Bulls for the ‘Pen: Los Angeles Dodgers

We look at a pair of young arms impressing their way into Brandon League's job. (Photo: Getty Images)

We look at a pair of young arms impressing their way into Brandon League’s job.
(Photo: Getty Images)

In the latest in a thirty-part series (yeesh!), We will be looking around baseball at potential bullpen vacancies and the internal candidates that each organization has in the upper levels of their systems to fill those vacancies. We’re hoping to expose some fresh faces that should see plenty of action in 2014 barring injuries or roster screwery and in doing so provide a bit of a relief summary for each organization’s upper minors. Without further ado, we’ll get moving onto the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After discussing the Braves and the assembly of young talent behind one of the best closers in the sport, it only seems fair that we move onto a team with a similar look to the ‘pen in the Dodgers. Kenley Jansen, who was a catcher in the Dodgers system as recently as 2008, has continued to prove that he belongs in the conversation with Kimbrel for the best ninth-inning guy in the game, putting up stellar numbers at the back of the Dodgers bullpen in 2013. He’s a lock to be doing the same in 2014 now that the club has apparently (finally) given up on the Brandon League experiment. Behind Jansen is last year’s rookie relief sensation Paco Rodriguez, along with another promising rookie in Chris Withrow and the ever-frustrating Ronald Belisario. They won’t outright release League, but it seems to be the consensus that if they could move him in a deal of any kind, they would eat most of his ill-advised salary to free up the roster spot; should this fail to happen, League will take a fifth spot in some kind of 6th inning capacity. Gone to free agency are J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson and Carlos Marmol, and it seems the team will miss them in roughly that order. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pursue a reunion with Howell due to their lack of left-handed options outside of Rodriguez, and of course due to Howell’s considerable skills. It would be easy to forget that Scott Elbert still occupies a roster spot after he failed to throw a major league pitch in 2013, and he will start the year on the DL recovering from Tommy John Surgery if he isn’t non-tendered first. Overall, the bullpen situation in LA appears to be in pretty serious flux, and as a result of their financial situation and last year’s promotions of top relief prospects Withrow and Rodriguez I would expect that the Dodgers will be active on the free agent relief market, especially for left-handers. Outside that, they do have a few promising names in the upper minors who could be ready to contribute to pushing League and his terrible contract out the door in 2014.

A few weeks ago, this would have just been a writeup on a former prospect I like very much who’d already made his debut in 2012 before injuries wrecked his 2013 in Shawn Tolleson. The club, however waived him unexpectedly and the Rangers pounced on the promising righty, so I’ll be writing about him in the coming weeks when I look at Arlington instead. The Dodgers’ other options are a little murkier, one could see Onelki Garcia competing for a job out of spring training in a swingman role despite not having thrown a lot of innings and leaving the AFL to have elbow surgery. Onelki’s arsenal received an incredibly glowing review from Fangraphs’ Mike Newman a year ago and despite a year that was far from perfect, he projects to be an serviceable-to-good piece for the Dodgers going forward with nice velocity and sink from the left side and a 1-7 slurve that Newman says is already a swing-and-miss pitch that is plus when he keeps it down in the zone. At 5.5 walks per nine in 52.1 AA innings last year, that means it’s not necessarily always a plus pitch, but if he can rein in his command a bit Garcia could become a threatening lefty for the Dodgers. In the same piece, Newman highlighted another lefty who could give Garcia competition for the swingman role in Chris Reed; however after an uninspiring repeat of AA in 2013 his stock may have lagged slightly behind Onelki, which isn’t to say the club will have given up on the promising starter, only that his development has been slower.

(Video: MLB.com)

Garcia is not the most exciting relief arm still in the Dodgers’ system, in fact he is not even the most exciting Garcia. 23 year old Yimi Garcia lacks a plus fastball but has a slider that some reports call one of the best in the minors, allowing him to have recorded absurd strikeout numbers in his climb through the Dodgers’ system. In 60.1 innings at AA last year the big right-hander struck out 37% of the batters he faced while walking only 6%. His deceptive delivery hides the ball high, especially as he comes over to same-handed batters, and it allows his middling velocity to play up and generate plenty of whiffs. He was one of the Dodgers’ representatives on the AFL Fall Stars roster this year and Yimi should make his debut in 2014. He may be the biggest factor forcing the Dodgers’ hand in unloading relief albatross Brandon League, and Dodgers’ fans ought to be very excited about both parts of that.

Posted on November 24, 2013, in Bulls for the 'Pen, Dodgers, Promotions, Relief Pitchers, Top Prospects and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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