Dodgers have interest in Ryne Stanek, who could thrive with a couple changes

Andrew Friedman has said, outside of a right-handed bat and/or third baseman (one in the same, Justin Turner?), the bullpen was going to be a priority this offseason. And if we know anything about Friedman, he’s anything but traditional when it comes to building the ‘pen. Hence the Dodgers’ reported interest in Ryne Stanek.

If this had been reported about three hours earlier on Friday, this would have been included in the rumor roundup article. Alas, it was not.

So, what exactly could the Dodgers see in Stanek? Well, he is a former draft pick of Friedman’s — his penultimate 1st-rounder selection while with Tampa (29th overall in 2013) and he has shown some potential. He has a live arm, but the results have been a mixed bag so far. However, there is some hope that Stanek’s best may still be on the way.

Stanek, 29, is most famous for being the Rays’ regular “opener” in 2018 and ’19. He started 56 games (83 innings pitched) in that time and was solid for Tampa Bay in the role — 2.71 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 21.5 K-BB%. He was traded to Miami at the 2019 trade deadline that netted the Rays Nick Anderson. He struggled in his 31 1/3 innings over the next two seasons with the Marlins, which led to Kim Ng non-tendering him earlier this month.

It’d be smart to mostly ignore his 2020 numbers. Stanek appeared in just nine games (10 IP) that saw him produce an ugly 7.20 ERA, 7.29 FIP and a 6.3 K-BB%. He missed most of the season because of COVID-19, but his injury history is relatively clean otherwise. We don’t know if he’ll experience any long-term negative impact on him, but his arm is pretty sound.

Stanek throws three pitches: a mid-to-high-90s fastball, a slider that flirts with 90 MPH and a high-80s splitter. Since 2020 was a bust for him, I won’t put too much stock into the decreased fastball velocity (average of 95.8 MPH) and the fact that he allowed a .445 wOBA against his splitter (4-for-11, one double, one homer). Instead, we’ll look at 2018-19 with respect to those pitches.

Over the two seasons, he averaged 97.7 MPH on his heater, but that also came with a below-average 92.3 MPH exit velo mark and a high launch angle of 24.3 degrees. In other words, his fastball induces a lot of fly balls. He allowed a .340 wOBA and .386 xwOBA on his fastball. For a pitch he threw 57.6% of the time, that’s not great. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Dodgers (or whichever team ends up with him) encourages him to throw it a bit less in favor of one of his other offerings.

Have a look at it.

His slider, thrown a quarter of the time, actually grades out much better than his fastball in my eyes. He allowed a .259 wOBA and a .237 xwOBA on it in 2018-19. He also allowed an 86.1 MPH exit velo and he did a good job of keeping it down — 8.2-degree launch angle. He also missed bats with it, as he induced a 21.92% (’18) and 22.89% (’19) whiff rate on it.

Here it is in video form.

https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1035699214167289856

If his slider is good, then his splitter has the characteristics of being elite. He allowed just a .141 wOBA and .131 xwOBA on it, an 84.4 MPH exit velo and a 9.1-degree launch angle. He missed more bats on it than his slider, as he had a 23.78% and 27.72% whiff rate on the pitch in ’18 and ’19.

Here it is in action.

Stanek isn’t the prototypical bullpen arm the Dodgers covet, but you can see the talent and some of the results are awfully encouraging. Exposing his offspeed stuff to more usage also exposes it to worse results, but that could, in turn, help his fastball overall.

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As a non-tendered free agent, he shouldn’t cost a ton to sign for a season. He was projected to make just $800,000 via the arbitration process (which makes me wonder why Ng, who said the bullpen was a priority, didn’t want to take a flier on a talented arm … but I digress). The Rays, Reds and Yankees all have interest in him. And while the Dodgers’ bullpen might look a bit full, Stanek has one minor-league option remaining, so there’s some flexibility with his roster status.

He isn’t the Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand or any other elite-level reliever, but if the Dodgers intend to use their pitchers in the postseason the way they did in 2020, the Dodgers may not need one of those guys (especially when there are some guys in-house who have the talent and potential to develop that way). What I’m saying is: If the Dodgers end up signing a guy like Stanek in lieu of one of the big guys — coupled with the acquisition of Corey Knebel and Kenley Jansen still existing — then they might just be OK (said with a twinge of sarcasm).

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.