Unheralded Dodgers pitching prospect dazzles after being fast-tracked to Triple-A debut

Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers
Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

The Dodgers promoted a huge crop of prospects this week, with some familiar names (Diego Cartaya, Josue De Paula) and some lesser known (Alexander Albertus, Patrick Copen) getting one step closer to the big leagues. Some of them had mightily impressive debuts at the next level up; Cartaya got his first Triple-A RBI on his first hit, while Albertus hit a home run in his Single-A debut.

But the most impressive debut might belong to lefty pitcher Justin Wrobleski, LA's No. 14 prospect this season. In his first Triple-A outing, he pitched five innings and struck out 11 batters, a career high. He did give up six hits and three earned runs (two off homers) in what would turn into a loss for OKC, but those 11 strikeouts also came on less than 80 pitches, and four of them were perfect, three-pitch Ks.

Wrobleski only spent 67 2/3 innings in Double-A this season before getting promoted to Oklahoma City, so it definitely feels like the Dodgers have an accelerated course charted for him. LA GM Brandon Gomes said that a major league debut "[wouldn't be] out of the question" (subs. required).

"Things can happen," Gomes continued.

Top prospect Justin Wrobleski struck out 11 in his Triple-A OKC Dodgers debut

Wrobleski was an 11th round draft pick for the Dodgers in 2021. He'd just undergone Tommy John following his last year pitching for Oklahoma State, but the Dodgers liked him so much that they gave him a nice bonus (a little less than $200,000) despite taking him so late. He made his Rookie League debut in 2022 and was promoted to Single-A after pitching just 15 innings, then started the 2023 season in High-A, where he pitched 102 1/3 innings for a 2.90 ERA.

The Dodgers are definitely fast-tracking him, and his Triple-A debut is already showing team brass that he can surprise them. Gomes likened Wrobleski to fellow homegrown starter Gavin Stone, comparing their ability to induce grounders rather than seeking Ks at all times.

But during his debut, Wrobleski only forced one groundout and two fly outs, while the rest of his outs were swings and misses. Of course, it was just one start, but it made his K/9 rate jump up to a ridiculous 19.80. While it's more likely than not that number will be sliced in half as soon as he makes his second start, he certainly set a tone.

If we see Wrobleski in the majors this season, it'll probably be in the same capacity we saw Stone in last year or even Landon Knack this year — called up for a short stint (probably in response to an injury) and given the opportunity to prove himself. With the Dodgers keeping their five starters to a six-day schedule and going to their relievers for more and more bullpen days, a call up for Wrobleski toward the end of the season doesn't feel at all implausible, especially after his OKC showing.