Tuesday, December 14, 2004

2005 Dodgers: Kelly Wunsch

The Dodgers signed Kelly Wunsch to a minor-league contract on Monday. Wunsch was a big-time prospect way back in the day, going in the first round in 1993. He was slow to make progress in the White Sox system, and in 1999 he was converted to a reliever. He finally cracked the major league roster in 2000 as a lefty out of the pen. He had solid years in 2000, 2002, and 2003, but in 2004 his inflamed teres minor muscle kept him on the DL at the start of the season. He was relegated to Triple-A, and didn't see much playing time, in part because of the shoulder.

Wunsch's injury history in concert with his marginal value is certainly enough to keep him from being worth guaranteed money, but he's the kind of guy who could do well enough to deserve a spot on the roster as the situational lefty. He K's batters from both sides of the plate at a strong clip, but his walks keep him from being outstanding. He's also pretty stingy with the long ball. He's better against lefties, but he hasn't been a slouch against the northpaws either. If he's well, he could provide 30-40 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA. If he's not, he'll probably just hang out in Vegas most of the season, perhaps seeing action in September when the rosters expand.

Wunsch's signing solidifies the likelihood in my mind that Scott Stewart gets non-tendered. Stewart's performance record isn't bad, and his peripherals last season weren't as bad as the ERA would indicate-- he just gave up too many gopher balls in his limited playing time. Still, I'd be surprised to see him back since he'll make at least $700K.

Another effect: Wunsch is a side-armer, and it would be just delightful if he and Steve Schmoll were a side-winding left/right duo out of the bullpen.

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