In case you missed it earlier in the week, on Tuesday we put together a concise profile surrounding righty reliever Shea Spitzbarth, and offered up a bit of insight as to what may be in store for the 23-year old in 2018. Along those same lines, we thought it would be worth mentioning a few other pitchers who will likely provide quality relief on the farm this year, and briefly discuss how exactly they may fit into the landscape of the organization.
Over the winter, the big league bullpen of the Dodgers has been one of the few areas of the roster which has been receiving a high amount of scrutiny. Aside from All-World closer Kenley Jansen, many of the roles are still undefined, as everyone will be jockeying for key spots during Cactus League play and the first few weeks of the regular season.
(Editor’s note: TBPC would like to welcome Ben Kirst to the site’s writing team. Despite spending most of his life in Western New York, Ben is a lifelong fan of the Dodgers, and his writing experience has included coverage of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, Canisius College hockey, University at Buffalo basketball and various D-3/high school sports. He managed, edited and wrote for Buffalo.com for seven years. He also contributed to USCHO.com for three years and The Dunkirk (N.Y.) Observer for another four. Hopefully, Ben will tolerate all of our antics here at TBPC and continue to contribute many insightful articles in the future. Feel free to give him a follow on Twitter @BK77.)
Many media outlets who cover the Dodgers have been spending quite a bit of time this winter discussing the components of the prospective 2018 bullpen, and we are no exception. For the most part, the group who will make up this season’s relief corp is defined, but which roles each pitcher will ultimately assume—sans Kenley Jansen—may take some time to develop. Last season, after a few years of searching, the club’s quest to find a quality eighth-inning arm was finally fulfilled when righty Brandon Morrow eventually settled into the part; however, that exact pursuit will begin anew when players begin reporting to spring training next month.
Although the impending 25-man roster of the Dodgers promises to be one of the most well-rounded squads in the big leagues, many followers of the club believe there are still a few minor holes which need to be addressed before the beginning of the regular season. The starting rotation is solid, yet the perennial concern of not having a true No. 2 starter is still a popular discussion topic among fans. Add to the chatter the lack of quality depth beyond the first five starting pitchers, and the worries surrounding the rotation may actually be somewhat valid. Furthermore, many believe the team still has needs in the bullpen, as the search for a legitimate eighth-inning arm will once again recommence when pitchers and catchers report next month.
Now that the winter hot stove is finally beginning to heat up, many followers of the Dodgers are wondering if the Los Angeles management crew will make any significant moves to bolster the club’s roster before pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch in just a few short months.
Needless to say, the journey through the 2017 season for righty reliever Pedro Baez was a rocky one. Near the halfway point of the campaign, his ERA was almost microscopic, yet when the Dodgers‘ roster was selected for the NLCS against the Cubs, his name was omitted. In early September, he was frequently booed by fans at Dodger Stadium, as skipper Dave Roberts took to the press a number of times to defend him.
Prior to the 2017 campaign, 29-year-old pitcher Kenta Maeda had never made a relief appearance outside of a single game for the Hiroshima Carp during his 2008 rookie season in the Japan Central League. But the manner which he handled himself in the bullpen during the NLDS sweep over the Diamondbacks may have persuaded the management crew of the Dodgers to use the right-hander in similar higher-leverage relief spots moving forward into the playoffs.
From a pitching standpoint, much of the spotlight from the opener against the Pirates on Monday evening was placed on lefty starter Alex Wood‘s performance and potential shoulder dilemma; however, the general perception of the Dodgers‘ bullpen as of late has been causing many fans to be a bit concerned, especially when looking ahead to the postseason.
For many followers of the Dodgers, the general consensus was that the club needed some type of upgrade before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31. In turn, with elite Baltimore closer Zach Britton being virtually untouchable, Los Angeles snagged a pair of southpaws in Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani during the waning moments of the cutoff period. Yet, now that the need for at least one lefty arm has been addressed, those same followers are still wondering if the team’s relief corps has enough firepower to succeed deep into the 2017 postseason.