The Dodger bullpen is a crowded place. The Dodgers have too many pitchers, and not all of them will make the opening day roster due to limited space available. You would figure that the Dodgers would stick to their normal M.O. of keeping as many team controlled pitchers on the roster as possible. Pitchers with options would start the year in triple-A, or so you would think. But are there any sleepers that could surprise us? And is there any room leftover in the bullpen? There could be three sleepers once camp breaks in a few weeks. Or possibly more.
Three spots are spoken for, reserved for Brandon League, Ronald Belisario, and Kenley Jansen. Pray Belisario stays out of trouble and shows up for camp on time. A fourth spot is taken for newly signed lefty J.P. Howell. With Scott Elbert shelved for the first month or so because of elbow surgery, that makes Howell the main lefty. Like it or not, the fifth spot would go to veteran righty Matt Guerrier, who is still under contract for this season. With two spots left, the Dodgers could use one spot for a long man spot starter like Ted Lilly. But it could give a chance for one of the sleepers to sneak in there.
Sleeper #1-Paco Rodriguez.
Let’s not forget how fortunate we are to have young Paco. If not for him, the Dodgers would only have Elbert and Howell as the lone lefty relievers at the big league level. The Dodgers called up Paco after only a few weeks in the minors, making him the first player from the 2012 draft to reach the majors. Paco proved himself quite useful, and performed well in his short stint with the club. The Dodgers drafted the 21 year old lefty in the second round of the 2012 MLB draft. Paco was an all-star closer for the Florida Gators before being drafted. Paco’s career ERA at Florida was a minuscule 2.19, which is the lowest at Florida U. in the Aluminum bat era. Paco led the Gators to the College World Series in three consecutive years.
Last season when called up, Paco pitched in 11 games, and only allowed one run in 6.2 innings pitched. He walked four and whiffed six, while only allowing three hits. It’s a small sample size I know, but it’s still pretty impressive for a youngster that has never pitched at the professional level before. Paco was only used as a lefty specialist, and still held batters to a 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. Paco should figure prominently in the Dodger bullpen in 2013. Especially because we all know there is no human way possible Scott Elbert’s elbow can go an entire season without being blown out. That reason makes Paco even more valuable as loogy depth. Somebody tell Paco not to wander too far once the season starts. Stay ready Paco.
This one is a total sleeper I know, and a longshot, but you never know. The Australian right hander has put up pretty decent numbers while with the Braves. Moylan is an interesting case. Moylan is 27 years old, right handed and throws side-armed. Yes not only does he come from the land down under, but he throws from the land down under. (I thought that pun was pretty good). Moylan has a min 90’s fastball, and slider.
Moylan has pitched his entire career with the Braves. He was called up in 2006, and pitched in 80 games during the 2007 season for Atlanta. That season he became the team’s primary seventh inning set-up gjuy, and posted a 5-3 record in relief, and a 1.80 ERA. He walked 31, and whiffed 63, in a little over 90 innings. The next year he only pitched in seven games before he as placed on the DL. Apparently a bone spur had screwed up his UCL, and he had to have Tommy John surgery to correct. He would miss the rest of the 2008 season. Moylan used spring training to strengthen his arm in 2009, and returned with a vengeance. Moylan pitched in 87 games for the Braves in 2009. That year he posted a 6-2 record, a 2.87 ERA, and walked 35, whiffed 61 in 73 innings of work. Moylan had another solid season in 2010. That year he pitched in 86 games for Atlanta. That year he posted a 6-2 record, a 2.97 ERA, he walked 37, and whiffed 52 in 63.2 innings pitched. Unfortunately injuries limited Moylan to only 13 innings over the last two seasons.
In 2012, Moylan only pitched in eight innings, and 13 games before being placed on the DL I early 2011. He had to have back surgery, and then once he came back, he found out he had torn his rotator cuff, and labrum in his pitching shoulder, which caused him to miss most of the 2012 season. Moylan could be considered a roogy, since he fares much better against righties than lefties. His splits indicate he holds right handers to a .213 BAA, and lefties to a .273 BAA. That’s an OPS of .789 against left handers, and .574 against righties. One of the most intriguing things about Moylan is that he does not allow any home runs. As a matter of fact, he went all of 2009 without allowing a single long-ball. That’s right, that’s 87 games without serving up a dinger. His career home runs per nine rate is a sparkling 0.5. He also has a career whiff per nine rate of 7.1 despite normally having a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Even if he sucks, Moylan should at least be entertaining. Apparently he is quite the character on twitter also. You can follow him here twitter.com/#!/PeterMoylan, and root him onto a roster spot come April.
Sleeper#3- Shawn Tolleson.
We all should be pretty familiar with Shawn Tolleson by now. Shawn Tolleson is the young right hander from Dallas Texas that whiffed `137 batters in 89 frames while in High School. If you remember he’s Clayton Kershaw’s childhood friend and rival. Kerhsaw once said that while growing up, Tolleson was one of the best players his tri-state area. Tolleson is 25 years old, and have to have Tommy John surgery during his senior year of high school. Can you believe that? Well it didn’t stop Tolleson. He ended up attending Baylor University, and was an all-big 12 selection. Tolleson was drafted by the Dodgers in the 30 round of the 2010 draft. Tolleson saved 17 games in 25 appearances, and posted an ERA of .0.63 for the Ogden Raptors. In 2011 Tolleson appeared for three different minor league affiliates for the Dodgers. In time split between the Great Lakes Loons, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, and the Chattanooga Lookouts. He recorded a 7-2 record, saved 25 games, and posted a 1.17 ERA. He was named the Dodger’s minor league pitcher of the year.
In 2012, he as promoted to triple-A Albuquerque, and then was finally called up to the Dodgers on June 4 of 2012, and made his MLB debut three days later. In 40 games for the Dodgers last season, Tolleson posted a 3-1 record, 4.31 ERA, and whiffed 39 batters in 37.2 innings for a whiff per nine rate of 9.3. I would expect Tolleson to start the season in Albuquerque only because he has options left. But don’t worry Tolleson fans. It won’t be long before we see the talented young right hander back in the Dodger bullpen. A high strikeout guy who can throw in the mid 90′s is always valuable. The young flame thrower, figures to be a very important piece to the Dodger bullpen going forward.
Do any of these guys have a chance to make the Dodger bullpen to start the 2013 season? What do you think? Who do you think will fill out the rest of the Dodger pen? Let us know in the comments below. We’ll be sure to be following the battle for the bullpen spots during spring training. You never know, one or more of these sleepers may surprise us this spring.