Why Dodgers' Yency Almonte could be bullpen x-factor in 2023

Division Series - San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two
Division Series - San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two / Harry How/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Dodgers have taken small steps towards bolstering their pitching staff this offseason. The additions of J.P. Feyereisen, Noah Syndergaard, and Shelby Miller provide depth to both the rotation and bullpen, but it could be a returning reliever who gives LA the biggest boost. 

Yency Almonte enjoyed a successful 2022 campaign. Over 33 regular season games, the Miami native slung 35.1 innings and recorded a career-best ERA of 1.02. He slightly struggled in the postseason against the San Diego Padres, but did not allow a home run in the 2.1 innings he pitched.

Almonte is someone fans should pay close attention to, especially given his sinker usage has skyrocketed since 2021, resulting in weaker contact and more ground balls.

According to Baseball Savant, Almonte threw his sinker 3.4% of the time in 2021. He posted a career-worst ERA of 7.55. The 2022 season saw him use his sinker 33.9% of the time. While this number paled in comparison to the amount of sliders he threw, it also came with a decrease in fastball usage. While Almonte’s K% was on the lower end of the spectrum last year, he did deliver the highest ground ball percentage of his career. 

  So what does this mean for the Dodgers?

Yency Almonte could be among most important bullpen arms for Dodgers

Much of postseason pitching concerns limiting baserunners. Sinker ball pitchers are historically good at rolling hitters into double plays and managing the traffic on the bases. Further, the entire 162-game campaign is one defined by home runs. Pitchers scramble to limit fly balls and hard contact. Almonte has shown the ability to do just that without a dominant fastball or high strikeout rate. While the prominence of these kinds of arms has decreased in an era dominated by strikeouts, the prototype could still be effective.

Even so, Almonte may not be a traditional ground ball pitcher. Last year's regular season may be remembered as an anomaly after he was able to punch out six batters in 2.1 innings of postseason work. But the fact that he has the ability to successfully toe the rubber without overusing a fastball should give fans some food for thought.

If the name of the game is limiting baserunners, fly balls, and home runs it would seem prudent to have a blooming reliever who has shown a willingness to work smarter and not harder.          

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