[Editor’s note: A total of 12 prospects received votes in our True Blue LA community ranking, which we are revealing in reverse order. Pitcher Ryan Pepiot is ranked No. 4.]
Thanks to a lights-out opening to his 2021 campaign, Ryan Pepiot’s name now carries enough cache to come in at number four in the community rankings. On his best day, Pepiot arguably has the best raw stuff in the farm system. A noted strikeout artist back to his days in the Butler rotation, Pepiot’s command still hasn’t improved enough to see starting as a long-term viability, but elite bullpen arm is still an outcome on the table.
Discussion of Pepiot’s stuff often starts with his change-up, which is a real “Bugs Bunny” type with heavy fade and sink. It’s deceptive enough that he can throw it often and in any count. Pepiot’s mid-90s fastball has quite a bit of ride up in the zone, and he does frequent up there, making the diving change-up even more difficult for hitters to adjust. Pepiot rounds out his starting repertoire with a hard sweeper/cutter breaking ball that breaks across the zone and can generate swings and misses in its own right.
While Pepiot has enough stuff to start, what could hold him back in this organization is his command. He’s largely effective being around the zone, but will fall into trouble with the fastball missing too frequently. Pepiot’s walk rate is almost 1.5 walks per nine innings higher than the Dodger team average last year, and given that they finished toward the top in lowest walk rate, it’s clearly an organizational priority where he comes up just short.
Additionally, Pepiot’s mound demeanor feels more relief-oriented. He’s an aggressive pitcher with lots of noisy movements between pitches and would probably be best served attacking hitters over one to two innings. Relief would also allow his velocity to reach his upper band more often, increasing his margin of error for fastball command by giving hitters less time to adjust while sitting on the changeup.
It might seem lofty then to have a relief-likely prospect ranking fourth on this list, but the impact Pepiot could make in a relief role could be significant. The Dodgers already prefer to shy from established roles and titles in their bullpen, and developing Pepiot across the middle and late innings might be the best use of his talents.
I would still expect Pepiot to work as a starter in at least the first part of 2022 with Triple-A Oklahoma City. He can be counted on at least for depth in the starting rotation, but ultimately I would not be surprised to see them call him up in the second half for a run in the pen. While I don’t want to compare him or his change-up to Devin Williams of Milwaukee, I think it isn’t too hard to see his approach and impact resemble his with the Brewers in late relief. In a league with rapidly changing roles for pitchers, 50 to 70 innings of elite impact could be worth more to the Dodgers as they are currently constructed and to their championship aspirations, than 125-140 innings of high-strikeout, moderately-high-walk performance from the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation.