Everyone is focused on the Los Angeles Dodgers trading for Mookie Betts and ignoring what is destined to be an elite bullpen.
The Los Angeles Dodgers made the biggest move of the offseason in trading for superstar Mookie Betts and David Price from the Boston Red Sox. Now, the Dodgers boast arguably the scariest lineup in all of baseball and are locked and loaded for the World Series.
Everyone is focusing on the new-look offense and how Price can contribute to the Dodgers’ pitching staff. One thing that is getting overshadowed in all of this is the Dodgers’ bullpen, which had some concerns last year.
The first half of the season was pretty bad for the bullpen but it ended up finishing much better than people realize. Despite blowing plenty of games throughout the season, the Dodgers still finished with the best bullpen ERA in the National League.
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The team is going to build on that and not only have the best bullpen ERA in the National League but will be heads and shoulders above their peers.
Just look at who the Los Angeles Dodgers have in the bullpen. We will give you the eight-best guys, in no particular order, and why you should be excited.
Kenley Jansen was bad last season and his days as an elite closer might be over, and that is fine. I am not going to sit here and pretend that we are going to get a reinvented Kenley Jansen in 2020.
However, Jansen is attempting to overhaul his cutter with Driveline this offseason after his cutter has taken a significant dip in vertical movement. To make it simple: it has gotten flat.
Driveline is a respected player development program that uses data to improve things such as spin rate and movement, among pitchers; so much so that the Dodgers even hired Rob Hill of Driveline as the pitching coordinator.
Jansen might not be elite again, but he probably will be better.
If you do not know the Dodgers’ newest reliever, Brusdar Graterol, then boy it is time to get excited. Graterol might just be the future of the closer position for the Dodgers as he has elite stuff that is among the best in the league.
Graterol is the number 53 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, and has some of the nastiest stuff you will see. In the Dodgers’ staff, he is going to be great, right away.
Blake Treinen is another guy whose stuff is elite when he is at his best. The problem is that Treinen was hurt last year and had a bad year after a record-setting 2018 season.
It would be unfair to expect Treinen to have the 2018 that he had. Treinen had a 0.78 ERA in 2018 and became the only player in MLB history to post an ERA below 0.80 with at least 80 innings pitched. That is including the dead-ball era.
He still has great stuff and again, in the Dodgers’ system where they maximize pitchers, we should expect him to be better. Even if he is half as good as 2018, he is still someone who could finish the year with a 2.50 ERA.
Kolarek is going to be the lefty specialist in the Dodgers’ bullpen and will thrive in that role. While the three-batter minimum might hurt Kolarek, left-handed hitters still only hit .178 against him last season.
Dustin May will undoubtedly be between the rotation and bullpen if guys get hurt or underperform but we are led to believe that he is going to start the year with Julio Urias‘ previous role, with Urias finally getting a crack at the rotation.
May is also a top-100 prospect and again, if you have watched him pitch, even just once, you know that he has elite stuff. That stuff will play even better when he only gets an inning or two and batters don’t get multiple looks at it.
Another young arm to get excited about, Tony Gonsolin rose quickly through the Dodgers’ ranks last season. I would not be surprised to see him start in AAA, as there are just so many guys, but his 2.93 ERA in 40 big-league innings last season was impressive. He is hard to overlook.
Baez has to make the cut because of his veteran presence but it is not like he does not deserve it. He does have outings where he is really bad, but overall, he is consistent more times than not. He finished 2019 with a 3.10 ERA with a career 3.03 ERA.
Baez is consistently reliable for the Dodgers and if he does start having his meltdowns, the Los Angeles Dodgers have plenty of options to replace him in-house.
Joe Kelly is not popular among Dodger fans after being awful at the start of the year and then again not being great in the NLDS. However, he did have a good second half of the season and because of what the Dodgers are paying him, he has to be in the bullpen.
But still, to have someone who throws 100 miles per hour be the worst option out of the bullpen is not a bad outlook, whatsoever. Kelly has a high ceiling that cannot be ignored and if he is as bad as he was at the start of last season then again, the Dodgers have in-house options.
These are the eight guys that I think are going to start the year in the bullpen and that is not including some notable names. Ross Stripling is a great arm that might get traded, but if not, he would probably take Gonsolin’s spot as he gets the veteran advantage.
Scott Alexander is another lefty that could make the pen as this bullpen is right-handed heavy, but with the new three-batter minimum, that might not even be that big of a deal.
Jimmy Nelson is an exciting pitcher that received Cy Young votes in 2017. He has a career 1.83 ERA at Dodger Stadium and could be this year’s breakout pitcher now that he is again healthy. He is only 30.
The Los Angeles Dodgers not only have the talent at the top but have so much pitching depth that it is going to be very hard for the bullpen to have another bad year. Be excited.