A Stuff-Heavy Stretch Reliever
In Game Five specifically, the Dodgers were shown to lack a trustworthy option to eat more than three outs from the bullpen. This has been a recurring theme for the Dodgers, as Jansen has had to act in this role, or Brandon Morrow in 2017.
Kenta Maeda’s utility comes from his ability to throw harder than normal and put more bite on his curveball than normal when out of the bullpen, so he is not a viable option, and obviously neither is Joe Kelly, so what to do?
Obviously, there are plenty of in-house options, but only one intriguing one. To create a nasty late-inning reliever, you need someone with the stuff of a starter, and the late-game adaptability of a closer. Think of the Royals’ version of Wade Davis from their 2014 and 2015 seasons.
But perhaps a better comparison could be rookie Chris Sale. In his first full season in the majors in 2011 he threw 71 innings in 58 games. Sure, that’s still a far cry from the 190-200 innings he can be counted on for from 2012 to today, but it is important developmentally to face top hitters in tough situations.
For the Dodgers, Dustin May could benefit from this sort of work. Just like Sale, he is lanky and has electric stuff, even if he is too inexperienced to navigate through an MLB start without his best stuff. If May could work out of the bullpen in 50 or so games and throw for five or more outs whenever required, he would likely amass 75-80 innings of work. This would serve to keep him fresh for the occasional spot start and also would make him playoff-ready out of the bullpen so that he could go into a tie game in the seventh inning instead of Kershaw or into the ninth inning instead of Kelly.
If the Dodgers wanted to make May a consistent starter instead of a spot-starter and stretch reliever with stuff, they can certainly do so, but they would be making a mistake. The team does not need any more starters to awkwardly transition into the bullpen come October. They need May to work as a rookie Chris Sale.