After a slow trade deadline, the Dodgers are going to have a two-month tryout for their postseason bullpen. LA’s pitching prospects could be the difference.
The Dodgers entered the day of trade deadline with their sights set on adding an upper-tier reliever to their bullpen. Felipe Vazquez and Shane Greene were two of the closers they had eyes on. Vazquez was kept by the Pirates after the Dodgers failed to include Dustin May or Gavin Lux in a deal, while the Braves added Shane Greene as well as a few other relievers.
Naturally, many fans began to point the finger at Andrew Friedman, the man who is in charge of navigating the Dodgers to their first World Series title since 1988. But be wary of accusing Friedman of doing nothing, he was on SportsNet LA earlier this week and said the Dodgers made aggressive offers they could’ve regretted later on after the season.
Andrew Friedman tried, but the fish weren’t biting. Now the Dodgers’ bullpen enters tryout mode for the remainder of the regular season. Outside of Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, Julio Urias, and Joe Kelly who all appear to be playoff roster locks, the rest of the spots are to be determined. It will be a mix of veterans like Dylan Floro and Yimi Garcia, against talented young arms like Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin.
Dustin May made his debut Friday night against the Padres. He showed flashes of brilliance but things unraveled in the sixth inning. To start the game he was throwing 98 MPH sinkers, with devastating movement into right-handed batters. By the end of his start, the sinker was around 93 MPH. Putting May in the bullpen for the postseason could potentially be a big addition given his power stuff.
The Dodgers must sort out their fourth playoff starter situation first, but that could be decided in late September if Rich Hill is able to make it back. If he isn’t then May is an option for the fourth postseason rotation spot, although the Dodgers could also use Ross Stripling who has been very good when he is able to settle into one role.
Then there is Tony Gonsolin, the other pitching prospect who had a rapid rise in 2018 and was the Dodgers’ minor league pitcher of the year. Gonsolin was recalled on Friday and will get a start on Monday in place of Hyun-Jin Ryu. Gonsolin is another hard-throwing starter who could provide a lift to the postseason bullpen.
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Gonsolin has a splitter that gives him the inability to neutralize left-handed hitters. In AAA Oklahoma City, lefties were hitting just .190 against Gonsolin. In addition to this splitter, Tony also has a sharp slider that he has not allowed a hit on yet during his brief stint in the big leagues. Gonsolin is another pitching prospect that could not only deepen LA’s postseason bullpen but make it better.
Over the last two World Series, the Dodgers’ bullpen was not very deep. Last year they were relying on Ryan Madson who had velocity but ended up nearly useless in the World Series. LA relied on Alex Wood last year after just 3 2/3 innings of relief during the 2018 regular season. Wood was asked to pitch in a high leverage situation as well.
In 2017, the bullpen had Brandon McCarthy who gave up a home run in the nightmare ending that was game two. This season the bullpen should be much deeper and give Dave Roberts more options than ever before. Andrew Friedman must trust the young talent of pitchers as their stuff is as good as anyone else on LA’s potential playoff roster.
By refusing to include top prospects for a reliever the Dodgers sent a strong message that they believe in the talent that they currently have on the roster. That should include their pitching prospects like May and Gonsolin, as fellow youngster Walker Buehler is the only pitcher who has stuff better than them. The Dodgers refused to roll the dice on a reliever, but now they should roll the dice on their own pitching prospects.