A few months ago I wrote an article on the Dodgers starting rotation, where I pointed out that despite losing Zach Grienke, it looked to be a deeper staff coming into the start of the 2016 season.
I may have spoken just a little too soon.
As Spring Training officially kicked off this week, so too did the seemingly reoccurring rash of injuries that seem to nag the club every year. Within just the last couple of weeks, the injury bug hit the Dodgers like something out of a Batman comic.
Frankie Montas sidelined for 2-4 months with a rib injury… Bam! Josh Ravin shelved 3-6 months after breaking his forearm in a car accident… Kapow! Brett Anderson out 3-5 months with back surgery… Whack!
While the injuries to Montas and Ravin aren’t as alarming (both merely had an outside shot to make the club out of spring training) the one to Anderson is definitely concerning. He was supposed to be locked in as one of the Dodgers starters going into the season. Now, couple his injury with the news that Hyun-Jin Ryu is not expected back until at least May, and all of a sudden that deep rotation is starting to look noticeably thin.
Assuming no further injuries plague the Dodgers rotation (fingers crossed,) the club will likely start the year with Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, Kenta Meada, and Alex Wood. To fill Anderson’s spot, and bridge the gap until Ryu can return, the Dodgers have some options, and perhaps it will be a completely open competition this spring.
A couple of options that seem to top the list of candidates are Carlos Frias and Mike Bolsinger. Both filled in several times last season and had 34 combined starts between them. Bolsinger won’t light up any radar guns, but he had some success with his off-speed first type style, which seemed to catch many hitters off-guard.
On the flip side, Frias is a hard thrower with a live arm, but the Dodgers haven’t decided whether they prefer him as a starter or reliever at this point. Brandon Beachy is also an option, although he struggled in his brief time with the team last year, and has an injury-prone history as well.
The opportunity may also present itself to one of the Dodgers young prospects. Julio Urias and Jose De Leon, the top two pitching prospects in the organization, weren’t expected to compete for a starting spot this year. Neither has thrown a significant amount of innings at AAA yet, although De Leon appears to be closer to MLB-ready. The injury to Anderson likely won’t change the Dodgers overall cautious plan with these guys, but if one of them shines during spring training, they could get an early crack at making some starts come regular season.
As with any highly regarded prospect nowadays, both Urias and De Leon would be on strict pitch counts and inning limits, and would undoubtedly not be expected to step into the rotation on a full-time basis for the entire year. But being that the Dodgers would only be looking for a temporary solution until Ryu returns (and later Brandon McCarthy as well), the kids could possibly be called upon to hold down the fort for the first part of the season.
The more realistic option to fill the rotation might be Zach Lee, who spent most of last year at Oklahoma City, finishing with a 11-6 record and a 2.70 ERA. Lee was once a top prospect in the Dodgers farm system, but has slipped in the rankings and some think his upside is limited. However, he’s seemed to have run his course in the minors leagues, and if he were ever going to make the jump to the Bigs, one would think that now should be the time to find out what he brings one way or another. I’m sure the Dodgers will give him ample opportunities during spring training.
Whatever option the Dodgers decide to go with likely won’t be decided on until much closer to the start of the regular season. And it could be a fluid situation, where they may not go with just one guy to take the ball every 5th day. Maybe they’ll go by match-ups, or skip the spot in the rotation from time to time. Until then, one thing that every Dodgers fan is hoping… please, no more injuries!
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