Could Dodgers follow Nats, Astros, rely on rookies, youth in 2020 rotation?
The Astros and Nationals both have used rookies to start games in the World Series. The Dodgers left Tony Gonsolin off the playoff roster.
Making use of your best pitchers, even if they are not experienced, is an interesting strategy. While José Urquidy got the win in an amazing start for the Astros in Game Four and Joe Ross gave up a pair of big home runs in his Game Five start, just the fact that both teams trusted their talented young arms demonstrates an ideology that differs from that of the Dodgers.
Gonsolin missing the playoff roster came as a shock to many, especially considering how solid he was as a starter down the stretch. Should he have been left on the playoff roster?
That’s not what I am seeking to answer in this article. I’ll let the past stay in the past.
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What I would like to do is look ahead to the Dodgers’ 2020 starting rotation. Could the Dodgers see Urquidy’s success as a blueprint to getting Julio Urias, Dustin May, and Gonsolin into big playoff games in elevated roles by starting them more often during the regular season? And would this strategy make sense based on the current construction of the roster?
I think so. As of today, Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw are the only sure things in the 2020 rotation. Hyun-Jin Ryu is a free agent who may be left to walk if he seeks more than a three-year deal, which his breakout season is likely to garner.
Without Ryu, the rotation will likely be made up of a mix of veterans like Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling. But what about a potential youth movement, could the trio of young guns I mentioned above work with the established veterans?
More than likely, Tony Gonsolin and Kenta Maeda will be in the rotation, meaning one spot will be open. I think Urias makes the most sense as a fifth starter, especially because he can work as a tandem starter with Stripling.
Keeping May in the bullpen makes a lot of sense to me as well, especially if he makes spot starts in lieu of minor leaguers making them. Here’s how I envisioned May’s 2020 role a month ago.
"But perhaps a better comparison could be rookie Chris Sale. In his first full season in the majors in 2011 he threw 71 innings in 58 games. Sure, that’s still a far cry from the 190-200 innings he can be counted on for from 2012 to today, but it is important developmentally to face top hitters in tough situations.For the Dodgers, Dustin May could benefit from this sort of work. Just like Sale, he is lanky and has electric stuff, even if he is too inexperienced to navigate through an MLB start without his best stuff. If May could work out of the bullpen in 50 or so games and throw for five or more outs whenever required, he would likely amass 75-80 innings of work. This would serve to keep him fresh for the occasional spot start and also would make him playoff-ready out of the bullpen so that he could go into a tie game in the seventh inning instead of Kershaw or into the ninth inning instead of Kelly."
Having depth in the rotation means that come October, a bullpen depth deficiency became a strength for the 2019 Dodgers, but if they want to compete in 2020, they’ll need their depth to act more like that of the Nats and Astros, in that it is depth that is skilled enough to be entrusted with playoff innings and starts.