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Dodgers: The Top 5 Relief Pitching Prospects Heading Into 2019

MIAMI, FL - JULY 9: Yadier Alvarez #99 of the World Team and Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Marlins Park on July 9, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

In the spirit of the great movie “High Fidelity” I will be doing a series of top 5 pitching prospect lists. The first top 5 list was the top 5 starting pitching prospects in the Dodgers organization. This is the follow up with the top 5 relief prospects and the top 5 under the radar starting pitching prospects will be last.

As we start looking at the top relief prospects for the Dodgers, it is important to note that some of the top starting prospects could end up in the bullpen. I covered the top 5 Dodgers starters and one or two could end up in the bullpen by the end of 2019.  In this group are some former starters who’s stuff plays up in the bullpen and are had a lot of bullpen appearances in 2018..

1. The Bonus Baby

  • Yadier Alvarez
  • Signed as an international free agent – 2015
  • Turns 23 on March 7th
  • 6’3” and 175 pounds
  • ETA: 2020

Yadier Alvarez was signed to a $16M bonus in 2015 and was as high as #3 on the Dodgers prospects list in 2017 according to MLB Pipeline. His fastball tops out at 101 MPH and he has a very good slider that goes into the high 80s. In 2018 he made quite a few starts but also started making bullpen appearances. He has had multiple behavioral and off the field issues. The talent is there but his behavior could keep him from fulfilling his talent.

I have him as a bullpen prospect because he has two plus pitches in the fastball and slider but nothing else. He does have extreme command issues that cause either hits or walks but a full shift to the bullpen could help him just focus on the fastball and slider. The upside is enormous and he could be a future closer but he needs to get his head together first. For 2019 he probably starts the season in AA and is on the 40-man roster.

2. Buehler’s Vandy Teammate

  • Jordan Sheffield
  • 36thpick of 2016 draft
  • Turns 24 on June 1st
  • 5’10” and 190 pounds
  • ETA: late 2020

Jordan Sheffield is another former starter who moved to the bullpen at the end of the 2018 season. The Dodgers still could put him back in the rotation but I see him as a reliever. He does have three above average pitches with a fastball, slider and changeup. I was able to watch him up close as he finished off a playoff game making the batters look foolish.

With a fastball that can get up to 98 MPH and a nasty slider he is a future closer candidate. Adding in a good changeup gives him an excellent upside. Health is one issue as he’s already had Tommy John surgery and missed a lot of time in 2018 due to forearm stiffness. The other issue is control that seems to come and go. When I saw him he threw 16 pitches with 14 for strikes.

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3. From Out Of Nowhere

  • Marshall Kasowski
  • Drafted in 13thround in 2017
  • Turns 24 on March 10
  • 6’3” and 215 pounds
  • ETA: late 2019

Marshall Kasowski is a fast rising prospect, who is basically a one-pitch pitcher. He throws “a 91-97 MPH fastball that seems to rise at the plate” – MLB Pipeline. As you can see in the video below, he has a very over-handed throwing motion. During the 2018 season he went through three levels while striking out 111 batters in 64.2 innings. Yes, 111 Ks in 64.2 IPs with only 30 hits given up. On the negative side he averaged a walk every 2 innings.

Kasowski was a middle-round draft pick in 2017 and he appeared in only 9 games for two minor league teams. Many times players who threw a lot in high school or college are held back during their initial professional season. For him to fly through 3 levels in 2018 is a big deal. He will start the 2019 season in either AA or AAA in his year 24 season. An important note is that he doesn’t need to be put onto the 40 man roster until after the 2020 season.

4. Last Name Guy

  • Josh Sborz
  • 74thpick of 2015 draft
  • Turned 25 on December 17
  • 6’3” and 225 pounds
  • ETA: late 2019

Josh Sborz was also drafted as a starter and made a full transfer to the bullpen in 2018. Like many who transition to the bullpen his fastball got a boost, topping out at 97 MPH. Like most of the other bullpen prospects he also has control issues. As can be seen below there are a lot of moving parts in his mechanics. Many believe these mechanics are part of his control problems.

Sborz was added to the 40-man roster in the off-season and is a candidate for the bullpen. He pitched a lot of the 2018 season in AAA and he probably starts the season there. He has 3 above average pitches with a fastball, slider and curveball that should be able to make a nice mix out of the bullpen. I do expect to see him as a September call-up at the latest but he could be up sooner. He is on the 40 man roster.

The Lone Lefty

  • Bryan Warzek
  • Drafted in 6thround of 2018 draft
  • Turned 22 on January 17
  • 6’0” and 205 pounds
  • ETA: 2021

Bryan Warzek is the only left-hander on this list and is one that many have not heard of. He was not in a lot of draft lists but the Dodgers reached for him in the 6thround and seemed to have found a gem. Warzek throws a fastball, curveball and changeup and misses a lot of bats as he struck out 38 in 22.1 innings in his first professional season. He made it to low A and I expect him to reach high A early in the 2019 season.

As one of the few highly regarded lefty relievers in the Dodgers system I expect Warzek to move through the system quickly with a debut sometime during the 2021 season. However, I would not rule out 2020 a he’s the only one on this list who does not have control issues. So far, he is one of the steals of the 2018 draft.

“I’ve always tried to be a strikeout guy,” explained Warzek. “I want to be that guy you want out there in a tight situation, and I think I’m doing a great job so far. But I also need to give a lot of credit to my catchers, because the pitch calling has been excellent and that helps more than anything.” Brian Crawford of Baseball Essentials writes: “What makes Warzek so hard for hitters to figure out is the feel he has for his three pitches: fastball, curveball, and changeup. It’s not the variety that makes the lefty hard to hit, it’s the fact he can use any pitch as an out pitch.” – Dodger Chatter

Final Analysis

Four of the five guys have some type of control issue but there are some with a very high upside. I see both Alvarez and Sheffield having outstanding stuff (watch the videos above) and if they can get their control (and Alvarez his head) together they can be dominant members of the Dodgers bullpen. All five of these pitchers have a good shot at making it into the Dodgers bullpen on or before the 2021 season.

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Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

2 Comments

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  1. Thanks for the information and your research, I had not heard of Warzek now I will look for him. I had read articles before the rule 5 draft that some thought the Dodgers would not protect Alvarez as it was stated he is a huge disappointment as far as attitude, as you stated a head case. It will be interesting to see if he can somehow get his head straight…

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