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Dodgers: Rich Hill Back Up Plans for the Starting Rotation

With Hill out until at least early August, the Dodgers will need to find innings in the rotation.

PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26: Ross Stripling #68 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts as manager Dave Roberts #30 approaches the mound to relieve him during the second inning of the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on September 26, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

With Rich Hill expect to be on the shelf until at least early August, the Dodgers must look at who will fill his spot in the rotation.

Hill, of course, hit the IL on Thursday after suffering a forearm strain during a start on Wednesday.

Thankfully, starting pitching is an area of depth for the Dodgers, so let’s take a look first at some logical options.

Ross Stripling

“Boss” Ross Stripling was a National League All-Star in 2018 as a starter, and holds a 2.65 ERA in 6 starts this season. He has started 43 games in his career, posting a 3.58 ERA in 221.0 innings pitched.

Ross seems to be the most logical choice to immediately fill Hill’s rotation spot as he is “still relatively built up [by pitch count]” in his own words. Moreover, with the Dodgers short on left handed relief, it makes more sense to pull right-handed Stripling from the bullpen over the lefty throwing Julio Urias.

Speaking of Julio…

Julio Urias

Dodgers
LOS ANGELES, CA – (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

The fireballing left hander out of Mexico opened the 2019 season in the rotation after injuries hit the Dodgers during Cactus League play in Arizona. He’s now made 5 starts this year and has a 3.18 ERA in 22.2 innings pitched. In his career, he’s made 25 starts and posted an ERA of 3.67 in 115.1 innings pitched.

Viewed as an ace of the future since his debut in 2015, Urias has battled injuries over the last few seasons. Those injuries have, of course, put him in a position where his seasonal innings are still being guarded.

More importantly in my book, however, is the fact that he’s currently one of only two active left handed pitchers in the bullpen, so there’s pause when it comes to plucking him from there. Even more than that, his ability to toss 3 innings of shutdown relief out of the bullpen is something that is hugely intriguing to see, as the Dodgers March toward their 7th consecutive NL West crown, and potentially third straight World Series berth.

While Urias is no doubt a brilliant option, it’s plainly just not the best choice at this time.

Prospects

If there is one area where the Dodgers are loaded in the minor league system — and mind you, they are pretty loaded everywhere — it is in the starting pitching department.

This spring training, fans had the opportunity to lay eyes upon top prospects Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin. Beyond those two, the organization also has names like Mitchell White and Dennis Santana. However, Santana is in the midst of a terrible season as he rebounds from 2018 shoulder surgery, so he’s really a non-option for the Dodgers at this time.

Dustin May

Dustin May, 21, was electric in spring training, posting a 1.46 ERA in 5 games and 12.1 innings pitched. He was once against assigned to AA Tulsa where he opened the season with a 1.50 ERA in his first 5 starts. In 9 starts since, he’s posted an ERA over 5, as he’s struggled missing bats (53 hits allowed in 48.1 IP).

May might not be the guy at this time.

Tony Gonsolin

Tony Gonsolin (foreground) and Dustin May throw at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ.

The “Cat Shirt Guy” himself, Tony Gonsolin was perfect in his spring training showcase with the Dodgers. The 25 year-old allowed no runs in 9 innings pitched across 4 appearances. So far with AAA-OKC, Tony has an ERA of 2.77 in 8 starts, however, he missed a little over a month between April 14-May 26 with an oblique injury.

Since his return from the MiLB IL, Gonsolin has been slow played as he builds his pitch count back up. In his latest start on Thursday, he reached the 5 IP threshold for the first time since April, as he threw 77 pitches, which is right in line with what the Dodgers would ask of a young prospect.

Mitchell White

The 24 year-old Mitchell White gave up 1 run in 2 brief appearances with the Dodgers in spring training. Since, he has split time between AA and AAA and has had a very mixed bag.

With AA Tulsa, he excelled, posting a 2.10 ERA in 7 starts. Since his mid-May promotion to AAA OKC, White has struggled to the tune of a 7.09 ERA in 7 starts. He’s allowed 7 HR in 33 innings pitched and is plainly not adjusting well to the improved competition.

Overview

As it stands, none of the prospect guys are overly eye-opening. Gonsolin currently is the best of the bunch, but is not on the 40-man roster at this time, not that it’s a huge hurdle to jump (Cingrani to the 60-day IL comes to mind first).

With all that said, it seem that I just wrote, and you just read a lot of words to ultimately find out that it’s likely going to be Ross Stripling stepping into the rotation… at least until a potential trade can be made.

Written by Clint Pasillas

Clint is the lead editor of Dodgers Nation, and a host and analyst on Dodgers Nation's own Blue Heaven podcast live stream.

He's been writing, blogging, and podcasting Dodgers since about 2008. He was there for Nomar, Greg Maddux, and Blake DeWitt, and he'll be there for Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Dustin May, and any Dodgers of the future.

He's also a sandwich enthusiast, a consummate athlete, and a friend.

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  1. I have never cared for Stripling, but with Urias unable to go more than 3 innings it looks like the job is his. I would rather get another look at Gonsolin.

    • Good call on Gonsolin, Gary. The dude is 25 and is doing very well in triple-A. I think it’s time to test him at the highest level.

      I love Stripling, and think he can be a fine starting pitcher, this bullpen needs him a little bit more right now, in the long run. Urias will be a starter in 2020 for sure, but he’s made himself invaluable in the back end of the ‘pen.

  2. I like the idea of using Urias and Stripling as co-starters. Each one goes 3-4 innings and then switch from lefty or righty turning over the other teams batting order. It would also help to limit Urias’ innings, build them both up for possible starts later if one becomes more dominant than the other and rest the bullpen on nights they start.
    But you are right about needing a lefty in the bullpen. If they trade for a lefty that can be a late inning guy it would compliment Baez as a bridge to Kenley.

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