Dodgers: Ryu Could Be the Best Fifth Starter in Baseball


Dodgers LHP Hyun Jin Ryu could become one of the best number five starters in baseball this year if he continues to build off of his strong finish to the 2017 season.

Hyun Jin Ryu was once considered one of the best pitchers on the Dodgers. Now, he is a forgotten man who is fighting to find a role on the 25 man roster. Signed out of Korea in 2013 Ryu is now entering the last year of his 6 year $36 million deal. Ryu came to the United States with some pretty high expectations looking to follow in the footsteps of other Dodger Asian pitchers who had great success like Hideo Nomo, Chan Ho Park and Hiroki Kuroda.

Ryu got off to a fast start in his Dodger career as he experienced instant success and quickly established himself as a very good major league starter. In fact he was so good early on you could make the argument he was an ace. He went 28-15 in his first two seasons with a combined 3.19 ERA and an outstanding 2.93 FIP. He was one of the best left-handed starters in the league and was probably the best number 3 starter in baseball.

During the time Ryu was starting behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke on the Dodgers rotation. If it wasn’t for those guys he probably would’ve got more shine for his skills. Ryu was good enough to be a number two starter on almost every other team and probably could’ve been a number one on some other teams, he was that good. However, it all started to go downhill from there on for Ryu.

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Lingering shoulder injuries on his throwing arm that wouldn’t go away ruined his 2015 season and he wound up missing the entire year. After rehabbing for over a year he finally came back in 2016 but only managed to make one start going 4.2 innings and allowing 6 earned in a July loss in against the Padres. After the 2016 season, it looked like Ryu’s MLB career might have been over. It got to the point where he might not ever make a start in the majors again, but give him credit for continuing to battle back and manage to contribute to the team last year.

Ryu did manage to make 24 starts in 2017. He wasn’t the same player he was his first two years with the Dodgers but he still was a solid pitcher for the team. He had a decent 3.77 ERA and a 4.74 FIP. The Dodgers weren’t expecting to get much out of Ryu but he displayed enough to show he still has something left in the tank. The injuries to Ryu’s shoulder basically forced him to have to restart his entire career. His velocity was noticeably down last year but he has been working hard to build up his arm strength to get it back to where it used to be. He got stronger and stronger as the year went on and he is continuing to work to get back to the Ryu of old.

When you are out of baseball for that long it is going to take more than one season to get your game back. He was never a flamethrower but he had enough power on his fastball to get it by batters. Ryu is an offspeed pitcher with his go-to pitch being his changeup. If he can build some velocity back on his fastball it will make his changeup all that more effective. He will only be 31 years old at the start of the season so there is still a good chance he can rejuvenate his career.

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If the Dodgers can get a close enough version of the Hyun Jin Ryu from 2013 and 2014 they might end up with one of the best number five starters in baseball. As of right now the Dodgers have four guys you could guarantee to be in the starting rotation come spring training; Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, and Kenta Maeda. The fifth spot is up for grabs for anybody to take. Ryu would make the Dodgers rotation extremely left sided with four left-handed starters and only one right-hander but if he has a strong spring he has to get that spot due to his experience and ability. Ryu might not ever be the pitcher he used to be but don’t sleep on him this season.