Dodgers: Who Will Emerge as the Shut Down Righty in 2018?


The Dodgers have added to their bullpen this off-season by signing Tom Koehler and trading for Scott Alexander.  Those two will try to fill the void left by Brandon Morrow’s departure.

The Dodgers have taken the budget conscious approach to re-tooling their bullpen this off-season.  The Dodgers signed Tom Koehler for two million plus incentives and they traded for Scott Alexander who will be under team control for 2018.  Both players will likely make under three million total for 2018 which is a big saving from what it would have cost to re-sign Brandon Morrow.

While the Dodgers have arms in the bullpen that are capable of replacing Morrow, they will need a few of those bullpen arms to step up in order to fill the big void left by Morrow’s departure.  Morrow was the Dodgers’ go to eighth-inning reliever for 2017 and he combined with Kenley Jansen to virtually seal wins when leading after seven innings.  Dave Roberts will certainly have plenty of options to be the go-to shutdown righty reliever but one of them will have to step up big time in 2018.

Among the Dodgers’ right-handed options are Pedro Baez, Tom Koehler, Yimi Garcia, Josh Fields, Brock Stewart, and Ross Stripling.  This is assuming that the Dodgers don’t make another move for a proven right-handed reliever.  Among the aforementioned options, here are the career splits against right-handed hitters for the Dodgers potential right-handed relievers:

Pedro Baez – 228 AVG allowed, 677 OPS

Brock Stewart – 254 AVG allowed, 790 OPS

Tom Koehler – 267 AVG allowed, 761 OPS

Josh Fields – 213 AVG allowed, 654 OPS

Ross Stripling – 277 AVG allowed, 771 OPS

Yimi Garcia – 227 AVG allowed, 607 OPS

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The numbers for Brock Stewart and Tom Koehler are a bit skewed since they have been starting pitchers for the majority of their major league appearances.  Ross Stripling has also been more of a long reliever so he has a much higher chance of facing the same hitter multiple times and his stats being skewed a bit too.  Baez and Fields have been middle relievers for pretty much all of their relief appearances so their stats are more honest.

Despite being knocked around in the World Series, Josh Fields was a pretty good reliever for the Dodgers in 2017 when facing right-handed hitters. There was a stretch at the beginning of the season where he was nearly automatic when it came to retiring right-handed batters.  Pedro Baez was also good for most of 2017 but he will be remembered for losing his playoff roster spot in September.  Baez posted an ERA over ten in September and that was a major blemish on his otherwise solid season.

There is a chance the Dodgers gamble on Koehler pays off and he develops into a shutdown right-handed reliever in 2018 but that is asking for quite a bit. There is also a chance that Scott Alexander or Tony Cingrani develop into more than just left-handed relievers as they have shown the ability to get right-handed hitters out.  That is quite possible but ideally, a righty will emerge from the pack.

Next: What does the Alexander trade mean for the Dodgers' offseason?

The best bets to be the shutdown righty in 2018 are Pedro Baez and Yimi Garcia.  Yimi is coming off two lost seasons but when he is healthy he has a mid 90’s fastball with a lot of life.  He can run his fastball in on right-handed hitters and induce swings and misses, or weak contact.  Pedro Baez also is an ideal bounce-back candidate to emerge as the best right-hander not named Kenley Jansen in the bullpen.  Baez just has to trust his stuff and not walk batters or fall into his tortoise pace of play.  If he can stay in command of the strike zone and speed up his time in between pitches, then Baez will bounce back strong in 2018.