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.
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.
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.
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.