With Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the top of the rotation, the Los Angeles Dodgers have one of, if not, the best duo in the MLB. Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu has been one of the better third starters, but the team has been unable to find any consistency behind them.
Last year, Josh Beckett and Dan Haren did an admirable job in the fourth and fifth spots, but Beckett missed the end of the year and ended up retiring, and Haren was traded to the Miami Marlins. Instead of loading up with one of the aces on the market like Max Scherzer or James Shields, the Dodgers signed a pair of pitchers with injured pasts.
Today, we take a look at the starting rotation heading into Opening Day:
Clayton Kershaw, LHP
What more can be said about the Dodgers ace that hasn’t already been said? After missing the first month of the season following a strong start in Australia, Kershaw came back to dominate and take home the NL MVP and Cy Young awards. He finished the year 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and 239 strikeouts. While his postseason troubles against the St. Louis Cardinals are constantly brought up, there’s no denying that he is the best pitcher in baseball.
While it’s hard to expect Kershaw to put up similar numbers in 2015, the same could have been said after each of the past two seasons and he has continued to exceed expectations. A 20-win season with a sub-2.00 ERA and 200+ strikeouts is the norm for the left-hander.
Zack Greinke, RHP
The right-hander would be an ace on more than half the teams in the big leagues, and is the perfect complement for Kershaw in the rotation. It’s a big season for Greinke, as he can opt out of his contract when the season is over. If he has another year like he did last season (17-8, 2.71 ERA), then the former Cy Young award winner could command a huge deal in free agency. Of course, if Greinke has another year like that then they would likely bring him back regardless.
Greinke hasn’t been as sharp this spring, but he’s not one to harp on spring stats. He missed some time last season with elbow issues and received an injection before camp started, although he didn’t seem concerned about it. The right-hander will be expected to win 15+ games with a sub-3.00 ERA.
Brandon McCarthy, RHP
McCarthy was the Dodgers big free agent signing this winter, signing a 4-year, $48 million deal. He threw 200 innings for the first time in 2014 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees, although he struggled with the former before shining for the latter. His career 4.09 ERA isn’t bad, and if he can utilize his cutter like he did with the Yankees, then the Dodgers will have a solid fourth man once Ryu returns.
His spring ERA of 6.62 didn’t do much to settle Dodgers fans concerns, but he can reverse those doubts with a good start to the season. For a fourth starter, McCarthy wouldn’t have much expectation placed on him but the big money deal puts a target on his back. A year with 12+ wins and an ERA around 3.50 will be more than enough to satisfy the needs.
Brett Anderson, LHP
The left-hander signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers this winter after appearing in just 30 total games the past three seasons. A one-year deal is never a bad deal, especially with the payroll that the Dodgers have nowadays, and if Anderson can match his career 3.73 ERA then it would become a steal at the back of the rotation.
Anderson’s career-high in innings is 175.1 back in his rookie year in 2009, but he made it through the spring without any injuries. He had a solid spring, tossing 15.2 innings with a 2.87 ERA. Many are expecting the left-hander to struggle or get injured, but if he can give the Dodgers at least 20-25 starts with a sub-4.00 ERA, it will be a huge boost.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP (Disabled List)
After making 200 innings his goal for the 2015 season, Ryu will miss at least two weeks at the start of the season with stiffness in his shoulder. He missed time two separate times in 2014 with the same issues, but he does not need surgery. When healthy, the left-hander is a solid third man that came up big in some key situations for the Dodgers.
Ryu will need to make sure he’s 100 percent before returning to the rotation, so that he can attempt to reach his goal of 200 innings. He posted 14 wins in both seasons so far, with an ERA of 3.17 and two exceptional postseason starts. The Dodgers can expect the Korean starter to do more of the same once he returns from injury.
Dodgers 2015 Spring Training – Brandon McCarthy