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Predicting the Dodgers’ postseason bullpen

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There will be a lot of players fighting for limited spots

Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

It’s safe to say the Dodgers will be playing baseball in October for the seventh straight season. With a 19-game lead in the National League West and the best record in baseball, the Dodgers will likely finish with home field advantage — at least until the World Series.

One thing we may not know until the rosters are unveiled is which pitchers will make the 25-man postseason squad. Looking back at previous seasons, the Dodgers have usually gone with a 13-man bench and a 12-man pitching staff. Assuming they go with 12 pitchers again, it will likely be four starters and eight pitchers to make the cut.

So, who will they be?

Your guess is as good as mine. But don’t fret — we’re going to examine all the potential options for the Dodgers’ postseason bullpen and see what the most likely scenarios are with each pitcher, and what their chances are of pitching for LA when October rolls around.

Kenley Jansen

There are a few players who will be locks to make the roster, with one of those being Kenley Jansen. Despite being under scrutiny for blowing saves recently, Jansen will likely be the closer for the Dodgers in October.

It’s been a rough season for Jansen, who is currently having (by his standards) the worst season of his career. His 3.73 ERA is the highest he’s ever had in a season and his WHIP (1.073) and SO/9 (11.8) are both his second worst. With that being said, those are still good numbers for a closer.

Has Jansen struggled this year? Yes. Has he seen struggles in the last two World Series? Yes. Regardless, he’s still probably going to be the closer for LA, and Dave Roberts will still turn to him in the ninth inning.

Joe Kelly

Signed to a 3-year deal in the offseason, Joe Kelly will be another lock to make the roster in October. The Dodgers signed Kelly with the hopes he could have a repeat performance of his dominant World Series against LA. Last season in the Fall Classic, Kelly threw six scoreless innings, striking out 10 and allowing only four hits.

Kelly’s career with the Dodgers got off to a very rough start. He had a 8.33 ERA after his outing on May 27 and it was looking like a missed signing by the Dodgers’ front office.

Since then, he’s been one of the more dominant relief pitchers in baseball and has become a Dodgers fan favorite. He has a 1.59 ERA since the end of May, holding opponents to a .169 batting average while striking out 33 in 22 23 innings. It took a few months, but Kelly has slowly transformed into the pitcher the front office and fans were expecting.

Pedro Báez

Much like Kelly, Pedro Báez has experienced his share of boos from Dodgers fans in the past. Though, this case is hard to fathom, with the lowest ERA of his career being 3.35. Yet again this year, he’s been one of the more reliable arms out of the bullpen.

In 2019, his WHIP (0.92) is the lowest it’s been since his rookie season, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.1-to-1) is the best since 2016. Like Kelly, Báez got off to a rocky start, but has figured things out ever since. Over the last month, he’s been nearly untouchable, posting a 0.84 ERA since July 16. During this time, he’s holding opponents to a .139 average.

Baez and Kelly likely will split time as the eighth inning set-up man in the playoffs.

Julio Urías

After missing most of 2018, Julio Urías cracked the postseason roster for the NLCS and World Series. He allowed two runs in six innings of work, but got some crucial postseason experience that will surely help in 2019.

He’s come out of the bullpen 20 times this season, boasting a 2.06 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. He is mainly used as a long reliever, throwing two or three innings per outing. Earlier this month, manager Dave Roberts said he wants to try and get Urías working on throwing in back-to-back games. It’s still unclear what his role will be in October, but it’s safe to say that he will be the most relied upon lefty to come out of the pen.

Kenta Maeda

Over the last two Octobers, Maeda has transitioned from starter to reliever, and that’s likely going to happen again this year. It’s been a very good spot for him, as he’s thrived in the role. In 17 games out of the bullpen, Maeda has allowed only four runs. He has 20 strikeouts, and opponents are hitting .212 against him.

Depending on the health of Rich Hill and confidence in rookies like Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, Maeda could potentially be the No. 4 starter in the rotation. If not, he’ll head back to the bullpen, with the hopes of continuing his postseason dominance for the third straight season.

Ross Stripling

Having not made the postseason roster in 2018, Stripling looks to crack the 25-man this Fall. He appeared in five games between the NLCS and World Series in 2017, not allowing a run.

Currently on the injured list, there’s no timetable as to when we can expect a return from Stripling. However, Roberts envisions the 29 year old making an impact in October.

“He’s crucial,” Roberts said. “The ability to get left and right out, the ability to execute pitches and also the ability to go multiple innings. To have him healthy, feeling great, going into the postseason is very important.”

He’s appeared in 14 games as a reliever this year for a 4.02 ERA. His numbers have been better as a starter, but his value comes as a guy that can eat innings out of the bullpen, something the Dodgers might really value. Though they already have a guy in Urías that can do that, and with Rich Hill likely making the roster too, it’s unclear if LA will want three long relievers taking up nearly half the spots.

Rich Hill

This will be a wild-card move, as there’s still no date yet as to when we can expect Hill to return. Even if he returns before the postseason as expected, Roberts said he likely won’t have enough innings built up to be a starter in October. With that being said, we can probably expect to see Hill out of the bullpen this postseason.

Hill is great in October with the Dodgers, posting a 2.66 ERA in 11 games. He was really good last year, holding opponents to a .155 average, including his dominant Game 4 outing in the World Series last year.

The health is unclear, along with his role, but we will likely see the 39 year old to some extent in the playoffs.

Yimi García

Though he’s been with the team since 2014, García has appeared in only one postseason with LA. He’s appeared in 47 games with the Dodgers in 2019, the second most of his career. Though his ERA sits at just under 4.00, majority of his runs allowed have been a result of home runs. He’s allowed 12 long balls on the season.

His 0.88 WHIP is the fifth best among relievers in baseball. Since April 13, he has a 2.70 ERA while holding opponents to a .159 batting average. Taking the long ball out of the equation, García has had a very solid season for the Dodgers. However, due to the fact he gives up homers almost more than any reliever in baseball, that could put his postseason spot in jeopardy.

Dylan Floro

It’s been a forgetful year for Floro, who is currently in Triple-A. He didn’t allow a run over the first month of the season, but from mid-May until August, he had a 7.71 ERA.

He was great for LA in the 2018 postseason, with the exception of World Series Game 4, where he allowed three runs and took the loss. Prior to that, he appeared in seven games, allowing no runs and striking out eight.

He’s battled injuries this year, and with him currently being in the minors, it’s unclear of how much confidence the Dodgers will have in him when October rolls around.

J.T. Chargois

The 28 year old has split time between the big leagues and Oklahoma City this year. He’s struggled in his time with the Dodgers, having an ERA just under 6.00. Last season, he appeared in 39 games with LA, but was left off the postseason roster.

Adam Kolarek

The Dodgers were in need of bullpen help at the trade deadline, and Kolarek was who they acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays. The left hander has appeared in four games with the Dodgers so far, but only a combined 23 of an inning. He’s allowed two hits and issued a walk in his short time in LA.

Prior to coming to LA, he owned a 3.95 ERA in 54 games. Kolarek is a groundball specialist, having one of the highest ground ball rates in baseball among relievers. With it looking like Scott Alexander will miss more time, Kolarek essentially fills in his role. Though there might be better options for the Dodgers, having a lefty who is really good against left-handed batters and forces a high volume number of groundballs might help him secure one of the final spots.

Caleb Ferguson

Another lefty. Things have been difficult in 2019 for the 22 year old. After bursting onto the scene and being a surprise out of the bullpen in 2018, Ferguson likely won’t find himself on the postseason roster this time around. He was great for LA last year in October, allowing no runs or hits in his six outings. However, he was left off the World Series roster.

2019 hasn’t gone as planned, as he’s flipped back and forth between LA and OKC. In 28 games with the Dodgers, he has a 5.76 ERA while having nearly as many walks as innings pitched. Being a lefty does give him an advantage, but unless an injury occurs, he likely won’t find himself on the postseason roster this year.

Casey Sadler

Another pitcher the Dodgers acquired from the Rays, Casey Sadler has been really good for the Dodgers in his month with the club.

He is currently pitching in Oklahoma City, where he will likely be for a while. There’s no question that Sadler has impressed in his time with LA, but his low strikeout rate (5.8 per 9 IP) and inexperience in high-leverage situations might prevent him from getting his first crack at the postseason.

Dustin May

There is a lot of hype currently surrounding the 21-year-old rookie. He’s made two career starts, and has impressed in both of them. For May, he’s in an interesting situation, because he can be used as either a starter or a reliever.

If Hill is unable to be used as a starter, there’s a good chance that May could slide into that No. 4 spot. If not, there’s still a chance he can be used as a bullpen piece, especially as someone who could throw multiple innings. He’s only made two starts in the bigs, so there’s still a lot he has to prove.

Tony Gonsolin

Another rookie, but he’d likely be used as a reliever. If you were to take out his first career inning in Arizona, Gonsolin has been quite good for LA. His last two outings include a four-inning save at Coors Field in which he allowed only one run, and a six-inning start against the Cardinals in which he allowed no runs on two hits.

Gonsolin has some of the best stuff out of the bullpen, which could be of great use for the Dodgers. With him still being a rookie, it will be a tough decision for the Dodgers to make, and it’s unclear whether or not they would trust him yet on the big stage. He’s currently in the minors where he’s increasing his innings.

Who will make the cut?

When it’s all said and done, there will be about 15 players fighting for a total of eight spots. Again, that number may change, but the past few seasons have told us it will be eight. Obviously, injuries can happen, and there are still about two months left of the season, so some players might not even be options when the time comes around.

If I had to guess right now, the eight players who have the best chance to make the roster are Jansen, Kelly, Báez, Urías, Maeda, Stripling, Kolarek and Hill. Ultimately, Hill will get work out of the pen, and Dustin May will fill in as the No. 4 starter. I wouldn’t be surprised if they worked something along the lines of May throwing three innings, followed by Hill throwing three innings.

Again this is all speculation, and we might not even know until the day the rosters are announced. Though the bullpen has faced a lot of scrutiny this year, LA has a plethora of options they can use.