After winning the World Series, the Dodgers traded Dylan Floro to the Miami Marlins. In exchange, LA acquired left-handed pitcher Alex Vesia and minor-league prospect Kyle Hurt.
Fast forward to October and Vesia had become the Dodgers’ most reliable left-handed arm in the bullpen. However, it was anything but an easy ride to get to that point.
Vesia didn’t crack the Opening Day roster for the Dodgers, as he didn’t impress enough during Spring Training. He had 10 strikeouts in 5 2⁄3 innings, but posted a 4.76 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.
He would be called up by the Dodgers on May 1 and made his team debut in Milwaukee. It was as bad of a debut as you could have, as he allowed four runs to score thanks to four walks in one inning of work. He lost the game for LA in extras.
Vesia spent the entire month of May with the big-league club, but he struggled. In 10 games, he posted a 5.91 ERA and 7.20 FIP. He was struggling with command, as he issued 11 walks in 10 2⁄3 innings of work. However, through those awful numbers, there was a glimmer of hope. During that month, opponents were hitting only .114 off him. They weren’t able to reach with hits, they were just reaching with free passes.
The Dodgers sent Vesia back to Oklahoma City, where he completely transformed his game and dominated at Triple-A. Vesia made nine appearances for OKC over the next month. In nine innings of action, he struck out 19 (!!!) and even had a stretch in which he struck out 15 consecutive batters. More impressively, he issued only three walks. He also allowed only three hits during the stretch as well.
After dominating in OKC, the Dodgers called Vesia back up. He would spend the rest of the season with the big-league club.
Over his next 18 games, Vesia was practically untouchable. In 19.1 innings, he posted a 0.47 ERA and 1.57 FIP. He had 23 strikeouts compared to only five walks. He was also the toughest reliever to get a hit off of, as opponents were hitting only .082 off him.
“He’s more comfortable,” manager Dave Roberts said of Vesia. “Last year was his first stint in the big leagues. Come to a new ball club. You’re trying to fit in, compete and perform. It took a couple times up here to get comfortable. He’s found his confidence and swagger. His performance has been consistent. He’s been a huge add for us.
“He’s right there. He wasn’t really on the radar early on in the year, but he’s played himself into that role. Alex is right there at the top.”
After allowing runs in back-to-back games towards the end of August, Vesia closed his 2021 campaign by tossing eight scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts over 11 games.
Entering the season, Vesia was a name who we thought might see time with the big-league club, but it was uncertain as to how much time he’d spend in the minors. By the time the postseason came around, he was LA’s No. 1 left-handed option in the bullpen.
“I’m thankful, you know what I mean?” Vesia said during the NLCS. “It’s been a long season, for sure. To look back where I started and where I’m at now, I’m very proud to kind of see that progress.
“I enjoy these moments because I know that all the hard work and everything that I’ve put in, it’s going to pay off. I definitely feel like I’m in a good spot with my mechanics and everything like that. Mentally on the mound, I’m ready to go out there and do my thing.”
Vesia appeared in seven games for the Dodgers during the postseason, often coming in during high-leverage moments. In 4.1 innings, he posted a 2.08 ERA and had seven strikeouts.
Stats: 3-1, 2.25 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 0.975 WHIP, 40 IP, 54 K, 33.5-percent K rate, 0.6 bWAR, 0.2 fWAR
Game of the year
When you’re a reliever, it’s tough to have a ‘game of the year’ unless it’s a really big situation. To me, a moment that stuck out from his season was back in August against the Mets. He recorded only one out, but it was the biggest out of the game.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning, the Dodgers led by one run. Vesia faced J.D. Davis. With the count even at 2-2, Vesia threw a 96-mph fastball right down the middle, getting Davis to strike out looking. It got the Dodgers out of the jam and Vesia showed his emotion while heading back to the dugout.
Personally, I love when pitchers show passion on the mound. Vesia never was one to shy away from celebrating a big moment.
Vesia is under team control and won’t be arbitration eligible until 2024.