Los Angeles Dodgers: 1 biggest surprise of spring training so far
The Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t the kind of team that needs a big spring training to assert themselves on the national level.
But it doesn’t hurt.
Thus far this spring, the Dodgers are looking every bit of an overloaded contender, stocked with enough pitching depth and thunderous offense to chase 110 wins.
We’re being conservative there. They’re a juggernaut with as high a ceiling as any team of the past two decades.
So, when we pinpoint a “big surprise” we’ve experienced this spring, we’re not talking about an out-of-nowhere breakout who we learned of for the first time in Arizona.
We’re referring to someone who we knew could handle the spotlight and perform at the MLB level, but who came back clearly ready to prove something after an offseason’s worth of doubt.
Nobody’s surprised that Tony Gonsolin looks good. But we’re pretty shocked he’s been so effortlessly dominant in leveling up.
The Dodgers’ biggest surprise this spring? Tony Gonsolin making himself essential.
There will be a role for every starting pitcher on the 2021 Dodgers, and it would’ve been foolish to preemptively kick Gonsolin to the curb or decide you’d never again hear from the losers of the fifth starter competition after the addition of Trevor Bauer.
Gonsolin opened this spring behind three Cy Young winners and Walker Buehler in the rotation (though one of those award winners might try his hand at relief?), and Julio Urias seemed to have the leg up on a rotation spot when the team reported to camp.
Is that still so?
In three ridiculously dominant outings, Gonsolin has thrown six innings, whiffed seven, and allowed only a single stray batter to reach base (one hit, no walks).
When the Dodgers arrived at camp, we foresaw Urias grabbing hold of the last rotation spot, knocking Gonsolin into a hybrid long relief role, while Dustin May slotted in closer to the back end of the bullpen. Urias hasn’t exactly flatlined, throwing four one-run innings (only one K), but if this was a genuine competition when things began a few weeks ago, then he’s absolutely losing to Gonsolin.
Manager Dave Roberts has praised the righty extensively, lauding his extra work in all facets of the game since arriving for the new year. Urias worked out of the bullpen; with the World Series on the line, he was Roberts’ most trusted option, and he slammed the door on a championship.
Are we absolutely sure that pattern won’t continue this year? Our biggest surprise is just how comfortable we are with leaving Gonsolin right where he was last October, considering how that month went for him.
In two World Series starts, Gonsolin never made it out of the second inning. Urias, meanwhile, was the one who arrived when the bullpen door swung open for the biggest moments of the entire season.
This spring, though, Gonsolin has arrived in a leveled-up version of the Rookie of the Year form he brought to last year’s regular season.
We’re not surprised he’s good, but we’re surprised to know just how good he can be after an offseason’s worth of hot seats. What a return to form.