in

Dodgers: A Glance at LA’s Upgraded Starting Pitching Depth

Alex Wood addition makes it even more crowded.

dodgers
Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax applauds as Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler walks off the field in the seventh inning of Game Three of the World Series at Dodger Stadium on Friday, October 26, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Going into the off-season many fans called for upgrades to the starting pitching for the Dodgers. Instead, they couldn’t sway Gerrit Cole or Madison Bumgarner to sign with them. Then, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill signed contracts with other teams. This left the Dodgers down two starting pitchers from 2019. To counteract those losses the Dodgers signed both Jimmy Nelson and now Alex Wood to lower value contracts as they are both coming off some injuries and rough patches.

This article will take a look at the 2020 starting pitching candidates and there are a good number of them.

The Aces

These two are sure things for the starting rotation.

Walker Buehler

The new ace of the Dodgers is Walker Buehler. He may not get the Opening Day start but everyone knows he is elite and only getting better. His performance in the playoffs in 2019 should have cemented that he is the true ace of the Dodgers by now. I look forward to him taking another step towards greatness in 2020.

Clayton Kershaw

Despite not being the pitcher he used to be (a true all-time great) Clayton Kershaw is still pretty darn good. He finished 8th in the Cy Young voting while giving up only 145 hits in 178.1 innings. He also struck out 189 while only walking 41 batters. His big issue was the long ball as he gave up 28 home runs, a career high. Kershaw continues to work through the loss of some velocity but I expect him to have another very good year.

Swingmen

These are pitchers that could get a lot of starts but are also quite good (possibly better) as relievers.

Kenta Maeda

The best relief pitcher the Dodgers had in September and the postseason of 2019 was Kenta Maeda. For the 2020 season, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has said that Maeda will be a starter, at least to begin the season. His big problem is that left-handed batters hit him a lot better than righties.

Friedman hammered that fact home during a postseason exit interview in October.

There will definitely be the possibility for Kenta to earn a starting role for longer, and potentially into October, and I think a lot of that gets to just commanding the baseball a little bit better against left handed hitters.

Righties slashed .158/.219/.316 (AVG/OBP/SLG) while lefties slashed .247/.324/.427. If Maeda wants to avoid going to the bullpen again in the postseason two things must happen; he is better against lefties and the bullpen doesn’t need him.

Ross Stripling

In 2018 Ross Stripling helped carry the Dodgers for the first half of the season as a starting pitcher while sitting at 93-94 MPH. He made the All-Star team, pitched in it when he admittedly should have taken a break, and soon after lost velocity and effectiveness as he was tired. In 2019 he never regained that velocity. If he can, he could be a big factor in the starting rotation. If not he will probably be a spot starter and a key arm in the bullpen.

The Young Guns

It is expected that this group of pitchers will be on some type of innings limit in 2020. Depending on the pitcher, it will probably be between 120 and 150 innings. Any of these guys could turn into an ace-type pitcher over then next two seasons.

Julio UrΓ­as

The 2019 season was probably one that Julio Urias would like to forget. He was off to a good start, despite being on an innings limit. However, the large and self-inflicted cloud of a Domestic Violence arrest and suspension negatively impacted the season. He did prove to be effective as either a starter or as a reliever for many parts of the season. I actually thought he could be a key arm in the bullpen but the Dodgers kept jerking him back and forth between starting and the bullpen, even through September. It does look like he will go into 2020 as one of the starting pitchers.

Dustin May

The top pitching prospect for the Dodgers is Dustin May. He started the 2019 season in Double A and ended it in the bullpen for the Dodgers in the postseason. He enters the new season as a 22 year-old with a lot of expectations. Fortunately, he will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself, either in the Majors or AAA. I would expect him to make a large impact on the season for the Dodgers even with the innings limit.

Tony Gonsolin

Of the rookie pitchers in 2019 for the Dodgers, Tony Gonsolin probably had the most impact. He had two huge starts against the Yankees and the Cardinals and either he or Stripling should have started game 4 in the playoffs. Gonsolin will turn 26 in May, so the time is now for him. I’m a big fan of him as a future closer but if he turns out to be a standout starter I would not be surprised either. The number of starters puts him at a disadvantage going into 2020 but he will be an impactful arm in 2020.

Low Risk, High Reward Gambles

Alex Wood

The surprising news that Alex Wood has signed with the Dodgers is a big positive. Yes, he had an injury-filled 2019 and wasn’t very effective then he did pitch. However, he’s not too far from being a pretty good starting pitcher. With the innings limits that the Dodgers will have on their young pitchers, I expect Wood to throw 120-150 innings if he stays healthy.

He’s been working at Driveline and caught the eye of Rob Hill there. It just so happens that the Dodgers just brought on Rob Hill as an organizational pitching coordinator.

Jimmy Nelson

The 2017 version of Jimmy Nelson was really good until he wrecked his shoulder sliding back to first base. The last two seasons have been injury-plagued with very little success on the mound. Nelson is an even bigger risk than Wood but he could be a good one with a bit of luck. He could also end up in the bullpen (3.31 ERA in 12 career relief appearances).

I like this gamble a lot.

Other Possibilities

Given that there are already NINE legitimate starting pitching candidates there probably isn’t any further room. However, pitching prospects like Mitchell White, Dennis Santana, Caleb Ferguson, and Josiah Gray could get a start or two. Most likely, they would get work in the also crowded bullpen if they are not in AAA.

Final Thoughts

After losing Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill I was worried the Dodgers were putting too much faith in their younger starting pitchers like UrΓ­as, May and Gonsolin. The innings limits for those guys were my biggest fear. Now, by adding Nelson and Wood, they have NINE starting pitching possibilities and that will allow some proper management of the pitchers on innings limits.

I’m not convinced that this is a rotation that can pound through the playoffs. However, the expected improvements of some of these pitchers gives some hope. Let’s also remember, the depth in the Major League roster along with a deep farm system could allow the Dodgers to make a key mid-season trade for another ace-type starter.

NEXT: Blake Treinen Not Trying to Steal Closer’s Role from Kenley Jansen

Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

7 Comments

Leave a Reply
  1. Good article. I agree with almost all of it. Never thought about Gonsolin as closer. May’s pure heat might make him a better candidate, even though Gonsolin has nasty stuff. But I like the idea of throwing the closer spot open at the first sign of weakness from Jansen, or even before that. They made that move at the end of last year, and should stick with it. Starter as well as closer roles should be allowed to sort themselves out. The pitch count issue for the rookies is real. Stripling’s flareout in 2018 emphasizes the point. I agree that Wood was a good cheap aquisition, but continue to believe that the Dodgers will need to aquire a front line (if not dominant) starter to have a shot in the postseason. A short duration contract is all they need. The rookies will be ready in 2021. I view Nelson with much less optimism than the author. Seems like a wasted space on the roster to me. In 2021 the Dodgers could have one of the best rotations in baseball. But 2020 will be musical chairs, and Roberts may be unable to maintain the beat and dance to it. It would be difficult for any manager to juggle this many rookie, and injury suspect pitchers.

    • Dodger106W I agree with your comments except I believe that Urias will prove why he was the most touted pitcher in the Dodger farm system several years ago. Urias has the variety of pitches and velocity to be a #1 pitcher and I believe he will prove that point.
      I live in AZ and traveled extensively on business. I always would stop at the AAA & AA parks in may business travels. I am in my late 60’s and been a fan since I was a kid. I have watched many of the young Dodgers play from the Quakes to the Drillers and AZ League.
      May and Gonsolin are very talented. I expect May to become a top of the rotation type pitcher. I believe Gonsolin may end up in the BP with that splitter.. I have also seen Grey pitch and he is another incredible talent. How the Reds let him go I will never understand. My point here is I am glad the Dodgers did not sign anyone for a long term contract as in the future they could have an all homegrown rotation that is the best in baseball with. Buehler, Urias, May, Gonsolin, Grey, Stripling and several other possible young arms. The future is very bright. Superior Pitching wins baseball games look at the Nats and what Bumgardner did in their WS wins. .
      I am very excited to see the Dodgers are holding firm for a good return on trades. I do not believe they need to make a big trade as they only need to let the rookies mature. Lux, Smith, Beaty, Rios, May, Gonsolin will only get better with experience. The depth of the Dodger rotation should allow them to cycle some of the young arms in that 4th and 5th slot to relieve the innings issue. I think they should go with a 6 man rotation.
      Now that Seager could concentrate on hitting rather than rehabilitation he will have a break out year. The NL West is the Dodgers to win. The Padres will continue to improve. The Rockies cannot decide if they are in rebuild mode or not. The Giants will come back but it will take them a couple of years. The Dbacks helped themselves in the Future with the Greinke trade but they are a couple of years away also although they will be improved. I predicted last year 104 wins this year I think with an improved BP they will break the 100 win total again.

  2. This article is as big of a joke as the last 3 [Guggenheim/Kasten/Friedman] off-seasons. Are you getting paid under the table by the Front Office? If you think replacing 42 starts (~273 innings) of below 2.50 ERA with 2019 Wood 5.80 ERA and 6.95 ERA Jimmy Nelson is an “Upgrade,” YOU have no business writing baseball articles. Sad for your delusions.

  3. gonsolin is the best of the rest,urias and may are still iffie in my book.jansen should stick with his cutter only.price will have a great year.we need muncys bat,defence just ok.out field very good ..curt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Dodgers

Dodgers: Alex Wood Reacts to LA Return on Social Media

Dodgers

Dodgers: Cody Bellinger Speaks on Astros and Red Sox Cheating Allegations