Dodgers fans are not used to seeing their team on the low side of any preseason rankings in baseball. But, if there is one shortcoming on the team, it’s the lack of recent domination for the guys that make up that relief team.
MLB named the top ten bullpens in baseball this week, and the Dodgers came in at number ten. For any other team in baseball, that would be a good thing. But fans in Los Angeles find it hard to settle for that low of a position, though it might be warranted. Here is how MLB’s Anthony Castrovince summed up the team’s ranking in regards to the two anchors of the bullpen.
Jansen set an especially high bar for himself in 2016-17 and wasn’t able to reach that level in 2018-19. Nevertheless, he’s saved at least 30 games in six consecutive years. Jansen and Kelly paid a visit to the Driveline Baseball performance training facility this offseason to try to improve the action on their offerings. And while Kelly has had wide variations in results in recent years, his stuff is still eye-catching.
The success of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2020 relies very heavily on how Kenley Jansen and Joe Kelly bounce back. Both of those guys had arguably the worst years of their career in 2019. Jansen continued the theme of missing his spots and struggling trying to overthrow his cutter without any cut to it. Joe Kelly just flat out could not find his location or his velocity.
The good news though it that trips to Driveline Baseball Academy for these guys has them looking like they’re back to top physical shape. If those two are back near their peak, the Dodgers don’t need much more help to be one of the best bullpens in the game.
The Dodgers are also taking calculated risks on a few other bouncebacks in the bullpen as well. The signing of former All-Star Blake Treinen is looking like it could be a high reward for Andrew Freidman, and the young guys are coming up quickly. Dustin May and Tony Gonsolina both have electric arms that will likely find their way into the bullpen this year.
Treinen is as intriguing a bounce-back candidate as any reliever in baseball, given the elite level he reached in 2018 (0.78 ERA in 80 1/3) before a return to earth in 2019 (4.91 ERA in 58 2/3 innings). He’s recovered from a stress reaction in his back.
I will say that of the list of top bullpens, the Dodgers’ is by far the most underrated. Expect a big year from the Dodgers’ relievers.