Ramon Troncoso had a really nice year in 2009, and was able perform in every role that was asked of him. Troncoso was coming off a good year in 2008 where he posted an x-FIP of 2.96 in 38.0 innings of relief, but Troncoso was certainly not a lock to make the roster out of camp. In fact, Troncoso struggled a bit, both in the winter leagues and in spring training last season. The problem perhaps for Troncoso was that he didn't have a defined role (which is still true to a degree.) He's not a closer, he's not a setup man, he's not a starter. So he's basically the swing man in the bullpen, available to be called in regardless of the situation.
Consider the different roles Troncoso was given in 2009. In camp, there was a thought that he could become a starter, as the Dodgers were struggling to fill the 5th starter role (a job which initially went to James McDonald but was never settled in 2009.) Troncoso did make the club out of camp, and with Jeff Weaver in Albuquerque and James McDonald in the starting rotation, Troncoso's role was the long reliever. Troncoso's ability to perform in that role was cemented by earning the elusive 4 inning save. And then the injury bug struck the Dodgers. Cory Wade went down, Will Ohman went down, Hong-Chih Kuo went down. As a result, all that was left in the Dodgers bullpen was Jonathon Broxton, Ronald Belisario and Troncoso (the rest of the bullpen was filled with players who began the year in the minors.) Troncoso was called upon to have a more active role in the bullpen, becoming the setup man and occasionally the closer on games when Broxton was unavailable.
And then, as Troncoso had filled in wherever asked, Troncoso went back to having no role again. Things changed rather quickly, and through no fault of his own, Troncoso became the fifth option out of the Dodgers bullpen down the stretch and heading into the postseason. The Dodgers brought in George Sherrill who proceeded to post a 0.65 ERA for the Dodgers, Kuo came back from injury the same week and returned to his dominant form, and Ronald Belisario was understandably considered the more dominant pitcher (compared to Troncoso) because of his strike out rate. So what role will Troncoso have in 2010?
2010 Projections - Age 27 Season
It's not hard to realize the value of having a Troncoso on your pitching staff. As injuries are a natural part of a 162 game season, having utility pitchers who can fill different roles and not kill you is quite the luxury. And that's precisely what Troncoso provides. He's not particularly dominant as his strikeout rate of 5.99 was good for 9th out of the 11 Dodgers pitchers who pitched at least 20 innings in relief last season. But he won't kill you either, as his BB/9 of 3.70 is solid as is his HR/9 of 0.33 (though his x-FIP of 4.22 suggests he was a bit lucky in this regard.) The season hasn't yet begun, and the Dodgers have already seen a bit of instability in their bullpen as Wade is out for 3 months, Belisario remains at large, and Kuo was unable to make his last scheduled pitching appearance due to elbow issues. Having a reliable bullpen piece like Troncoso is quite a luxury.
In 2010, I expect Troncoso will post an ERA of 3.85, a FIP of 3.60, and 2 saves in 65 innings of work.
What are your community projections for Ramon Troncoso (ERA, WHIP, IP)?