Alex Vesia was a mostly unknown relief prospect when the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired him from the Miami Marlins last offseason but he became a key piece in their bullpen by the middle of the season.
Vesia made his MLB debut with the Marlins in 2020 and walked seven hitters while striking out five and allowing nine runs in just 4.1 innings despite his Minor League track record showing a strong ability to post high strikeout numbers while limiting walks.
The left-hander did not make the Dodgers’ roster out of Spring Training but he was recalled for one day in April and for two weeks in May.
When the Dodgers acquired him for Dylan Floro, it was a trade that left some confused. During two weeks in May, Vesia didn’t do much to reassure those people as he posted an ERA of 6.52 with 11 walks in his first 9.2 innings.
It led to him getting optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City a few times during the season, but when Vesia was recalled on July 9, he looked like a completely different pitcher.
From his recall to the end of the season, only three pitchers in MLB with at least 20 innings had an ERA lower than Vesia’s 0.92 mark in 29.1 innings.
He only allowed three runs during the second half of the season and became one of Dodgers’ manager Dave Robert’s high-leverage relievers.
Vesia said the demotion to the Minor Leagues helped him clear his head and build his confidence back up, which led to his breakout.
“I feel really confident. I know I’ve put in the hard work and we’re seeing it when the time comes,” Vesia said.
“I just needed some time to get comfortable with it basically. Nothing stood out. I think just clearing my head and building on good inning after good inning after good inning helps. Nothing too crazy. Just kind of building confidence one inning at a time.”
Vesia continued to play a key role for Roberts into the postseason. The left-hander appeared in seven games and struck out seven hitters while only allowing one run, which came in his first postseason outing.
Vesia finished the season throwing 40 innings with a 2.25 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 12.15 strikeouts per nine and 4.95 walks per nine.
Vesia’s 2021 highlight
Vesia’s highlight of the season was essentially his entire second half when he was consistently throwing shutout innings with at least one strikeout.
For one specific moment, Vesia pitched 1.2 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies while allowing only one hit and striking out four. He also earned the win as the Dodgers won 5-0.
Vesia should be the Dodgers go-to left-handed reliever again in 2022 and a key piece in their bullpen. However, relievers are among the most volatile players in sports so it’s hard to fully count on him until he shows he can continue success.
Vesia does have a strong Minor League track record that suggests his breakout was more concrete than random, so that does bode well for him moving forward.
The return of Caleb Ferguson from Tommy John surgery and a potential bounce-back season from Victor Gonzalez also gives the Dodgers some depth for the left side of their bullpen that they haven’t had recently. Vesia should still be favored to be the high-leverage southpaw.
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