What Happened in 2016: The Dodgers acquired Fields at the Aug. 1 trade deadline, after which he showed glimpses of being a capable relief option.
Fields is actually somewhat similar to Kenley Jansen. Well, at least he’s similar in the same way that turkey bacon is similar to real bacon. He and Jansen are both right-handed relief pitchers, and both throw a lot of cut-fastballs. Fields actually throws his cutter harder than Jansen does (95.4 MPH vs. 94.1 MPH), and it’s easy to see why the front office was interested in him. Chad wrote about Fields after he was acquired.
“With Fields, it’s not hard to see what the Dodgers are thinking when you look at the ERA and FIP gap (even the DRA gap), see the .457 BABIP and 51.7% strand rate (both unsustainably bad), and find that he’s striking out 28.2% of batters while walking only 4.2%. Fields also has a live arm and sits 93-96 with his fastball, and works in a slider, curve, and change. If nothing else, he certainly fits the mold of other fly ball relievers in this pen who also miss bats.
While there’s likely reasons other than bad luck for Josh Fields’ poor performance against his peripherals thus far, it would seem like there’s potential for a quality middle relief arm there with an adjustment, something that may have already taken place in AAA.”
Fields improved his swinging strike rate while with the Dodgers (13.1 percent in Houston vs. 13.4 percent in LA) and decreased his contact rate (74.8 percent vs. 72.8 percent). He also established a career-best swinging strike rate (13.3 percent) overall, which bodes well for him going forward. One interesting note: Fields induced eight infield fly balls in 28 fly-ball outs (28.6 percent). That’s seems pretty unsustainable, but he has induced 15.5 percent infield fly balls in his short career (178 1/3 innings) thus far. That’s the kind of pitcher Fields is: He’ll miss bats and get fly balls, and there aren’t many better home parks for a pitcher with his profile to pitch in than Dodger Stadium. His walk rate did spike with the Dodgers (4.2 percent with Houston, 9.2 percent with LA), but if he can fully harness his stuff, he could be more than just a fungible middle reliever.
2017 Status: Arbitration-eligible for a projected $1.2 million. Fields should be tendered a deal and could begin the season in the Dodgers’ bullpen or at Triple-A Oklahoma City, as he has one more option year remaining.