Bullpen Banter: Who Is The True Reliever To Own On The Dodgers?

Likely Opening Day Starter – Javy Guerra
He pitched well during his rookie campaign, notching 21 saves with a 2.31 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.  You would think that fantasy owners would be ecstatic and viewing him as a solid potential option for 2012.  Unfortunately that’s not the case, and a lot of it has to do with the pitcher waiting in the wings to overtake him.

We’ll get to him in a moment, but Guerra does bring some risk with him.  He did an enviable job in stepping up when injuries ravaged the Dodgers bullpen (including issues with Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo), but there is the potential for major control problems.  While he did spend some time as a starting pitcher, he posted a BB/9 of 5.33 in his minor league career.  He never stepped foot on a Triple-A mound, but he had a 5.35 BB/9 while at Double-A.

Yes, he was significantly better than that in 2011:

  • Double-A – 2.65 BB/9 over 17.0 IP
  • Majors – 3.47 BB/9 over 46.2 IP

However, it’s impossible to write it off completely.  A regression in his control could cause a quick drop from the closer’s role.

Next In Line – Kenley Jansen
Regardless of what Guerra does, he could lose his job because of Jansen alone.  Jansen is a most own setup man and, if he becomes the closer, he has the stuff to become one of the elite.

His control is a major question mark, with a 5.15 BB/9 over 64.2 minor league innings as he converted from the catcher position.  That said, he showed signs of improvement in the Majors (4.36 BB/9 over 53.2 IP) in 2011 and continued his elite strikeout stuff.

Over his minor league career he posted a ridiculous 15.31 K/9, bettering that in the Majors with a 16.10 mark (96 K over 53.2 IP).  That type of strikeout stuff can easily overshadow shaky control.  As long as he doesn’t start walking 6 or 7 batters per nine innings, the sky truly is the limit.  If you are going to stash one middle reliever, Jansen is a no-brainer.

Another Option – Josh Lindblom
If the Dodgers need to go to Plan C Lindblom could easily be the answer.  He was working as their closer at Double-A in 2011, notching 17 saves while posting a 2.13 ERA, 54 K and 14 BB over 42.1 IP.  He also thrived in the Majors, posting a 2.73 ERA, 28 K and 10 BB over 29.2 IP.

With Major League experience, good strikeout potential (8.64 K/9 in the minors) and solid control (2.59 BB/9 in the minors), it’s not hard to imagine him thriving.  Without the control issue of the other Dodger options, he definitely is one to watch.

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