With David Price opting out of the 2020 season, is Ross Stripling the best answer to take his spot in the rotation?
With all of the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season, one area where Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts didn’t expect to find a sudden question mark was with the starting rotation.
But after starter David Price announced over the weekend that he was opting out of the season, it opened a rotation spot less than three weeks before opening night.
Who will replace Price in the rotation?
Right now, the Dodgers are keeping their options open, at least publicly. In a recent press conference, Roberts listed the most likely options to be swing-pitcher Ross Stripling and prospects Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin.
Stripling quickly made his case known by reiterating that he didn’t feel like he got a “fair shake” for a rotation spot during the team’s first spring training in March. Behind Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and David Price, it seemed pretty much set in stone that Julio Urias and Alex Wood would fill out the back of the rotation.
Price’s decision to stay home creates a new opportunity for Stripling.
Is Ross Stripling the best option to replace Price?
Dodger fans know what Stripling can do as a starter. Faced with a similar situation in 2018, the right-hander found himself in the rotation after a string of injuries, and excelled there, making an All-Star appearance.
He went 8-2 during the first half of that season with a 2.08 ERA. However, things quickly fell apart in the second half when he finished 0-4 with a dreadful 6.41 ERA. He has only made 15 starts since.
For Stripling, it really comes down to whether he can offset his really good curveball with a reliable fastball and necessary third pitch. While he has a repertoire of up to six different offerings, as a reliever, he really only needs two plus pitches to get the job done. As a starter, he requires results from both his four-seamer and slider, along with his curveball, to get through the order multiple times.
In 2018, when he was pitching his best, he was able to deploy his curveball as his put-away pitch after using his four-seamer to get ahead in the count. By the second half of the season, he only received strikes on 24% of his fastballs, down from 34% during the first half. And after holding opposing hitters to a .282 average against his slider, they absolutely clobbered it to a .429 average to close the season.
That was two years ago, and Stripling saw better results from both his four-seamer and slider last season. However, he still needs to prove he can rely on more than just his curveball to get the job done.
Last year, he experimented with a sinker and cutter, but struggled with both offerings. He also uses a change-up against left-handed hitters, which might be his most reliable third pitch, but it’s not helpful against righties who make up the majority of hitters in lineups across the league.
How Stripling’s pitches look in Spring Training 2.0 or “summer camp” could determine whether the Dodgers are comfortable putting him in Price’s spot in the rotation. Obviously, it is tempting to jumpstart a young pitcher like Dustin May’s career, but the fact Stripling has already been in this position and excelled, it leads you to believe he is the right choice, at least for now.
*Statistics courtesy of Brooks Baseball.