Now that the Juan Uribe situation is resolved, it seems GM Ned Colletti has focused his attention on the bullpen. In Ken Gurnick’s piece, he provides some insight about the situation Ned is dealing with. More specifically the perceived lack of left handed reliever on the roster.
The club is confident the glut of free-agent right-handed relievers will leave an attractive middle-innings option after the closers are signed. But left-handed relief is typically thin, and the Dodgers are balking at Howell’s desire for a three-year deal.
If you’re a fan of J.P Howell this is bad news for you. Howell, like any sane reliever in this insane market, is holding out for that inevitable 3 year deal he will eventually receive from a team desperate enough to overpay for middle relief. If Ned’s performance thus far in this offseason is an indicator of what’s to come, Howell isn’t getting that 3 year deal from the Dodgers. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay, the Dodgers have the left handed arms in the system to thrive without J.P.
Lets start with the left hander already on the 25 man roster, Paco Rodriguez. The soon to be 23 year old put together arguably the 2nd most impressive season of any Dodger reliever in 2013. Even with his mediocre September, at which point he was worn down by severe overusage, he had a stellar 2.32 ERA, backed up by a 2.92 xFIP and an incredible 10.44 K/9. Paco was a force in the Dodger bullpen against all batters, but what he did against LHB’s was more impressive. In 99 AB’s versus Left Handed Hitting, he allowed a .182 Slugging Percentage (2 doubles 1 home runs) and a .218 On Base Percentage. Needless to say, he was nails against LHB’s. This isn’t something new either, in this scouting report written by John Sickles of Minor League Ball, he states:
Rodriguez’s combination of command and stuff is good enough that he doesn’t have to be confined to LOOGY work. He held lefties to a .174 mark in Double-A, but right-handers were even less successful with a .125 mark. I like him a lot and I think he can be very, very useful for the stretch run.
Paco’s success isn’t a fluke, he can succeed as a late inning left hander out of the pen.
Moving on, while he just underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow and may not be ready for Spring Training, Onelki Garcia has a chance to be one of the better left handed relievers in the game. He got his first taste of major league action this September and is poised to contribute this upcoming season. He was drafted out of Cuba in the 3rd round of the 2012 MLB draft, scouts have praised his plus curveball and mid to high 90’s fastball. In his first full season as a professional, he held left handers to a .500 OPS (On Base Plus Slugging) at both AA Chattanooga and AAA Albuquerque. I was impressed with him because of the situation he was in, he’s only pitched in 39 professional games and was able to do unspeakable things to Left Handed Batters who faced him. He’s going to be a quality pitcher and one who can get LHB’s out with consistency.
This isn’t the only promising Left Handed Pitcher in the system. Perhaps one of the more underrated LHP’s in the system, Michael Thomas made same sided hitters look silly against him. .268 OBP and a .295 SLG at AA Chattanooga are some stellar numbers for a pitcher at any level. He keeps the ball in the park (career 0.5 HR/9 rate) and strikes out more than a batter per inning (career 10.8 K/9). It’s taken some time for him to move up the ladder as he’s turning 25 years old January 6th, but nevertheless, there is some possibility he contributes this year.
Thomas’s emergence, Garcia’s scouting reports, and Paco’s excellent year all show that the Dodgers have cheap, young, cost effective lefties in the system. The Dodgers may not get J.P. Howell to come off of his 3 year demands, while it’d be nice to see him back, the Dodgers can withstand the loss of Howell.