@DodgersWayFS Mailbag Questions
"I’m really curious about who may be given a serious look in ST….more specifically Buehler. Think he makes the opening day roster? Who else given the current status of the team? –@Jedimind1207"
Spring training always provides opportunities for players that may not have been at the forefront of the roster. We saw this with Rob Segedin in 2016 and to some extent Cody Bellinger last year, although he was certainly on everyone’s radar. Walker Buehler may follow the track that Bellinger did last spring where he would start the year in Triple-A and receive a call-up to the majors shortly thereafter.
Buehler was not overwhelming as a relief pitcher with the big league club last year and his minor league stats did decline as he made his rapid, and unorthodox, rise through the farm system. If he has an absolutely incredible spring then that may put last year to rest.
Worth noting with Buehler is he will definitely be a starting pitcher. The front office has made that abundantly clear. Buehler has not started a game since early July of last year and stretching him out may be in the plans regardless of how strong his spring is. I do not want to rule out Buehler breaking camp as a major league starter but I would put my money on him starting the season in Triple-A for some smoothing around the rough edges.
As for other players that will need a strong spring the list is actually fairly short. Alex Verdugo comes to mind only because of how underwhelming his September was last year. If he can really impress in camp it will just determine his level of usage. I think Verdugo breaks camp as a bench player though and it will take a record-breaking spring training for him to come out as a starter.
The second person that comes to mind here is Brock Stewart. Stewart finds himself in the same position he has been in for the past two season: a starter with no rotation spot and a stuffed bullpen. Stewart, like Walker Buehler, is a starting pitcher and that seems to be the intention for this season. I do not think he is ready to take a rotation spot and the long relief roles are most likely to be filled by Tom Koehler and Ross Stripling. That being said, Stewart could still battle his way onto the 25-man active roster. My prediction for Stewart is that he heads back to OKC, but that will depend heavily on other people’s performances as well as his own.
"Do you think the rotation lost important depth with the departures of Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Oaks? –Via Twitter"
I think the Dodgers not only freed money by getting rid of Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir but also got rid of a huge logjam in the pitching department. I do not think that either of them was crucial to the success of the team. Nor were they necessary as depth pieces.
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The main focus in trading them away was to get rid of the money and to be perfectly honest it was dead money they were getting rid of. So for the first two, no, they did not lose anything important.
The case with Trevor Oaks, on the other hand, is not as simple. I really like Trevor Oaks. On and off the field he is a great player. I know, first hand, that he is respected by both players and the media. On the field, Oaks was a gamer. Last season at AAA, while grinding through injuries, he still managed to pitch his way to a 3.75 ERA. One of his best years to date.
Injuries aside, Oaks was looked at as an option to jump into the rotation if needed. And there were times last year that the Dodgers were close to doing so. So, to answer the question, I actually do think that Oaks served as a very nice depth piece. At the least, he was a great option for an emergency starter or reliever if needed.
Did the Dodgers make a good trade when they lost him? Yes. But, was he an important depth piece? Absolutely.
*To submit a question to be featured in the next mailbag article, send it on Twitter @DodgersWayFS or feel free to send it directly to me @Jacob_Rudner