Dodgers: 1 disappointment to demote, 1 prospect to promote down the stretch
The Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen looks nearly nothing like it was supposed to when the 2021 season began — and even in the best-laid plans of mice and men, there were plenty of reclamation projects and bounce-back candidates in the mix.
Predictably, when you build a bullpen like that, some of the arms didn’t make it to May, and some haven’t made it at all.
Corey Knebel suffered a lat injury in mid-April and we theoretically rehabbing at the tail end of July, but we’re still waiting for his arrival. Jimmy Nelson, a Comeback Player of the Year candidate who found his curveball in the back end of the bullpen, is also on the IL with elbow inflammation, which he suffered midway through this week.
Tommy Kahnle? It would’ve taken one hell of a rehab process for him to make it back by midsummer from Tommy John surgery, but we still haven’t seen him.
Needless to say, there’s been plenty of deck-chair-shuffling in this year’s Dodgers ‘pen, and it’s resulted in plenty of undesirables making brief cameos, as well as a few unexpected players making their presence known more positively (hello, Phil Bickford!).
Recently, LA’s given an extended trial to a lefty who’s objectively been…what, “Plan J”? We understand the circumstances that led us here, but we still believe it’s time to make a change, and we have a specific one in mind.
Dodgers: 1 player to demote: Darien Nuñez
28-year-old lefty Darien Nuñez absolutely earned the promotion from Triple-A earlier this season in favor of the struggling Mitch White, who you may remember from the late-April, team-wide face-plant.
Since then, though, he’s been the first man on the Oklahoma City Shuttle, ping-ponging back and forth several times between the Triple-A and MLB roster in the weeks since his arrival. He’s been a useful body, but at no point has he shown off the stuff that opened eyes at the lower levels this season.
Did he earn his initial promotion? Oh, for sure; Nuñez, in total, has posted an 0.99 WHIP, 55 strikeouts in 35.1 innings pitched, and a 2.55 ERA in 19 Triple-A games this year. He’s been some sort of hybrid starter/reliever, and we appreciate his service, but…at the big-league level, it hasn’t worked out. Across many stop-and-start stints, the lefty’s allowed seven hits in 7.1 innings pitched (with eight strikeouts), good for a 6.14 ERA, including one bizarre spot start.
It’s good to have someone who’s willing, able and one call away, but after burning through so many arms, the Dodgers should be aiming higher here.
Dodgers: 1 prospect to promote: Andre Jackson
Seems like it’s almost time to give Andre Jackson, fresh off the Futures Game, a shot, right?
After all, any theoretical innings limit that might be in play should be approaching shortly; Jackson has hurled 68.1 innings, whiffed 78 batters, and carries a 3.29 ERA across Double-A and Triple-A, his first start at the highest level finally in the books (five innings, three earned runs).
The team wants to keep him from tiring after a less-than-stressful (on the mound) 2020, but 70 innings…can’t be anywhere near the danger zone, right?
Hopefully, the promotion to Triple-A indicates the Dodgers are at least entertaining exposing their top remaining high-level pitching prospect following Sept. 1. They’ve used nearly every other potential infusion of talent from their OKC roster, and Jackson’s done plenty of developing thus far this season. The next time there’s an injury hole, give him a taste of the bigs.