Last week DC discussed a Dodger reliever from every level in the organization. Every reliever on that list has the potential to be at least a MLB middle reliever. Some may become high leverage relievers. Zach Pop was certainly drafted last year for just that reason. One other that I started to follow last year in the DSL was Elio Serrano, who could be special. But at 19 he has a ways to go. Broussard, Copping, Gonsolin, Scrubb, and Hoyt will all have their moments this year, and one or two could be coming out of the LF bullpen this year at Dodger Stadium.
Pre Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers have had some tremendous relief pitchers that were dominant. Two went on to win the NL Cy Young award. One of those was a French Canadian who most Dodger fans refer to as Game Over…Eric Gagne. My wife’s three favorite Dodgers were Ron Cey, Mike Piazza, and Eric Gagne. We moved to Northern California in 2002, and we made multiple trips back down to LA just so she could go to Dodger Stadium and wait for “Welcome to the Jungle” to come blaring out of the speakers.
But this post is about another much less heralded and mostly unknown French Canadian pitcher. On November 29, 2017, the Dodgers signed soon to be 25 year old RHRP Jesen Dygestile-Therrien to a 2 year contract. The contract is for two years because Therrien will not pitch this year as he is recovering from TJ surgery. And while the 2018 season has not yet started, I am very much looking forward to the Spring of 2019 to get a chance to watch this young man pitch.
Despite the 17 year age difference, both Therrien and Gagne were teammates on the 2017 Canadian WBC team. But their relationship pre-dated the 2017 WBC Tournament. “He’s really been a mentor for me,” the 24-year-old Montreal native said. “After all of my outings, he’ll call me or text me telling me what I did wrong, what I did good.” “He keeps it really simple,” Therrien said. “I’m an aggressive pitcher. That’s the way he used to be. They used to call him ‘Game over,’ because he was good but also because he was a strike thrower. I believe I am the same thing.”
“The goal is to get Jesen ready for the 2019 season. We’re really excited about what he’s capable of doing,” said new Dodgers director of player development Brandon Gomes. “Now it’s just focusing on getting him as healthy and as strong as possible.”
So what has he done to get my attention? The Phillies and Red Sox are two other organizations I follow minor leaguers with for personal reasons, and Jesen (former Phillie prospect) caught my eye. Therrien posted a 1.41 in 39 minor league relief appearances in 2017, splitting time between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He struck out 65 and walked only nine in 57 innings, his walk rate improving from 11.3% in 2016 to 4.2% last year. In the last three seasons combined, Therrien in the minors posted a 1.79 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 53 walks in 176 innings, a 27.5% strikeout rate.
After jumping onto the radar of the Phillies former Manager, Pete Mackanin, in the Spring of 2017, Therrien made his ML debut on July 29, 2017. “We loved him in spring. I loved his breaking ball,” Mackanin said. “We really got excited about his breaking ball. He has a really nasty breaking ball. It’s good to see. … He’s on the map for me based on what I saw in the spring. He came in, and threw strikes with a really good looking breaking ball. Especially out of the bullpen, if you have a really good breaking ball and you can command it, that’s half the battle.”
One other positive note that caught the Dodger player development staff’s attention is that Therrien has been a ground ball pitcher for the bulk of his career, inducing a 48.5% ground ball rate in the majors in 2017 and a 52.5% rate from 2015-17 in the minors.
Therrien had TJ surgery in September and elected free agency. He then signed with the Dodgers. The 2018 season is definitely out. He has previously been a participant in the AFL, and maybe he will get another look this year. Maybe it is because Larry Sherry was my first Dodger hero, but relievers have always been my favorites. Perranoski, Brewer, Regan, Mikkelson, Hough, Marshall, Howe, Howell, Worrell, Gagne, and Jansen. I have been to Florida spring training multiple times, but never to Arizona. I will be going next year, and Jesen Therrien is one of the reasons. It’s unlikely that he can be a repeat of his mentor, Gagne, but in the Phillies organization he was favorably compared to Brad Lidge. That’s not a bad comparison at all.