There’s some discussion about which relievers are going to occupy the final couple of spots in the Dodger bullpen this season. We know that Kenley Jansen is the closer and Sergio Romo will probably be the set-up man providing the eighth inning duties. Second year southpaw Grant Dayton is likely to make the opening day squad as well. Who is going to be the second left hander is another question. Luis Avilan is making a strong case for himself.
Adam Liberatore should not be forgotten but if he falters or gets hurt, Avilan is waiting in the wings to grab that roster spot. Avilan has actually put up strong numbers for the majority of his career, save for a sloppy season in 2015. The Dodgers acquired Avilan at the trade deadline in 2015 from the Braves alongside Jose Peraza, Alex Wood, Jim Johnson, and Hector Olivera in a three-team swap with the Braves and Marlins.
Avilan has a career 2.98 ERA/3.34 FIP and has put up strong strikeout numbers. Over his career he’s struck out 7.7 per nine frames, and posted a 1.16 WHIP. The 27-year old had a strong 2016 season posting a 3-0 record with a 3.20 ERA/2.13 FIP and struck out 28 against 10 walks in 19.2 innings pitched. He had some slight control problems, but he’s averaged 3.2 walks per nine innings over 217 frames. He struck out 12.8/9 during the 2016 campaign which was the highest strikeout rate of his career.
His biggest strength has been his ability to get left handed hitters out. He’s done that pretty well throughout his career. Overall he’s limited lefties to a .215 batting average against, with a .569 OPS against. Last year he held left handers to a .200 batting average against with a .519 OPS against.
This season he is quietly having a solid spring. I know it’s an incredibly small sample size but he’s looked good in early showings. So far he’s tossed 4.1 innings and allowed just one earned run on 3 hits while posting up a 2.08 ERA. In 5 appearances he’s whiffed 6 and walked only 1.
He’s shown good control and has now won two games this spring. He earned the win in Tuesday afternoon’s 6-5 win over the Reds. He came in with two runners on base in the fourth inning and struck out former Dodger Scott Schebler to record the final out of the inning.
During last season’s postseason run Avilan provided the Dodgers with 3.2 innings of scoreless ball. He allowed just 4 hits and struck out 3 while walking only one. He was up and down between the Dodgers and Oklahoma City, through a lot of 2016 but pitched well enough to impress the Dodgers to place him on the postseason roster in both the NLDS and NLCS.
Perhaps he’s done enough to impress the Dodgers again to make the opening day roster? Only time will tell of course, but if he continues to pitch well I think he has a good chance. He gives the Dodgers another option and that’s always a good thing.