Last week we highlighted Dave Roberts’ comments on five pitchers that have spots in the bullpen. As a refresher, those five are Kenley Jansen, Scott Alexander, Pedro Baez, Ross Stripling, and Tony Cingrani. None of whom are a surprise to anyone. Now the question is: who will occupy the Dodgers’ final bullpen spots? There are a number of names to consider, so let’s dissect which ones are, or are not likely to make the Opening Day bullpen.
*Update: Following March 10’s game the Dodgers optioned Henry Owens, Dennis Santana, and Brock Stewart.
Roberts: Jansen, Baez, Cingrani, Alexander, Stripling set for bullpen. Dodgers expect to use 8-man pen.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) March 3, 2018
The Least Likely
There are a number of solid pitching options that, despite having decent springs, are unlikely to make the Opening Day roster for any number of reasons. Among these reasons may be: underperformance, they have an option available, or simply there just isn’t enough space.
Henry Owens, Edward Paredes, Dennis Santana, Wilmer Font, and Manny Banuelos all land in this category. A few of these players, like Owens and Font, have experience starting. So they are likely to end up as depth pieces at AAA. Others like Paredes (already two lefties in the pen) and Dennis Santana (starting prospect needing more innings) will also miss the cut.
Lastly is Manny Banuelos. Formerly a top prospect with the Yankees, Banuelos has made his way around the league since then. Despite the lackluster 9.53 ERA, his has solid strikeout numbers and great stuff. In the end, he is still likely to not make the roster.
The Fringe Options
JT Chargois starts us off and poses an interesting option for the Dodgers though. Armed with power stuff that could play in the late-innings, Chargois could be a dark horse, though the Dodgers may slow play him to see how he performs the rest of the spring. The Dodgers have managed to find lightning in the bottle in the last two seasons a la Joe Blanton and Brandon Morrow. So we will see if one team’s trash ends up once again becoming the Dodgers’ treasure.
Another interesting fringe option is the switch-pitching Pat Venditte. So far he has given up only one earned run in six innings while striking out 9. We’ve already talked about how unique Venditte is, and it would surely be interesting to carry someone like him in the bullpen. However, despite the strong performance, he may still be on the outside looking in come Opening Day.
Adam Liberatore. Though it would seem odd to carry three lefties, Liberatore is still very likely to make the Opening Day bullpen. Starting the season with 13 pitchers, 8 of which are relievers, will allow the starters to be less strained. There is a strong chance that by the end of April the Dodgers will drop one of the bullpen arms and move back to carrying 12 pitchers.
The Likely Locks
Despite already having another long-reliever in Ross Stripling, the Dodgers will likely also carry Brock Stewart. Having both Stewart and Stripling will allow the Dodgers the flexibility of carrying two long-relievers capable of going 4+ innings. Stewart isn’t having a great spring, but he is still one of the more likely players to make the bullpen. *Update: The Dodgers just announced they are optioning Brock Stewart. So this opens the door in particular for guys like Venditte and Chargois.
Brock Stewart’s early cut in part because of lack of consistency. Will start in Minors.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) March 11, 2018
Despite not pitching in any game action, Josh Fields is likely a lock for the bullpen. The last two seasons with the Dodgers has yielded a 2.83 ERA to go along with 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Fields has been a stable in the pen, and he will likely continue to be one going forward.
The final player that will likely occupy the final bullpen spot is Yimi Garcia. Garcia is one guy that, in all honesty, I am rooting for. When he first debuted back in 2014 I saw something special. In Garcia, I saw a set-up/late-innings arm that would be extremely valuable. The 2015 season validated this, but unfortunately, injuries stole away the 2016 and 2017 seasons. So far his spring has been less than stellar. But he still has a shot at making the roster, given his previous success in the Majors.
The Dodgers’ Final Bullpen Spots Go To…
All told, it will be interesting to see what the club has in store moving into the 2018 season for the bullpen. You heard it here first. The final three bullpen spots will go to Adam Liberatore, Josh Fields, and Yimi Garcia.
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