Dodgers: The silver linings from Brandon McCarthy’s injury

Jun 29, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brock Stewart (51) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 29, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brock Stewart (51) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Brandon McCarthy was placed on the DL on Monday which is disappointing considering how great he was pitching this season. However, there is still some positivity to take away from it.

Just to make one thing clear, I would prefer of Brandon McCarthy was not on the 10-day DL. However, he’s hurt so we have to live with it. He was pitching so well for the Dodgers this season. Going into Sunday’s start, he was 6-3 with a sparkling 2.87 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and had established himself solidly as the Dodgers’ number three starter. Considering the rough tenure, he’s had in LA; this was more than anyone could have hoped for.

Then the yips came back, and he struggled with command through three innings against Colorado. His numbers still sit at an excellent 3.25 ERA and a solid 1.11 WHIP, but there is still some stuff to be cautious about. He’s on the DL for knee tendinitis, something that popped up during his May 27th start against the Chicago Cubs.

It’s easy to say that the Dodgers used the “phantom DL” because of the return of his yips, but that wouldn’t be true. McCarthy has a long injury history, so the Dodgers are trying to protect him. McCarthy was expected to get multiple chances to rest via extended breaks between starts this season, so using the DL (for a legit reason) for a non-arm injury is another way to achieve that.

This is an organic way of keeping him fresh for later on in the season when he will be needed most. Also, speaking of the yips, this time off will let him recuperate from that, so that’s a plus.

And unlike most teams, the Dodgers are perfectly constructed to withstand a loss to a starting pitcher. They still have Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, and Hyun-Jin Ryu to form a proper starting rotation, not to mention the younger arms in the organization.

The latter trio may not impress you, but they have started to look better recently. Rich Hill has combined to give up just four runs in his last two starts (12 innings). The best part is that he went seven innings last start. Kenta Maeda threw seven shutout innings last time out, and Ryu has been stable his last two starts.

However, McCarthy’s absence also opens the door for the Dodgers’ younger arms, namely Brock Stewart and Trevor Oaks. Stewart was recalled a couple of days ago, days after being optioned back to OKC. In his lone appearance this season, the young pitcher looked sharp. He converted a three-inning save where he allowed just a single baserunner, struck out four, and touched 95-96 mph with his fastball.

His career 5.23 ERA may be ugly, but you have to consider the circumstances. First, at 33 innings, it’s such a small sample size. Then, his first two career starts were made in tough environments: on the road in extreme hitter-friendly parks in Colorado and Milwaukee. So, as expected from a rookie, he struggled, giving up 14 runs in 9 innings.

But, over his next five appearances in 2016, he pitched 19 innings (starts and bullpen stints) and allowed just four runs (1.89 ERA), including five innings of shutout, two-hit ball, with eight strikeouts against the eventual champs Chicago Cubs.

So, in his last 22 innings of major league ball, he has given up just four runs (1.63 ERA) with 21 strikeouts. He has the goods to stick in a major league rotation if given a chance.

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Too bad he’s on a team that emphasizes depth. On most other teams he’d be given a run at starting. His ceiling is a mid-rotation arm, but he can be quality depth for a lot of teams, including at the back-end for the Dodgers.

Trevor Oaks is another pitching prospect that might benefit from McCarthy’s 10-day layoff. He hasn’t been as dominant as he was in 2016 but still, has a solid 3.69 ERA in 78 innings. One improvement he has made though is his ability to strike out batters. After a 6.4 K/9 last season, he’s up to 8.1 K/9 this year.

Like Stewart, he is a highly polished prospect who would be on the major league roster in some capacity for a lot of other teams. It’s only a matter of time when he gets the call-up. There’s a high possibility it would be out of the bullpen, but it would still be an opportunity to impress.

If either, or both, were to impress, the Dodgers will have created additional quality depth; depth they can utilize if Hill, Maeda, or Ryu were to disappoint or get injured. They’d also have additional young arms to have in a bright future.

The Dodgers can also use this opportunity as a showcase for other teams. Teams are always looking to add young and controllable arms, so if Trevor Oaks and/or Brock Stewart show that they have the makeup of a quality major league starting pitcher, they become more attractive trade assets for LA in their efforts to add more established and elite arms.

And there isn’t a big downside. If they can’t stick it as starters in the Show, so be it. The Dodgers have enough pitchers (pros and prospects) where the duo’s lack of production wouldn’t affect them. They can just place them in the bullpen and create another Ross Stripling, or package them in a deal with another team.

Next: Potential Trade Targets

Ultimately, Brandon McCarthy’s injury isn’t as bad as you may think. Los Angeles already has established starters to pick up the slack. Also, this allows Dodgers to keep him fresh while simultaneously checking out what they have in some of their younger pitchers.