Top prospect Pepiot comes into camp with clear head, new weapon

March 4th, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When the Dodgers entered the offseason, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman felt confident in the organization's starting pitching depth.

The Dodgers had the best team ERA in the Majors last season, and they'll have most of that production returning when the 2022 season gets underway. But a big reason for Los Angeles’ confidence is the development of top pitching prospects such as , Landon Knack and Bobby Miller.

Pepiot, 24, is the top pitching prospect in the organization, according to MLB Pipeline. Since the Dodgers selected him in the third round of the 2019 Draft, Pepiot has opened eyes every step of the way. He had a strong debut season, posting a 1.93 ERA in 13 appearances. In 2020, he was part of Los Angeles’ Summer Camp roster and was one of the most impressive arms at the alternate training site.

In ‘21, Pepiot showed his dominance, but he also encountered some expected adversity for a pitcher going through the Minors. He dominated at Double-A Tulsa, posting a 2.87 ERA in 15 appearances and striking out 81 over 59 2/3 innings. But when Pepiot was called up to Triple-A Oklahoma City, he struggled, finishing with a 7.13 ERA in 11 appearances.

“A lot of that was mechanical stuff. Obviously, I was trying to figure some things out, but I got in my own head with some things, and I was just out there kind of like a robot,” Pepiot said. “I had a bunch of different thought processes out there, so I was already behind the eight ball.”

Pepiot said he visited with psychologists this offseason in order to get back to his normal self. On the mound, he feels like he’s more prepared, and he has more weapons, too. Pepiot came into this spring with an added focus on his mechanics, but he has also learned a “sweeper” breaking ball, which is essentially a mix of a slider and a curveball. 

The right-hander, much like he did with his signature changeup, tried different grips on the pitch until he finally found one he liked. 

“I was throwing a harder slider, and it just didn’t have the right variation between my changeup velocity and fastball,” Pepiot said. “So we tried to figure out a grip that works. It’s actually what Blake Treinen throws, and we have about 10 other guys that have tried to throw it. I picked it up this offseason, and it has come a long way.”

In a scrimmage against Asian Breeze, an Arizona-based independent team, Pepiot utilized the pitch to finish off a pair of strikeouts. With a 96 mph fastball, the changeup and the sweeper, Pepiot struck out five of the six batters he faced.

“I was happy with the work I put out there. I put in a lot of work this offseason,” Pepiot said. “Just being able to be out there against somebody else other than someone wearing a Dodgers jersey, it’s always nice to be able to do that.”

At some point this year, Pepiot hopes to face opposing jerseys at the big league level. He can feel how close he is to achieving his lifelong goal of reaching the Majors, and the Dodgers could use his talented arm. But with the lockout still in place, Pepiot is staying focused on what he can control.

“It’s exciting to be as close as I guess I am,” Pepiot said. “But I also don’t want to look ahead because I have to stay where my feet are at. … I just have to come in here every single day, do my work.”