While the Dodgers don’t have a bullpen tandem like what the Cleveland Indians have in Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, there might not be a better reliever in the game than Kenley Jansen right now. But they also have another guy who is off to a fantastic start this season.
This is a Josh Fields appreciation post.
Fields, who didn’t crack the Opening Day roster because he still had a minor-league option, has been the second-best short-reliever in the bullpen behind Jansen (Ross Stripling has been the second-most valuable Dodger reliever overall).
In 13 1/3 innings, Fields has seen his numbers in some of the most important categories go in the right direction from last season.
The 2016 numbers are just from his time with the Dodgers. That isn’t to say he wasn’t solid last season, but so far in 2017, he has jumped to the next level. The jump in O-Swing% (pitches batters swing at outside the strike zone) is substantial and the most encouraging. It’s thanks to his cut fastball, which is easily his best pitch and is inducing a 17.8 whiff rate. And according to FanGraphs pitch value stat, it has been the third-most valuable fastball* among relievers with 10 innings pitched.
*FG has it classified as a 4-seam fastball, but it’s a cutter (would be second-best if filtered for cutters).
I will grant you that it’s a small sample size, but the early results are encouraging.
One thing that needs to be mentioned is most of Fields’ action has come in low-leverage situations. He has excelled in such situations, but he hasn’t been terrible in medium- and high-leverage situations, either. Perhaps it’s time for him to get some of Pedro Baez and/or Sergio Romo‘s high-leverage situations. And having said all that, he has thrown nine of his innings in the 7th- through 9th innings and has allowed just a .388 opponents OPS.
The Dodgers will probably be on the lookout for a high-leverage reliever before the end of July — as well they should be. But giving Fields a shot to see if he can be that guy (or close to it) seems like something they should consider. Of course, he can still be optioned to the minors and just might be if the Dodgers face another roster crunch (and it looks like it’s coming).
Here’s hoping Fields can continue his hot start have the Dodgers think twice not only about his role, but about sending him back to the minors.