Sorting Out the Dodgers Bullpen


While Joc Pederson was busy collecting three hits in Wednesday’s Cactus League game including a huge three-run homerun and essentially locking in his starting role on the Opening Day roster, the Dodger bullpen is still a work in progress. Ned Colletti mentioned that the Dodgers have a plethora of talented to arms to choose from this Spring during his time in the broadcast booth on Wednesday, but there’s still a lot to sort out before April 6th.

The Good:

There has been some really impressive Spring showings from many of the new relievers the Dodgers have collected over the offseason. Mike Adams and Sergio Santos both are vying to make comebacks of sorts with the Dodgers, and they could be called upon to pitch out of the pen in the early parts of the 2015 season while Kenley Jansen is rehabbing.

During the Dodgers’ 7-5 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday, Adams pitched a scoreless frame striking out one batter.

Mike Adams, who is trying to bounce back after multiple injuries with Philadelphia, is a non-roster invite who was once dominating as a set-up man with San Diego and Texas. Number 0 could very well contribute in the late innings for the Dodgers should J.P. Howell and Joel Peralta struggle. When Adams is healthy, and he seems to be this Spring, he has been one of the best relievers in the game. He has a career 2.41 ERA which is the second best among active relievers with 300 or more innings under their belt. Who’s ahead of Adams? Only Jonathan Papelbon.

J.P. Howell pitches for the Dodgers during Spring Training at Camelback Ranch. Photo: Stacie Wheeler

Sergio Santos struck out four batters during his inning of work on Wednesday. The inning was extended due to a throwing error and wild pitch by the right-hander. Even so, Santos has pitched very well this Spring and he has struck out 8 batters, walked none, and has a 1.80 ERA in 5 innings pitched thus far in Cactus League play.

Adam Liberatore, a lefty who is on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, could be important should J.P. Howell be injured. Over 5 innings of work this Spring, Liberatore has yet to allow a run. He’s struck out 4 and has allowed 3 hits and no walks.

Paco Rodriguez has looked really sharp with his refined delivery. Paco has pitched in 4 innings this Spring, and he has yet to allow a run. He’s fanned 5 batters, walked none, and he has allowed just 3 hits. His numbers are very similar to Liberatore interestingly.

The Bad:

Last season Kenley Jansen dominated out of the ninth inning, and the Dodgers bullpen struggled in middle relief, but this upcoming season the late innings sans Jansen could be very touch and go until Jansen returns in May. J.P. Howell was an integral part of the Dodger bullpen in 2014, but he hasn’t been sharp this Spring and may even be harboring an injury. J.P. had some reportedly mild groin tightness, but his 16.87 ERA in his 2 2/3 innings pitched this Spring is a bit concerning.

Brandon League is also sidelined with shoulder inflammation and received an injection. League only appeared in 2 games this Spring, and he has struggled due to the shoulder problems while allowing 5 earned runs on 3 hits in 1 1/3 innings. League should be on the Opening Day roster if healthy as should Joel Peralta who has also been battling Spring injuries.

The Ugly:

Owen Watson of Fangraphs projects the Dodgers to have the 5th worst bullpen in the Majors. The Dodgers’ terrible bullpen in 2014 could be a factor in these projections of course, but the new crop of bullpen arms Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have collected provide the club with renewed depth and talent.

With virtually hundreds of combinations of relief arms available to the Dodgers this season, I don’t see how the bullpen can be evaluated when we don’t even have a clear picture of who will make the team just yet.

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The Question Marks:

Juan Nicasio pitches at Camelback Ranch for the Dodgers during Spring Training 2015. Photo: Stacie Wheeler

Chris Hatcher and Juan Nicasio are both out of options, and both are most likely to make the Opening Day roster especially Hatcher who will be needed in late innings.

Nicasio has been inconsistent this Spring which could open up a spot for one of the other many relievers vying for a spot. He has allowed 4 earned runs on 9 hits over 5 innings of work.

Dustin McGowan signed a major league contract with the Dodgers, but he has been shaky to say the least this Spring and could easily be on the chopping block. He has allowed 4 runs on 6 hits in 4 innings pitched.

The Dodgers also have Yimi Garcia, Daniel Coulombe, Pedro Baez as well as non-roster invites David Aardsma, David Huff and Chad Gaudin at their disposal as well. The new front office has done a great job collecting bullpen depth, but it will be a difficult process to whittle down the options for the Opening Day roster.

My prediction for the Opening Day Dodger bullpen (if everyone stays healthy): J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez, Chris Hatcher, Brandon League, Sergio Santos, Mike Adams.

Who do you think will be in the bullpen for the Dodgers on April 6th? Share your thoughts in the comments.