Assessing Dodgers Current Bullpen

The World Series champion Dodgers finished the 2020 regular season with a 2.74 bullpen ERA, which was the second best in all of baseball. In 84 postseason innings they were the best of the four teams to advance to the championship series by finishing with a 3.64 bullpen ERA right after the moment Julio Urías threw the final strike to clinch the Dodgers as champions. Looking ahead to 2021, there has been some turnover to the bullpen.

Departures:
Pedro Baez
Dylan Floro
Adam Kolarek
Jake McGee
Josh Sborz (DFA)
Alex Wood

Additions:
Garrett Cleavinger
Tommy Kahnle
Corey Knebel
Brandon Morrow (Minor-League)
Alex Vesia

Let’s explore the locks (in bold) entering the 2021 season.

Kenley Jansen
Though it was a bumpy road, Jansen still managed to allow the softest contact of any pitcher and finished the campaign with a 3.33 ERA & 3.03 FIP over 24.1 innings with 33 strike outs. Jansen is due $20 million in what will be the final year of his contract, so expect him to have a big role as per usual.

Blake Treinen
The Dodgers were able to re-sign Treinen this offseason to a two year, $17.5 million deal. Treinen experienced a resurgence with LA and became Roberts go to weapon in many crucial situations. Treinen pitched 25.2 innings during the regular season and added another 11 1/3 innings during the postseason on the Dodgers quest to win the championship.

Corey Knebel
The Brewers were reported to have non-tendered Knebel to avoid paying his upcoming $5.25 million salary when in fact, Friedman snuck in there last minute to acquire him when a number of teams were actually hoping to scoop him up in free agency. Knebel struggled in 2020 by posting a 6.08 ERA in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, but the Dodgers are betting on him to return to somewhere between his 2017 & 2018 form where he posted a 1.78 & 3.58 ERA respectively.

Brusdar Graterol
Graterol has immersed himself into becoming a fan favorite due to his zealous nature & energy he shares with his teammates. After a successful first season with the Dodgers, look for the right-hander to improve his K rate & add more deception to his 102 topping fastball.

Joe Kelly
Kelly has been inconsistent with the Dodgers, but when on he’s been highly effective. In what could be his final season with the Dodgers, Kelly offers a flame throwing fastball & a curveball with a lot of movement. He is also a favorite amongst his teammates.

Victor Gonzalez
Gonzalez was a breakout reliever for the Dodgers during his first MLB season. The lefty had a 1.33 ERA over 20.1 innings. Gonzalez is able to pitch multiple innings if needed and can get the team out of jams with his ground-ball inducing stuff.

Scott Alexander
In three seasons with the team now the sinker ball lefty, Alexander, just hasn’t been able to find himself with the Dodgers, but with Kolarek traded, Alexander now finds himself in a position to be the go to lefty specialist. Unfortunately he just hasn’t been very good by a putting up 5.06 FIP in 2019 & then a 6.03 FIP in 2020. This might be his last chance with the team, but look for him to be in the mix.

Tommy Kahnle
Kahnle is possibly available to return very late in the season, but he is recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers signed him to a two year deal, but he’s coming off a 3.67 ERA in 2019 with the Yankees, so he’ll be good when he returns.

Other Options: Dustin May, Brandon Morrow, Tony Gonsolin, Alex Vesia, Garrett Cleavinger, Julio Urías

The Dodgers have seven great options at starting pitching now, but with May & Gonsolin having the least experience, as well as neither pitching over 100 innings in the big leagues during one season, expect the Dodgers to flex these guys between the bullpen and rotation. Morrow was signed to a minor-league deal, but he hasn’t appeared in a MLB game since 2018, but there’s always the possibility he returns to 2017 Brandon Morrow, the last time he was a Dodger. The Dodgers recently acquired Alex Vesia who is currently being raved about by prospect experts. Not only does he possess a 1.62 ERA over 100 minor league innings, but his fastball is touted as one of the best moving in the game. The lefty could find himself pitching in high-leverage situations pretty soon. The Dodgers also added lefty Garrett Cleavinger during the offseason. It could be a depth move, but if he impresses during Spring Training then can’t rule him out. Finally Julio Urías is an option as well. The Dodgers & Urías see himself as a starter, but we’ve seen him be highly effective out of the pen, and the Dodgers will try to keep his innings down at some point during the season.

Overall it appears that the Dodgers bullpen will once again be very good, and Dave Roberts will have plenty of options to get the Dodgers through 9 innings on a daily basis.

Author: Kevin Klein
Twitter: @Klein25
Podcast: The Incline: Dodgers