Dodgers: Need to Hold Onto Pitching Prospects

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 17: Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt
PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 17: Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt /

The non-waiver trade deadline is close from concluding. The Dodgers have been searching for front-end starting pitching and elite left-handed relief, but the price is too high to pay. Everyone wants LA pitchers, but the Dodgers need to shy away from dealing anymore pitching prospects.

When people think of the Dodgers, they immediately think pitching. Names like Koufax, Drysdale, Newcombe, Sutton, Valenzuela, Hershiser, and Kershaw are valid reasons why the Dodgers are at the pinnacle of pitching franchises. Interestingly though, it’s almost been a decade since the Dodgers produced a future ace since Kershaw’s debut.

Last year, it looked like Julio Urias was going to be the next Kershaw, but his season-ending shoulder surgery may alter his course. What happened to the elite franchise rich with starting pitching?

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It’s not like the Dodgers haven’t tried bolstering their pitching depth. In 2007, they selected Chris Withrow in the first round. He became a reliever, and the team traded him with Juan Uribe for Alberto Callaspo, Juan Jaime, Ian Thomas, and Eric Stults. In 2008, Los Angeles drafted Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin with their first two picks. Lindblom never started, doing alright in a few relief appearances, and Martin never reached the big leagues. They were traded for Shane Victorino.

In 2009, the Dodgers drafted three pitchers with their first four picks. Aaron Miller, in the second round, is now retired from baseball. Garret Gould and Brett Wallach, struggled with injuries and keeping their ERA’s below 5, and ended their Dodger careers by 2012. In 2010, LAs finally selected a pitcher they got something out of, Zach Lee. The thing is, it was who he was traded for that provided more production. That’s Chris Taylor.

In 2011, The Dodgers drafted another pitcher in the first round, Chris Reed. He was also traded, for someone contributing now, Grant Dayton. 2012 was the first year since 2002 the Dodgers didn’t select a pitcher in the first round. That’s because of this guy named Corey Seager. However, that draft also included Paco Rodriguez, who the team traded for Alex Wood and Ross Stripling. Notice a trend?

The 2013 Dodgers went back to drafting pitchers in their early rounds. Chris Anderson is surprisingly still with the Dodgers, in High A ball. On the other hand, Tom Windle is now with the Phillies. Fun fact, Los Angeles drafted these two and Brandon Dixon ahead of Cody Bellinger. In 2014, they drafted Grant Holmes and traded him for Rich Hill. This was also the draft that netted Alex Verdugo, Brock Stewart, and Trevor Oaks.

The 2015 draft was important for one reason only, Walker Buehler. In this draft, the Dodgers had two first round picks. Unfortunately, one went to waste with Kyle Funkhouser not signing. However, they did land Walker Buehler who is the number one prospect in the organization’s system, number 13 in the majors, and possibly the heir to Kershaw’s ace status.

2016 was a fruitful draft, netting Jordan Sheffield, Dustin May, and Mitchell White. They also got solid position players in Gavin Lux, Will Smith, and DJ Peters. Perhaps what’s more important about this draft, is they’re still with the franchise. It’s only been a year, but the trend over the last decade or so, involves many of LA’s early picks being dealt away.

In the case of Walker Buehler, the Dodgers have already claimed he is untouchable for this trade deadline. It’s hard to deal away a fastball that can hit 100 mph which can be thrown with command, and a 90 mph slider.

He’s also a starting pitcher for now as well. If he can remain a starter, he can become the Dodgers’ version of a Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom. Of course, those two have had injury problems, which may also be a concern for Buehler since he’s had Tommy John already. However, a raw talent this special cannot be dealt away knowing their other top pitching prospect is recovering from shoulder surgery.

Los Angeles has been on the market for starting pitching for how long now? Despite being known for pitching, the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent prospects and money acquiring it from other teams. With Kershaw approaching his 30s and dealing with back ailments, perhaps it’s time to start investing more into future starting pitching again.

Next: Dodgers: Predicting Season-End Record

That being said, it should also be noted that it doesn’t necessarily mean drafting pitchers. Two of the top relievers, Kenley Jansen and Pedro Baez, weren’t drafted as pitchers. Teams have caught on that drafting pitchers in the early rounds is extremely risky. So the Dodgers should aim to either convert, r draft them lower. Once they develop them, they should prioritize holding onto them with an abundance of expendable position player prospects.