Spring Training 2017 Battle Series – The Bullpen Part-three of a three-part series on the battle for several key Dodgers Opening Day roster spots

Last week’s article talked about the starting pitching depth and also predicted the rotation that I thought would come out of spring training. I highly recommend reading that article before this one so you can see who was left out of the starting five and why some of them may end up in this article. This piece will focus on the state of the bullpen and will also predict the members come opening day.

Unlike the first two articles, this one is talking about a battle that is slightly clearer cut then the outfield or the rotation. There are far less options and in my opinion there are also far more locks than any other battle. Before we get into names, I am predicting that the dodgers open the season with an eight-man pen.

To save time let’s just state the obvious. Kenley Jansen is this year’s closer. The now 29-year-old, Willemstad, Curacao native just came off arguably his best season in his seven-year career. He finished second in the MLB in saves with 47 and also won the NL Best Reliever Award. Closer is his spot and nobody is taking it from him any time soon.

Jansen entered spring training 2017 with a new wife and a hefty new five-year / $80 million contract.
(Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

Next let’s look at the eighth inning. For me, Pedro Baez and the newly-signed Sergio Romo are the only options for the setup man spot. But with that being said, Romo should win it fairly easily as he has more experience than Baez does and he has spent time in the ninth inning up in San Francisco. Because of his closing experience, Romo seems like the best option to pitch before Kenley as he has been and should still be quite dominant. Although Baez will not get the setup job he will remain a key fixture in the pen even with his unbelievably slow pace of play.

In addition to possibly becoming Kenley Jansen’s setup man, Sergio Romo has quickly become a huge fan-favorite. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

Now let’s fill in the rest of the pen. Every good bullpen needs lefties and the Dodgers will have two. The first will be Grant Dayton. Dayton looked seriously impressive last year in his fairly short stint with the big league club. His fastball projects to be one of the most dominate in the majors this year and he should fare well against both righties and lefties. I think Dayton will serve as both a lefty specialist and could also be lightly penciled in as a seventh inning guy. The other lefty to start the year in the pen will be Luis Avilan. I made this pick not because I wanted to but more because I have no choice. Avilan is out of options going into this year so he must be included in my list.

Much like Avilan, Chris Hatcher is also out of options and I will have no choice but to include him in this. I don’t think Hatcher is the best option for the bullpen but the Dodgers are more or less stuck with him unless they plan on trading him or designating him for assignment.

Since this is a longer article and we have a little ways to go still, I will be putting little reminders of who is in and how many spots are left. To this point it looks like Kenley, Romo, Baez, Avilan, Dayton, and Chris Hatcher. Three spots remain.

Next, as promised in the last article, I will explain why I am going with Ross Stripling in the long man spot. Ross had a great year last year in both the rotation as well as the pen but his stats seemed to shine the most when he pitched as a long reliever. In eight bullpen games, Ross pitched his way to a 2.22 ERA and looked sharp with all of his pitches. While some think that he may start the year in the rotation, I think he plays his best out of the pen and it would be a mistake to play him anywhere else.

The two remaining spots in the pen are going to be somewhat surprising for some people. The first one is going to be Josh Ravin. There are certainly other options but Josh looked really good in the few games he played last year. Ravin has a strong fastball that could probably touch triple digits if he really threw it hard. I would like to see him pitch a little more before the front office decides to do anything with him. The final spot is going to Brandon McCarthy. I feel like I snubbed him from a rotation spot and I highly doubt the Dodgers will trade him so I think that he and Stripling will pitch multiple innings out of the pen.

In conclusion, the bullpen will include: Kenley Jansen, Sergio Romo, Pedro Baez, Ross Stripling, Brandon McCarthy, Grant Dayton, Luis Avilan, Chris Hatcher, and finally Josh Ravin.

After a 2016 season he’d rather forget, my final 2017 bullpen spot goes to right-hander Josh Ravin. 
(Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

All of these battles that were mentioned in the past three articles will start to take shape in the coming six weeks. With pitchers and catchers already in camp, news of the actual winners should start to leak out very soon.

 

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11 Responses to “Spring Training 2017 Battle Series – The Bullpen Part-three of a three-part series on the battle for several key Dodgers Opening Day roster spots

  1. izzylangfan says:

    What about Liberatore. As far as I can find he has completely recovered from his debridement in October. He was quite good last year until his injury and certainly better than Hatcher. Do you think Hatcher wins the spot just because he is out of options. Doesn’t make sense to me.

    • SoCalBum says:

      Spot on! Liberatore had the streak of 28 games without allowing a run AND in his first 42 appearances in 2016 he allowed 2 runs (both earned – same game) then the elbow issue. If he demonstrates that he is 100% heathy (as has been reported) he deserves a spot in the BP.

      • Jacob Rudner says:

        My reasoning behind both Avilan and Hatcher is just the options problem that they have. Liberatore is hands down better than both of them but there is just no room in the pen when option years are taken into account. If the Dodgers make a move to get rid of either Avilan or Hatcher, Adam will be the first one put into my bullpen. That pick was not a matter of talent it was solely based upon options.

  2. SoCalBum says:

    I think Hatcher is more likely traded, or DFA and outrighted to OKC, than making the 25 man roster. What a shame if Avilan makes this roster with Wood and Liberatore in OKC. Dodgers like what they see the ST in Nuno, Paredes, and Schuster then Avilan could be traded. Dayton is a lot more than a lefty specialist based on his performance last season. BP will be an interesting competition.

    • Jacob Rudner says:

      I don’t disagree with you. What I will say though is that I wrote this without making trade or DFA predictions. I did say in the article that it is possible but I don’t like predicting trades because they are very difficult to foresee. With that being said, a trade takes two teams and I don’t see anyone in the league wanting Hatcher or Avilan unless it was for some cash.

      • SoCalBum says:

        I agree, Hatcher is a tough sell to anyone at this point. Unless Dodgers have a number of injuries to BP arms I think Hatcher will be DFA, no team will claim him and take on his $1.25MM contract so Dodgers will outright him to OKC where he could be purchased later in the season if needed. I believe Avilan has trade value as there are so many teams desperate for LH relievers. There is no doubt in my mind that should Dodgers DFA Avilan he would be claimed by several teams.

        • Jacob Rudner says:

          I was just thinking about what you wrote and it dawned upon me that the Dodgers had a very similar case of this last year. If you remember, the Dodgers acquired Casey Fien last season after he got off to a terrible start with the Twins. After joining the Dodgers, Fien only pitched 25.2 innings and it was not pretty at all. The Dodgers DFA’d him and, to nobodies surprise, he went unclaimed. I feel it may be the same case with Hatcher. Avilan on the other hand may bring value just a matter of how much. I do want to see Liberatore in the pen so however that happens I would more than likely be happy with it.

  3. Respect the Rivalry says:

    Gotta agree with Bum on this. Both Lib and Wood should be rated above Avilan.
    Hatcher and Baez can be brilliant at times, but neither are reliable.

  4. oldbrooklynfan says:

    They were three very interesting articles Jacob, Now we’ll just have to sit back and watch.

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