Heading into the 2023 season, Los Angeles Dodgers fans wanted to see top prospect Gavin Stone get a chance at the MLB level after the way he finished 2022 at Triple-A Oklahoma City. The right-hander was fast-tracked from High-A and then dazzled at OKC to finish the season with a 1.48 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 168 strikeouts in 26 games (121.2 innings).
Dodgers fans ended up getting their wish, but the results have been far closer to a nightmare than a dream. Stone's been asked to fill a spot in the rotation here and there as the team has dealt with incessant injuries, but he's yet to deliver. Outside of a relief appearance in Boston, he's been terrible.
Across 23.1 innings in six games (four starts) with the big-league club, Stone has a 10.80 ERA, 6.99 FIP and 2.19 WHIP. His command has been bad. He's leaving balls up in the zone and getting crushed by opposing hitters.
And he's having a tough go of it at Triple-A, too. In 21 games (19 starts) with OKC, he's been good for a 4.74 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. He's still striking out a nice amount of batters (120 in 100.2 innings), but 2023 has represented a clear step back for the soon-to-be 25-year-old.
Stone and the Dodgers appear to be trapped in no man's land right now, as his development has hit a snag. Would it be extreme to say LA might be approaching the point of no return? Might Stone simply just be a fringe major leaguer?
Dodgers could already reaching point of no return with Gavin Stone
It feels a bit hyperbolic ... but this has been a considerable regression. Stone has one of the worst ERAs in Dodgers history for a single season with at least 20 innings pitched. He's gotten a ton of run support in all of his appearances with the big-league club and he's given it all right back.
How many young pitchers would kill to have the Dodgers offense behind them? It's essentially been a non-factor for Stone, who was enjoying a 7-2 lead against the Padres on Monday night only to promptly give up five straight runs in what was an eventual 11-8 loss.
His trademark changeup has been getting battered to the tune of a .308 average and .615 slugging percentage. It's an especially bad look that Michael Grove, Emmet Sheehan and Ryan Pepiot have been better options, with Pepiot far and away superior. Not to mention, former top prospect Bobby Miller wasted no time emerging as a top-of-the-rotation option.
We're not saying Stone should've done that ... but maybe something in between? Perhaps a decent back-end arm?
Stone unfortunately had his career interrupted upon being drafted during the shortened 2020 (there wasn't a minor-league season that year). However, he's about to complete his third full year in the minors, with his spectacular 2022 campaign appearing to be an outlier.
Dodgers fans sure hope that's not the case, but perhaps Stone's 3.76 ERA/1.23 WHIP in 2021 and 4.74 ERA/1.31 WHIP is more indicative of his capabilities than the otherworldly 2022 showing that propelled him to the top of the Dodgers' system.