The Dodgers are off to a good start but the bullpen has had too many issues already. Some members are getting flat-out lit up. There is also a balance of some starters that are either on pitch counts or aren’t ready for a full start yet. Early indictors that I have been watching for have been good but the bullpen, in general, is a problem so far.
Despite some of us being bothered by his velocity, Kenley Jansen has been good so far. Caleb Ferguson, who had a pretty mediocre Spring Training, has also been good. These are the two pitchers I trust right now.
Scott Alexander has also been pretty good but the walk he has came in a one batter appearance. The only hit he gave up was a two run double by Brandon Belt to put the Giants ahead on April 1. Alexander, to be successful in tight situations needs to have his command right away. That is not the case in some appearances. When he has his command he is a ground ball machine.
Dylan Floro has an ERA of 0.00 but he’s given up 6 hits in 4 innings with only 2 strikeouts. It seems he’s been lucky. However, as long as he and Alexander keep the ball down they will be solid.
The (So-Called) Bad
Pedro Baez stands alone here as he’s had some hard luck. The passed ball in game 2 of the season by Russell Martin hurt and Pedro didn’t respond well after that. Although the inning should have ended, Pedro promptly walked Alex Avila. In the 4thgame he inherited Walker Buehler’s mess and gave up a stolen base, a double to score two, a fly out, a two run homer, a single and an inning ending double play. His next two appearances were more than an inning and he was pretty good. He should be fine.
In his first two appearances, Joe Kelly was terrible. He has a history of having control and consistency issues. It sounds like his history is one or two awful outings then a string of good ones. In his one-third of an inning against the Rockies he did give up a hard shot back to him but got the out. Fortunately X-rays were negative. I expect him to be a solid member of the bullpen.
Yimi Garcia has been bad and Brock Stewart has been worse. The only time they should be used is in mop up duty right now. Right now, they cannot be trusted in any high leverage situation. One excuse I might give is that when they are pitching with a big lead they are just pounding the zone. However, at some point they need to get batters out. Garcia has struggled with his control as he’s walked 4 batters in 3.2 innings. Stewart has given up NINE hits in 4.0 innings for an opposing batter batting average of .529. That is truly ugly.
Brock Stewart still has an option left so he would be first to go. He’s the long man out of the bullpen so he needs to be replaced with another pitcher that can go long. My preference is that Dennis Santana be recalled before his first start with OKC on Monday. Santana deserves a shot as his 2018 season was abbreviated right after getting called up.
Yimi Garcia does not have any options so he’d have to be traded or designated for assignment (DFA’d) to get him off the roster. Garcia does have some interesting stuff though. According to Brooks Baseball:
“His fourseam fastball generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, has some natural sinking action, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers and has slightly above average velo….. His change (take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 8 of them in 2019) is thrown extremely hard, generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ changeups, dives down out of the zone, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups and has slight armside fade.”
At some point the Dodgers need to decide how long they can carry him on the roster. I’d like to see Stetson Allie get a shot. He’s not on the 40-man roster but there are two spots available.
Long Term Solutions
When Clayton Kershaw comes back it is expected that Julio Urías will be moved to the bullpen to help limit his innings. When Rich Hill comes back then Ross Stripling would go back to the bullpen. I’d prefer Kenta Maeda go to the bullpen but many factors keep that from happening, including his contract.
The big solution is to sign Craig Kimbrel as stated by our own Marshall Garvey. Heck, I even wrote about the possibility in mid-March. It just doesn’t seem it is how the Dodgers do things though. Their pursuit of Bryce Harper, offering a lot of money for a short-term deal, does give a glimmer of hope. Of course, who closes? I would hope winning makes that question a big “who cares” between Jansen and Kimbrel but that won’t happen.
This is the probable bullpen in 2-3 weeks:
- Kenley Jansen
- Julio Urías
- Joe Kelly
- Caleb Ferguson
- Ross Stripling
- Scott Alexander
- Pedro Baez
- Dylan Floro
That looks very strong without a major move. Let’s hope that there is some continued health and the bullpen will not be as big of an issue as it is now. With a starting staff that is not known for going deep into games, the bullpen will continue to be very important, especially since the offense can’t stay as hot as it is now.