This article was originally written before the recent news about Hyun-Jin Ryu being placed on the disabled list, and the news about Clayton Kershaw “feeling sore” which could push his return back. But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that someday both players actually return (seems like a crazy though right now, I know.) If, and when that happens, the Dodgers may still face the predicament described below.
With the impending return of the best pitcher in the game, the Dodgers will soon be facing a big decision with their starting rotation. They currently have five starters holding down the fort while Clayton Kershaw is out, and unless they plan to go to a 6-man rotation (which isn’t an outlandish idea) they will be forced to move one of those guys out.
There’s still no firm return date set for Kershaw, but when he does, someone will likely be sent to the bullpen, barring another injury to one of the starters. The question is, who? We’ll take a look at the current starters here, and what their chances are of keeping a rotation spot.
Maeda should be safe. He’s been the 2nd best pitcher overall this year behind Kershaw. After a great start to the season, he’s had his ups and downs, but he’s still holding a 3.25 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, over 108 innings. He may not be Zack Greinke, but he’s all the Dodgers have for #2 starter right now.
Chances of staying in rotation: 95%
Signed in the off-season as the projected #2 guy, Kazmir hasn’t exactly been that so far. He has been effective at times, but a little too inconsistence for the Dodgers liking. His current 4.52 ERA would be his highest mark since his disastrous 2010 season with the Angels, where he finished the year at 5.94.
Kamir’s stuff still seems to be there, as his K/9 is still at 9.8. But he’s also allowing more homeruns (1.4 HR/9) and more Walks (3.6 BB/9) then he has since 2010.
One thing that works in Kamir’s favor when it comes to him staying in the rotation is the financial aspect. The Dodgers signed him to a 3 yr/$48 mil contract this off-season, and that would be a lot of money to pay a player to be a long-relief guy coming out of the bullpen. Maybe that shouldn’t be a valid reason, but it would be a bit naïve to think it’s not. I think it would take some major struggles for Kazmir to be removed from the rotation at this point, but certainly that’s not out of the question.
Chances of staying in rotation: 85%
Coming off of Tommy John surgery, McCarthy has been solid in his first 3 appearances this year. He’s yet to get passed 6 innings (or 80 pitches) but part of that is the desire to limit his pitch count as he gradually eases his way back. When healthy, McCarthy has shown signs of being a very effective pitcher. The problem throughout his career though, is staying healthy.
Somehow, McCarthy’s stuff has seemed to improve over the last few years. He’s always had a good sinker that induces lots of ground balls, but his increase in velocity has helped him boost his strikeout rate as well. The Dodgers have an extremely small sample size with him so far, with only 4 starts last year before the injury, and 3 this season.
McCarthy is in the 2nd year of a 4 year deal, which many thought the Dodgers may have overpaid with given his injury history. Clearly though, Andrew Friedman saw something that he liked in McCarthy, and as long as he stays healthy and productive, he has a pretty good shot to stay in the rotation. Certainly, his first few starts of the year help his cause.
The one thing that could work against him is his injury history. The Dodgers may think his arm might be more durable coming out of the pen. Not being able to reach 80 pitches is not really sustainable for one of your starters. But again, hopefully that will change.
Chances of staying in rotation: 60%