Fellow Left-Handers Brett Anderson and Hyun-Jin Ryu Will Start The Season On The DL Raising Questions About The Rotation
The recurrent theme throughout the Dodgers’ off-season was depth. After losing Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers Front Office worked long and hard to stockpile quality starting pitching throughout the organisation. That decision is already paying off after both Anderson (Back) and Ryu (Shoulder) were ruled out before the first Spring game had even begun. Depth at the back-end of the rotation was a big problem for the Dodgers last season, so to have that same depth tested once again before the 2016 season even begun is obviously going to be a sore point for Dodgers fans. Thankfully, the Dodgers are much better equipped to handle such a situation this time around. Let’s start by looking at the rotation as it stands.
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A surprise to no one, Ace Clayton Kershaw will take the ball on Opening day, after that the newly acquired Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda will appear in some order, they would then be followed by funky lefty Alex Wood. That’s a pretty solid top four, especially if Maeda pitches like it looks like he can, however there is some uncertainty surrounding the number 5 spot.
A Short-Term Hole
Thankfully, unlike last season, the hole in the Number 5 slot (barring another injury) is only a short-term issue. Whilst Anderson is expected to miss 3-5 months after requiring surgery to repair a bulging disc, the Dodgers expect Hyun-Jin Ryu to return at some point during early May. At this time (roughly) last year, the Dodgers were facing the prospect of losing both Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy for the entire season. With Ryu returning in May, the Dodgers will have a full rotation. In fact, not long after that the Dodgers will be staring another logjam in the face as Brandon McCarthy is expected to return in early-mid June leaving 6 starters for 5 spots. In this case, given the injury concerns throughout the rotation I wouldn’t be averse to the Dodgers employing a 6-man rotation but that’s an argument for another time. Also, before you dismiss McCarthy he actually posted a 2.67 xFIP last year.
It is for this reason, I don’t believe that you will not see any of the Dodgers top prospects break camp with the team. Whilst I would love to see Julio Urias, Jose de Leon or Grant Holmes in a Dodger uniform, it simply wouldn’t make sense. Many outlets have suggested the Dodgers promote one of their young starters to fill the hole but doing so would mean that you unnecessarily start their service time and use up an option for one months worth of starts – that’s bad business. Injuries, set-backs and ineffectiveness can all change this equation and GM Farhan Zaidi did leave the prospect open but to see one of the young starters break camp would be a shock.
So Who Plays Stop-Gap?
As you would expect under this front office there are a number of candidates to fill this slot. Brandon Beachy is a talented pitcher and has shown promise in the past, he’s also out of options giving him a leg up. Mike Bolsinger was excellent in this role in the first-half of last season but struggled after being recalled. Bolsinger has option years remaining so if competition is tight between he and Beachy, then the latter likely gets the first shot.
Those two appear to be the front runners right now, however, Carlos Frias, Zach Lee and Joe Weiland are all potential candidates themselves and are all young enough to have some upside. To have five in-house candidates to fill just one hole in the rotation is a great luxury to have and that’s before you bring farm hands Urias, de Leon, Grant Holmes and Chris Anderson into the equation.
The good news out of all of this is that the Dodgers are in a far more favourable situation than they were a year ago. With McCarthy and Ryu due back relatively early in the season, the Dodgers shouldn’t need to replace more than a handful of starts – in fact the Dodgers could actually be looking to sell some pitching at the deadline despite being in contention.
I personally believe that Bolsinger deserves the first shot out of respect after posting a 2.81 ERA in the first half last year, in the same role. After that I still like Frias’ upside as a hard thrower with 2 at-least average breaking balls and if you take out his two rough starts, Frias has posted a 3.06 ERA in 73.1 IP as a starter.
Whoever fills the number 5 spot in April, there’s no need to panic.