As the Dodgers continue their off-season search for a number of arms that they can place into their rotation and bullpen for the start of 2017, I was thinking we take a look at what they have in the system already. Now these guys are quite the long shot for making any sort of impact at the start of the season, just due to the number of men that they have in front of them. But hey, I am sure the same was said about Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart. Both of them had some sort of influence on the 2016 season. If 2017 turns out to be anywhere near 2016 in terms of injuries, these players can expect to see the major league roster at some point.
Trevor Oaks (AAA)
Oaks was the Dodgers seventh round draft pick in 2014. After posting a 6.31 ERA with 1.51 WHIP in his first season as a pro in rookie ball, Oaks erupted onto the scene and turned himself into a real prospect. He saw a drop in ERA in 2015, lowering it all the way down to 2.65. He started the year in low A-ball before making the quick move up to High-A. With a 1.04 WHIP and a .235 AVG against, 2015 was when Oaks put himself on the map as a real prospect.
His success carried on in 2016, when after just four starts he was promoted to Double-A Tulsa. There he posted an astounding 2.14 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP in 63 innings. Before he knew it, he was on his way to his third level of baseball on the season. He finished the 2016 season by tossing 63 more innings to the tune of a 3.00 ERA at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Oaks will definitely be starting the 2017 as a member of the Oklahoma City Dodgers rotation. The 23-year-old should not be too far down the pecking order, should some injuries arise. If he continues to dominate the minors, the Dodgers will have no choice but to give him a chance on the big league club.
Chase De Jong (AAA)
De Jong was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the second round of the 2012 draft. The Dodgers traded for De Jong in July of 2015, sending the Blue Jays three international bonus pool slots.
After tossing a combined 136 1/3 innings in between the Dodgers and Blue Jays minor league systems in 2015, he had decent numbers: A 3.43 ERA, .230 AVG against, 1.11 WHIP, and a 129 to 33 KK/BB ratio. He seemed to impress the Dodgers organization enough to earn him a debut in Double-A for the beginning of the 2016 season.
And 2016 was a magical year for De Jong, by far his best as a professional. It earned him the honors of the Texas League Pitcher of the Year as a member of the Tulsa Drillers and an end of the year promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City. In 141 2/3 innings as a starter in Tulsa, he posted a fantastic 2.86 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, and 129 strikeouts. If not for the amazing run that Brock Stewart went on this season, De Jong would have been a shoo-in for the Dodgers Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
De Jong should be joining Oaks in the OKC Dodgers’ rotation to start the season. The 22-year-old will have just as good of a shot as Oaks to make it to the Dodgers roster.
Josh Sborz (AA)
The third and final pitcher is the one that was drafted most recently. Taken 74th overall in the 2015 draft, Josh Sborz is doing more than anyone in the Dodgers organization probably thought he was going to do. In early 2015, Sborz was Virginia’s closer, leading them to the College World Series title. Usually, college relievers do not get turned into professional starters, but from the beginning, the Dodgers organization only planned on making Sborz a starter.
Sborz threw his first full seasons as a professional in 2016, and he tossed 108 1/3 innings for the Dodgers High-A affiliate in Rancho Cucamonga. With a 2.66 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP, he went on to win the 2016 Cal League Pitcher of the Year award. Reliever turned starter, Sborz turned the Dodgers faith in him into something special. He earned a late season call up to Double-A Tulsa, where it looks like he will start the 2017 season.
After such a successful first full season in the minors, Sborz could continue to make huge strides in 2017. Even though he is just going to be entering his second full season as a professional, as a college draftee, he will already be 23 years old. With a strong first few starts, it would not be a surprise to see him hit Triple-A early. That could leave him as a viable option for the late months of the season. If he continues to thrive as a starter, the Dodgers will have struck gold.