Gavin Stone saving Dodgers rotation is overlooked story of 2024 season

Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago White Sox
Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago White Sox / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

Going into spring training, it looked like Gavin Stone might not even make it onto the Dodgers' 26-man roster, much less crack the rotation. He'd struggled through just 31 innings in 2023, first as a starter and then as a long reliever, so he had a lot to prove heading into spring if wanted to avoid starting the season in Triple-A.

He looked pretty good over 14 innings at Camelback, which got him on the plane with the Dodgers when they went to Korea. He was named LA's fifth starter after throwing 3 1/3 stellar innings in relief during an exhibition game.

The Dodgers clearly saw something promising in Stone, but it's hard to believe that anyone really expected what we've ended up getting from him this season. His name has been sort of buried among all of the expensive stars and staples in LA's rotation, but his first career complete game shutout against the White Sox on Wednesday is starting to pull eyes toward him as one of the most exciting young pitchers in the game.

LA's rotation hasn't totally fallen apart, but is by no means whole; Emmet Sheehan's injury is what enabled Stone to move up in the first place, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Walker Buehler are out until further notice, and Clayton Kershaw is experiencing the first big setback of his rehab process.

But Stone has not only remained healthy. He's only gotten better as the season's gone on.

Gavin Stone is making himself one of the best things to happen to the Dodgers this year

Stone's 2.73 ERA on the season leads Dodgers starters. He's trailing Tyler Glasnow slightly in innings pitched, with 89 to Glasnow's 100, but has allowed a remarkable five fewer home runs (6 vs. 11). His changeup has baffled hitters this year, with a paltry .180 average and .292 slugging against, as well as a 34.6% whiff rate and 24.7% K rate. He could stand to work on his control; he's matched Glasnow's walk total despite the innings gap. Still, that's a minor complaint given the advanced performance.

With the way the season has shaken out, the Dodgers desperately needed Stone to level up like this and really start to shove, and he hasn't let them down. The way things are going, he should almost certainly be in the conversation for NL Rookie of the Year. If he won, he'd be the first starting pitcher to do so since Jacob deGrom in 2014, which isn't exactly bad company to be in.

In such a crowded, expensive Dodgers rotation, Stone is the perfect example of a homegrown star who has real ace potential, and he's been instrumental in keeping the ship steady this year while other pieces have fallen away.