One of the Los Angeles Dodgers biggest offseason needs was relief pitching, as the club has lost in the National League Division Series two years in a row partly due to the bullpen being their Achilles’ heel.
The Dodgers nearly acquired closer Aroldis Chapman, but a report of his involvement in a domestic violence dispute unraveled the agreement, and he was later traded to the New York Yankees.
Rather than sign any of the marquee relievers who were on the market or focus on another trade, the Dodgers signed the likes of Joe Blanton and Louis Coleman, and put their faith in the returning group taking the next step forward.
Among those who factor into that equation is hard-throwing right-hander Pedro Baez, a converted third baseman. According to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, a scout recently lauded Baez for improvement with his changeup and slider:
One scout who has seen Baez multiple times this year said he has shown a significantly improved slider and changeup. The scout said he considered both pitches to be below-average as recently as last season.
In 4.1 innings of work over five appearances this season, Baez has give up three hits, two runs, walked one and has seven strikeouts. Of the three hits, two are home runs. However, one was to Nick Ahmed, who golfed a pitch below his knees just over the short fence in left field at Dodger Stadium.
Thus far, Baez has thrown his slider 26 percent of the time, up from last year’s rate of 16 percent. Additionally, his changeup usage has increased from 10 percent to 16 percent. While Baez currently slots in as a seventh- or eighth-inning reliever, his role could change dependent on Jansen.
The Dodgers’ closer is eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, and isn’t likely to hold contract talks until the offseason. He endorsed Baez as a possible closer when discussing a Dodgers bullpen that may be devoid of Jansen in the future.