

Dodgers Injury News: Andre Ethier, Scott Kazmir, Franklin Gutierrez & More

ethier
(Mandatory Credit: LM Otero/Associated Press)

While there are still a few lingering issues that have affected the general makeup of the big league 25-man roster, injuries have not had a significant impact on the overall performance of the Dodgers so far in 2017. Veteran lefty Rich Hill is prepared to be reinstated from the 10-day disabled list to face the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon, and with a little bit of good fortune, one or two other players may soon follow in his footsteps.

Continue reading “Dodgers Injury News: Andre Ethier, Scott Kazmir, Franklin Gutierrez & More”

How Will Dodgers Create a Roster Spot for Rich Hill?

Rich+Hill
(Mandatory Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The good news is that Rich Hill‘s blister issues weren’t as serious as some initially perceived, as the veteran lefty is set to take the mound in the Dodgers‘ third contest of a four-game set against the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon.

Continue reading “How Will Dodgers Create a Roster Spot for Rich Hill?”

Dodgers Lineups: What’s the Problem Against Lefty Pitching?

scott-van-slyke-yasiel-puig-mlb-los-angeles-angels-los-angeles-dodgers
(Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Last year, a few stubborn fans who didn’t care to comprehend simple math believed it to be a season-long jinx. But only ten games into the 2017 campaign, the struggles the Dodgers have been wrestling with against left-handed pitching have become so obvious that other teams are realigning their pitching rotation when they see a series vs. Los Angeles appear on their respective schedules.

Continue reading “Dodgers Lineups: What’s the Problem Against Lefty Pitching?”

Dodgers Prospect Watch: Joe Broussard Dealing, O’Koyea Dickson Raking Early

dickson
(Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Davis)

On Tuesday afternoon, Andy put together a rather intriguing story surrounding the question of whether or not the Dodgers should consider a roster move or two based on the early performances of some players, most specifically those in utility or bench roles. Ironically, as the club embraces the middle game of the three-game set against the Cubs at Wrigley, we may see the bullpen revamped with the addition of righty Pedro Baez, while the offense could be infused with the presence of Trayce Thompson, if lefty-killer Franklin Gutierrez does indeed find himself on the 10-day disabled list with a hamstring problem.

Continue reading “Dodgers Prospect Watch: Joe Broussard Dealing, O’Koyea Dickson Raking Early”