The buzz surrounding the Dodgers’ spring training facility continues to grow. What’s producing it, might you ask? Well, a couple things, and they’re highly connected.
First, the farm system continues to match the incredible expectations place upon it. Unfortunately, the noise made by that development has been matched by those concerned about the early injury issues, which has produced quite the list, and might necessitate the utilization of the aforementioned farm system.
If you haven’t already heard, new acquired prospect Frankie Montas had to undergo rib surgery; Josh Ravin suffered a broken arm in a car accident (tweet); and Hyun-Jin Ryu is unlikely to get his first start until sometime in May.
To make things worse, Dodgers received news that Brett Anderson needed to undergo back surgery to repair a bulging disc. Unfortunately, the recovery time will be 3 to 5 months and it is unclear whether Anderson will make it back this season at all.
This of course has the Dodgers left figuring out who will take over in the #4 and #5 slots behind Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda. Just weeks ago it appeared that Alex Wood be on the outside looking in, fighting for a spot in the starting rotation. It is now very likely that Wood will be in the rotation for the indefinite future, likely as the #4 starter. Its less clear is who the #5 starter will be.
The first name that comes to mind is Mike Bolsinger. Last season, when injuries plagued the rotation, Bolsinger filled in beautifully. He finished the season with 109.1 innings pitched over 21 starts with a 3.62 ERA and an impressive K/9 of 8.07. By comparison, Greinke had a K/9 of 8.08 last season. Due to Bolsinger’s success, he will likely be given the first opportunity to win the #5 spot.
In terms of experience, Brandon Beachy is the next best option. Beachy signed a 1-year/$1.5 million contract this offseason after finishing the 2015 season with the Dodgers. Beachy has shown signs of being a very good starting pitcher and has already had some success in the majors. In fact, Beachy has a 3.36 career ERA and a 1.157 WHIP. Beachy has even pitched in as many as 141.2 innings in 2011 and finished the season with a 2.00 ERA in 2012. Unfortunately, like so many pitchers these days, Beachy has undergone two Tommy John surgeries. However, at only 29-years-old, Beachy could be a candidate for comeback player of the year if given the opportunity.
But what happens after that? What happens if another pitcher hits the disabled list? What happens if Bolsinger or Beachy do not perform as the Dodgers would hope?
The Dodgers will be required to look deeper into their farm system in order to solve that problem. The Dodgers have many options including Yaisel Sierra, Carlos Frias, Zach Lee, and Grant Holmes. But would the Dodgers consider bringing up the young guns like Jose De Leon or Julio Urias?
The main argument against bringing up players like De Leon or Urias is their age. De Leon is only 23-years-old and Urias is only 19-years-old. However, teams have been less and less hesitant about bringing up young players from the minors in recent years. It seems as if this generation of baseball players are more prepared to play than ever before. Instead of playing multiple sports, young kids are focusing on baseball exclusively at an early age and playing year round. This has led to an unprecedented number of superstars under age 25. In fact, there were 20 players age 25 or younger in the 2015 All-Star Game, the most in history.
Two of those players, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, are arguably the two best players in the game today at 24-years-old and 23-years-old respectively. One thing they have in common is that they both joined the league at age 19. Other teams are seeing how successful these young players are and start to feel like they should do the same. This lead to players like Carlos Correa (20), Kris Bryant (23), and Mookie Betts (23) making their debuts. When you consider that times have changed, its not as farfetched as it might seem for Urias to be called up at 19.
The Dodgers have also shown that they are willing bring up top talent at any early age. As the Dodgers number one prospect in 2008, Clayton Kershaw made his debut at age 20. Although Urias is still a year younger than that, the Dodgers rotational problems could lead to an early call-up. If the Dodgers are struggling or if too many players land on the disabled list, Urias could be the guy that helps turn things around, just like Yasiel Puig did in 2013. Urias brings a much bigger spark than the older Jose De Leon, considering Urias was named the #1 LHP prospect in MLB and #5 prospect overall. Urias may not be on the starting roster come Opening Day, but don’t be surprised when he gets called up at some point this season.