3 young Dodgers who must step up in 2022 season
By Adam Weinrib
In 2020, the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ long journey finally culminated in a World Series win. After years of being told that they’d assembled the game’s best, brightest and deepest roster, it was finally all true.
Nitpickers aside, there was no arguing that what Andrew Friedman had pulled off was anything short of spectacular.
The Dodgers were stacked with superstars, highlighted by the recent acquisition of Mookie Betts. Their powerful — and young — rotation was so fruitful that they barely missed an opted-out David Price and sent Julio Urías to the bullpen. The bench hit from both sides of the plate, and it hit often. There wasn’t any room for a consensus top-five prospect in baseball, and that was perfectly alright.
Now, just a year and a half later? The Dodgers’ bench mob has departed for Atlanta and Boston. Their superstars don’t seem quite as shiny without Corey Seager and with Cody Bellinger’s backslide baked in. Perhaps worst of all, the rotation is missing both front-line anchors and its all-important depth. Nothing is assured anymore, especially not after the San Francisco Giants just won 107 games.
The Dodgers need more help than we anticipated in 2022, and they need it from all corners of the roster. They need it from 2020 Rookie of the Year candidates turned forgotten men in 2021. They need it from fire-breathing bullpen arms who could replace Kenley Jansen once and for all, if they’d only stay healthy.
And, perhaps, they need it most of all from that tippy-top prospect who’ll finally have to prove himself, lest he be shipped out of town at the end of the season. In a year that’s proving to be far tougher to plan for than 2020 Andrew Friedman expected, these three young Dodgers will need to shoulder the load.
3 young Dodgers who must step up in 2022
3. Tony Gonsolin
Things were so much simpler when Tony Gonsolin was a 26-year-old plowing through the 2020 season en route to a fourth-place finish in the Rookie of the Year vote. Behind Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May, and Urías, he felt like a luxury item getting by on guts and guile, someone who’d always be swinging back and forth from the ‘pen to the rotation to help out wherever needed. He didn’t have a defined role moving forward, and that was just fine for the here and now.
But now? May’s rehabbing, away from the team as the lockout proceeds. Kershaw might be, could be, actually gone? Max Scherzer, acquired in his place, has since departed. David Price isn’t himself lately. And Gonsolin, scarred by a series of way-too-short 2020 playoff starts, is now “somewhere in between” the rotation and bullpen in a bad way rather than a good one.
In two 2020 NLCS outings, Gonsolin carried a 9.95 ERA against the Atlanta Braves before his teammates worked to dispatch ’em in seven. As the World Series turned, Gonsolin was given two more starts … which lasted just three innings in total. The Dodgers won the series in six; one of their two losses was Gonsolin’s Game 2 start, and they clinched the series in spite of the Cat Man’s 1.2 innings, spent allowing the only earned run of the game.
Unfortunately, that bad mojo floated into his 2021; the ERA and strikeout numbers stayed strong in 13 starts (3.23, 65 strikeouts in 55.2 innings), but his advanced metrics took a significant step back, due in large part to an overload of walks. His FIP of 4.54 isn’t up to par, and his 34 walks led to an unimpressive WHIP of 1.35.
If Gonsolin’s ceiling is a semi-effective swingman, then it is what it is. But the 2022 Dodgers rotation could really use 160 innings of high-2.00 ERA baseball from someone they thought would be a young stalwart back in 2020. This team’s ceiling is much higher if Gonsolin is bedeviling rather than bewildering.