The 2023 Los Angeles Dodgers were always going to experience some growing pains. That's what happens when you bite the bullet and promote the prospects everyone's been waiting so long for.
One in the bunch might just look comfortable from the jump -- that's James Outman. But the rest will, more than likely, take time. Add in the late spring injuries to Tony Gonsolin and Ryan Pepiot, resulting in more Michael Grove starts than anyone imagined, and even the Dodgers' youth movement -- with some expected struggles baked in -- ended up thinner than they'd planned.
After giving top prospect Gavin Stone a chance to get his sea legs at Triple-A, it seems the Dodgers are now ready to throw him into the fire, too.
LA hasn't been a disgrace to open the season. They haven't been the (shudders) Cardinals. But the more elite talent, the better, and Stone's zipping fastball has found its rise in the high minors in recent weeks.
His first big-league challenge? The defending NL Champions, a team that's also shaken off its cobwebs over the past few days (and has been nigh unbeatable since they adopted a cool dog). No pressure, kid.
Dodgers RHP Gavin Stone's MLB Debut: What You Need to Know
Stone's maneuvered across a rocky road at Triple-A this season, but there's no offense like Pacific Coast League offense. Since a baseball switch a few years back, the league's altitudes have made life hell on young pitchers. Stone's 4.74 ERA could be viewed as a trophy, in context.
In his last two starts, Stone has gone 9.2 innings, allowing five hits, one earned run, and four walks, striking out 15. While the Albuquerque Isotopes and Sacramento River Cats aren't the Phillies, the progress has been tangible and the pedigree is obvious.
These Phillies won't get Rhys Hoskins back at any point, but they even without Bryce Harper (who, by the way, supposedly returns this week), they've remained a threat to be taken seriously. Brandon Marsh would be an All-Star starter if the first half ended today, and Nick Castellanos seems to be attacking with renewed consistency in Year 2. Stone will have a top-10 lineup in MLB to navigate when he toes the rubber, even if the early-season stats don't seem to indicate as such.
The Dodgers' goal is the same as Philadelphia's -- secretly, while no one is looking, get back into that top tier, too. Stone's emergence could help them significantly along that path.