With the regular season coming to an end and the playoffs just around the corner, it’s time for the Los Angeles Dodgers to start sorting out their playoff roster.
There aren’t many question marks when it comes to position players and the starting rotation, so most of the difficult decisions that Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts have to make will be in the bullpen.
The Dodgers’ bullpen has been incredible all year, but that has been a group effort with a number of different pitchers contributing, some going in and out of the lineup due to injuries.
Because of that, it will be a challenge to narrow the roster down to just eight bullpen arms (I’m expecting the team to carry five starters with one of Tony Gonsolin or Dustin May being ready for the NLDS). But let’s take a crack at predicting not only who will make the roster, but who will be in what roles come October.
Let me just get this out of the way to start: the Dodgers currently do not have a set closer after Craig Kimbrel was demoted into a lower-leverage role. This happening at this point in the season does not bode well for Kimbrel, who will only have about a week to show he can turn it around and even be worthy of a playoff roster spot.
Barring some changes or injuries, I’m not expecting Kimbrel to make the postseason roster. And in his place, I see the Dodgers going with a committee at closer based on matchups.
Bullpen high leverage locks
So having addressed the Kimbrel and closer situation, let’s start with the locks to make the postseason roster.
Evan Phillips, Chris Martin and Alex Vesia all fall into this category as they have been great all year and especially as of late.
Phillips has arguably been the best reliever in baseball with a 1.22 ERA in 59 innings and is someone that Roberts can trust in the biggest spots. Martin and Vesia have been rolling of late and have earned that trust as well, with the latter obviously being the top left-hander L.A. can throw out against some of the big left-handed bats in the league.
Other high leverage options…if healthy
Part of the reason why it is difficult to predict what the Dodgers’ October bullpen will look like is because of health. Key arms have missed significant time this season, but if they can find a way to get healthy before the postseason starts, they will not only be making the roster but perhaps pitching in leverage.
Guys who fall into this category are Blake Treinen and Yency Almonte.
Treinen’s reputation as one of the best firemen in the game speaks for itself, but he has been battling a shoulder issue all year that recently landed him back on the IL. Roberts is hoping he will be back in time for the postseason, but if there is one more setback in his rehab, it’s possible he gets shut down.
Almonte seems more likely to be able to come back as he recently began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City. Almonte has had a breakout year for the Dodgers, posting a 1.15 ERA in 31.1 innings, making a lasting impression that will earn him a roster spot if healthy.
Lower leverage options
With five spots taken by the players discussed above, that leaves three more low-leverage spots in the Dodgers bullpen.
Those will likely be going to Caleb Ferguson, Brusdar Graterol and Tommy Kahnle, again, barring health.
All three have missed time this season but have been effective when healthy, bringing something to the table that others cannot. Ferguson will be the Dodgers’ second lefty in the bullpen behind Vesia, while Graterol’s 100+ MPH fastball typically plays up in October, as does Kahnle’s fastball-changeup mix.
Ferguson, Graterol and Kahnle could all be high-leverage options as well if needed, rounding out what should be a very formidable bullpen.
Dodgers 8-man bullpen pecking order:
- Evan Phillips
- Chris Martin
- Alex Vesia
- Blake Treinen
- Yency Almonte
- Brusdar Graterol
- Tommy Kahnle
- Caleb Ferguson
Just missed, or could make roster if others aren’t healthy:
- Craig Kimbrel
- David Price
- Phil Bickford