Searching for Saves: Los Angeles Dodgers

Despite throwing around money like it was going out of style, that doesn’t mean that the Dodgers will enter 2013 without questions.  One of the mysteries surrounds it’s bullpen, though it really shouldn’t.  Let’s take a look at how things currently shake out:

The Closer – Brandon League
Amazingly the Dodgers handed League a 3 year, $22.5 million contract over the offseason (complete with an option for 2016). If you needed any type of example of the riches the Dodgers currently have, throwing this type of money around to a pitcher who shouldn’t be in the ninth inning is the best example.

That’s not to say that League’s a bad pitcher, but it’s not like he is dominant either. Over his career he has posted a 6.71 K/9. Yes, the number jumped to 8.89 after his trade to the NL, but does anyone really think he can maintain it?  An improvement in the NL is one thing, but this is a bit extreme.

His ultimate success is based on his ability to generate groundballs (59.5% for his career) and harnessing his control. Last season the latter was an issue, with a 4.13 BB/9. Just for good measure, opposing hitters teed off on him last season, with a 26.8% line drive rate.

While he has had success, if he keeps this up sooner or later everything is going to catch up to him.

Next in Line – Kenley Jansen
If healthy I would think we would all agree that he is by far the best pitcher in the Dodgers bullpen and the best closing candidate. Yes, he blew 7 saves last season, but he also posted a 2.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 13.71 K/9. While he has struggled with his control in the past, he also managed a 3.05 BB/9, a number that is more than enough given his strikeout stuff.

Over 145.2 innings in the Majors he has struck out 236 batters. Throw in a 2.22 ERA and 0.95 WHIP and you start to get the picture.

He saved 25 games last season and it really should just be a matter of time before he gets the job. While League needs to be drafted, thanks to his strikeout stuff Jansen should ultimately prove to be the more valuable option.

Another Option – Javy Guerra
He has 29 career saves, including 8 last season, so he clearly could get an opportunity should Lague struggle and Jansen fail to stay healthy. That said, over his two years in the Majors he hasn’t shown big strikeout stuff (7.36 K/9), has been hit hard (21.1% line drive rate) and in 2012 struggled to throw strikes consistently (4.60 BB/9). A lot needs to happen for him to becnsidered for the role.

Sleeper – Shawn Tolleson
I touted him last season, though he struggled in the big leagues (4.30 ERA, 1.33 WHIP). The problem was his control, with a 4.78 BB/9, though a 2.10 BB/9 in the minor leagues tells us that it had never been an issue before. Throw in a 13.35 K/9 and there is a lot to like.

A starter in college, it is possible that he has found his niche. While its unlikely he gets a closing opportunity in LA, could he be used as a trade chip to acquire a veteran talent? It’s worth monitoring.

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