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2016 Dodgers review: Yaisel Sierra

Yaisel Sierra pitched better out of the bullpen after struggling as a starter in his first year in America.
Yaisel Sierra pitched better out of the bullpen after struggling as a starter in his first year in America.
Photo: Tomo San | LA Dodgers

After five years pitching in La Serie Nacional in Cuba, Yaisel Sierra joined the Dodgers and made his United States debut in 2016.

What went right

The Dodgers signed Sierra to a six-year, $30 million contract on Feb. 21, 2016, including a $6 million signing bonus.

The right-hander hit his stride once he moved to the bullpen, pitching seven times in relief for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga then 10 times for Double-A Tulsa. Sierra posted a 3.45 ERA out of the bullpen, with 31 strikeouts and eight walks in 28⅔ innings.

Sierra struck out 25.8% of batters faced in relief compared to 19.9% as a starter, and out of the bullpen opposing batters hit just .236/.294/.300 with no home runs against him.

Sierra's transition to the bullpen was gradual, and he was almost on a schedule in his relief appearances. After his initial relief outing on July 15, 12 of his next 16 appearances were on two days rest, and his other four games came with three days rest.

He entered all of his relief appearances at the beginning of an inning with nobody on base, and 11 of his 17 games out of the bullpen were exactly two innings

What went wrong

Sierra struggled mightily as a starting pitcher, allowing six or more runs in six of his 13 starts for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. He posted a 7.05 ERA as a starter, and opposing batters hit .305/.373/.484 with nine home runs.

He was sent outright to the minors, removed from the 40-man roster on July 3, 2016.

2016 particulars

Age: 25

Stats: 5.89 ERA in 30 games, 13 starts in Class-A & Double-A; 86 K, 30 BB in 88⅔ IP

Salary: $1 million, plus a $6 million signing bonus paid in 2016.

Game of the year

Sierra had a few scoreless starts with Rancho Cucamonga, but for his game of the year, I'll pick a relief appearance with Tulsa on Aug. 27 at Northwest Arkansas (Royals). He pitched 1... perfect innings and struck out four of his five batters faced, pitching in the eighth and ninth innings.

Roster status

Sierra is still under contract for $23 million over the next five years.

Not on the 40-man roster, Sierra is technically eligible for the Rule 5 draft on Thursday at the winter meetings in Washington D.C., as are infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena (2 years, $9 million remaining) and outfielder Dian Toscano (2 years, $3 million, plus a 2019 option), though anyone drafting them would also be on the hook for the remainder of their contract(s).

Should Sierra be added back to the 40-man roster at some point, he does have two option years remaining.