In each of the last two years, the Dodgers have made an under-the-radar bullpen signing that panned out extremely well. Two years ago, Joe Blanton signed a one-year, $4 million deal in January and forced his way as the Dodgers’ primary setup man. Last year, Brandon Morrow signed a minor-league contract and failed to make the team out of Spring Training. The Dodgers called him up on May 29 and he became a premier setup man, which led to a healthy contract with the Cubs.
The Dodgers refuse to get into bidding wars for bullpen arms, opting to trust their development of arm talent. This year, they added Tom Koehler and Scott Alexander to the major league bullpen. However, there might be another low-key minor league signing steal in the making.
Pat Venditte made headlines when he made his debut for the Oakland A’s as a 30-year-old reliever in 2015. Venditte is a switch-pitcher, as he uses his amphibious powers to pitch with whichever hand he finds advantageous. He was a bit of a sideshow, as his quirkiness overshadowed his on-field struggles.
In 2015, Venditte posted a 4.40 ERA/4.15 FIP. He was claimed off waivers by Toronto and split time in 2016 with the Blue Jays and Mariners, posting a 5.73 ERA/6.15 FIP in 22 innings. He spent the entirety of the 2017 season at Triple-A Lehigh, a Phillies’ affiliate. Doesn’t exactly sound like the type of player to be optimistic about. However, there has to be something that the Dodgers see.
It’s a little tough to put too much stock into anything Venditte has done at the major league level. He’s thrown 50 2/3 innings over two years, which is fewer than four Dodger relievers threw just last season. It shrinks the sample size even more to break his career up into splits, but it is worth taking a look at.
In 2015, Venditte faced 52 left handed hitters. Despite his ability to switch pitch, Venditte threw right handed to four of these batters. However, of the 52 lefties he faced, he walked four of them, allowed one home run, three doubles and a single. Opposing lefties slashed only .104/.173/.234 against Venditte. Venditte had much less success against right handed hitters. In 67 plate appearances, righties slashed .293/.379/.515 against Venditte, who threw right handed to all but 12 of the righties he faced. The difference in OPS against lefties (.407) and righties (.896) was essentially the difference between Edinson Volquez‘s OPS (as a hitter) and Anthony Rizzo‘s. According to Brooks Baseball, Venditte threw a curveball 53.44 percent of the time in 2015. He only threw his fastball 44.89 percent of the time, which is a good thing considering it averaged just over 85 MPH. Brooks doesn’t sort by pitcher handedness, but against lefties (both as a lefty and a righty), Venditte threw the curveball nearly 64 percent of the time, as opposed to nearly 35 percent fastballs. Against righties, these numbers were roughly 43 and 54, respectively.
Venditte struggled in 2016, and pitch selection could also be a big reason why. He threw his fastball more than his curveball against both lefties and righties, with a 52-44 split overall. Righties slashed .275/.381/.529 against him, and lefties slashed .286/.333/.543. The difference in OPS (.910 against righties, .876 against lefties) was basically the difference between Marwin Gonzalez and Gary Sanchez. Either way, he was getting lit up.
Venditte remained in the minors last year. As far as I know, there’s not an easy way to track pitch usage in the minors. However, Venditte continued to succeed from the left side against lefties, holding them to a .213/.277/.333 slash in 119 plate appearances. He also fared well against righties from the left side, holding them to a sub .500 OPS in only 23 plate appearances.
Still, despite that apparent strength, Venditte has an uphill battle to appear at all for the Dodgers. His first spring outing went well, as he needed only 10 pitches to record five outs. His second was a little more rocky from one side of the plate.
RHP Pat Venditte allowed two hits that inning, but LHP Pat Venditte retired all three batters he faced. I promise this sentence makes sense.
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) February 26, 2018
He’s not on the 40-man roster, and the Dodgers have four lefties (Alexander, Tony Cingrani, Adam Liberatore, Edward Paredes) ahead of him on the depth chart. Former top prospects Henry Owens and Manny Banuelos also offer the Dodgers intriguing options from the left side. However, if Venditte uses his curveball more and is used at opportune times, he could be a strong left handed weapon out of the pen.