As we’ve seen with Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and Dylan Floro, the Dodgers have a specialty of making under-the-radar moves, acquiring players who go out and rise to the occasion. It appears they’ve done it again.
On July 3, the Dodgers made a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, acquiring right-handed relief pitcher, Casey Sadler. At the time, Sadler wasn’t an immediate need for the struggling LA bullpen, so he was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Viewed as a depth piece, a lot of fans probably didn’t expect Sadler to see much time with LA.
But Casey Sadler is quietly one of the Dodgers’ best pickups of this year.
At the time of the trade, Sadler only had 18 major league games under his belt. Drafted in the 25th round of the 2010 amateur draft, Sadler made his major league debut with the Pirates in 2014. He appeared in six games with them, allowing nine runs in only 10 innings of work. He’d only make one appearance in 2015, before a three-year period in which he failed to reach the majors.
He got his chance again with the Pirates in 2018, but saw his time in the big leagues cut short. In two games, he allowed a total of seven runs, and was designated for assignment by Pittsburgh.
Luckily for him, he was given another opportunity.
Weeks prior to the start of spring training this year, he signed a minor league contract with the Tampa Bay Rays, which included an invite to spring training. He began the year in Triple-A and was called up to the big leagues on Apr. 19. In two innings, he allowed zero runs, but was optioned back to Triple-A the following day.
He was recalled and optioned for a total of five times before ultimately being designated for assignment on June 29. He was going through the best stretch of his career when he was handed the news. In nine games with Tampa, he had a 1.86 ERA and was holding opponents to a .219 batting average.
A few days later, he was traded to the Dodgers. He appeared in two games with Oklahoma City before being recalled to the major league Dodgers on July 15.
In two innings against Philadelphia, he allowed one run and struck out two. He was optioned back to OKC a few days later, and then recalled by LA the following day. Since then, Sadler is one of the team’s best relievers.
Since his outing on July 17, Sadler has appeared in eight games, not allowing a run. He has thrown 10 1⁄3 innings, holding opponents to a .152 average and posting a WHIP of 0.87.
Unlike other pitchers the Dodgers could have acquired at the deadline, Sadler owns a very low strikeout percentage. For his career, he’s only averaged six strikeouts per nine innings. Luckily for him and the Dodgers, the strikeouts aren’t needed. A large reason Sadler is able to succeed is the fact that more than half of his matchups have resulted in ground balls — one of the highest rates in the National League during the last three weeks.
Sadler’s ability to face both left-handed and right-handed batters has led to manager Dave Roberts’ growing confidence in him. During this stretch, Sadler has faced a total of 20 lefties and 20 righties. He performs better against lefties, limiting them to a .125 average, compared to right handers’ .178 BA against him. He’s also better at limiting walks to lefties, as he owns a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against them, compared to a 1-to-1 ratio against righties.
With this recent stretch, Sadler is proving he should crack the Dodgers’ 25-man roster once October rolls around. Though there’s no guarantee, it’s likely the Dodgers will likely carry an 8-man rotation in the postseason. If that’s the case, Sadler will be auditioning for one of the final spots.
It’s safe to say that Kenley Jansen, Pedro Báez, Joe Kelly, Julio Urías, Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling will all be locks to make the roster as relievers, assuming they are healthy. There are other notable names that will be fighting for a spot, such as Yimi García, Adam Kolarek, Dylan Floro, Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson and J.T. Chargois. Not to mention, possibly the rookies as well with Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin.
A lot can happen between now and October, and there will still be a lot of moving pieces with the Dodgers’ bullpen. Regardless of what happens, Sadler has finally found a consistent role with a major league team, and is having the best season of his career at age 29.