What happened in 2016: Luis Avilan was sent back-and-forth between Los Angeles and Oklahoma City multiple times, but he was added to the Dodgers’ playoff roster after a strong finish to the season.
The left-hander struggled in Spring Training and lost out on the final spot in the Dodgers bullpen, starting the season out in Triple-A Oklahoma City. His first stint with the Dodgers for the year came on April 21 when Louis Coleman was placed on the bereavement list. Avilan only appeared in six games for the Dodgers in the first half of the season, allowing three runs and three walks in three innings. Meanwhile, in 33 games with OKC, Avilan went 0-3 with four saves in 34 innings with an unremarkable 4.24 ERA, 4.37 FIP and 1.50 WHIP.
Although his poor Spring Training spilled into the regular season, he had a promising showing in the second half that included a stretch of nine scoreless innings over 11 appearances. He ended up posting a career-high 12.81 K/9 and 34.2 percent strikeout rate in his 27 games with the Dodgers.
His improvement over the second half, along with his 51.3 percent ground ball rate last year and 53.4 percent career rate could give him the edge when Dave Roberts constructs his bullpen this spring. He also did not allow a home run in his 19 2/3 innings pitched in the majors, another factor that may win him a spot when camp breaks.
In Game 3 of the NLDS, Avilan’s struck out Daniel Murphy swinging, stranding two runners in scoring position and ending the top of the sixth with Washington ahead 4-3. The Dodgers lost 8-3 after the Nats scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning off Kenley Jansen, but Avilan’s ability to prevent the Nats from scoring in the sixth was indicative of his abilities and potential as part of the Dodger bullpen going forward.
2017 status: The Dodgers avoided arbitration with Avilan, re-signing him to a $1.5 million contract. J.P. Howell signed with Toronto, and Alex Wood‘s starter status was at least temporarily reinstated going into Spring Training, opening the door a bit more for Avilan. Avilan, who is out of options, and Grant Dayton are frontrunners for a spot in the bullpen, but they will have to compete with fellow lefties Adam Liberatore and Vidal Nuno as well this spring.