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Dodgers: What Happens If Rich Hill Is Not Healthy For The Post Season?

Rich Hill is very important to the post-season plans.

Rich Hill pitching in a rehab assignment for the Quakes on 4/17/19. (Photo Credit: Tim Rogers)

The possibility of Rich Hill not being available for the post-season is an idea none of us want to ponder. As Daniel Preciado wrote about there are major ramifications if Hill is not one of the starters in the post-season rotation. We also touched in both in-house and external options when Hill was first put on the Injured List a couple weeks ago.

This article will take a deep dive into how important Rich Hill is to the Post-Season plans and what the impact would be if he is not available to be in the starting rotation. Personally, I am not optimistic but if anyone can make it back it is Rich Hill.

If Hill Is Healthy

Starting Rotation

The order of the starting rotation is to be determined I would assume Hill would be number four in the order. In most cases the fourth starter in the playoff rotation only starts one game per series. There isn’t a fifth starter. Here is the order that I would want them to be in for a seven game series and assuming they have the home field advantage:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Hyun-Jin Ryu – two home games; 2 and 6
  3. Walker Buehler – would get game 7
  4. Rich Hill

That would be an outstanding rotation and would be tough for any team to duplicate.

LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 08: Joe Kelly #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws to the plate against the Atlanta Braves in the ninth inning of a MLB baseball game at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Bullpen

I am not assuming any trades at the moment as we have no idea if they will get are great compliment for Kenley Janson like Alex Colome or just a backend-type piece like they did last year. This also assumes that Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Julio Urías are part of the bullpen.

  1. Kenley Jansen
  2. Pedro Baez
  3. Julio Urías
  4. Kenta Maeda
  5. Joe Kelly
  6. Ross Stripling
  7. Dylan Floro, Yimi Garcia, JT Chargois
  8. Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson, Zac Rosscup

This is not a bad bullpen at all, especially the top six. The last two spots are up for grabs as the seventh spot is a battle of right-handers and the eighth spot is for one more left-hander. Given this bullpen I think the Dodgers would be smart to trade for two bullpen pieces.

If Hill Is Not Ready

Pairing Up

Some have suggested pairing up two of Maeda, Urías and Stripling in the 4th spot. It is an interesting concept so how might that impact the bullpen. The schedule for a seven game series goes like this:

Day 1: Game 1
Day 2: Game 2
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Game 3
Day 5: Game 4
Day 6: Game 5
Day 7: Off
Day 8: Game 6
Day 9: Game 7

With a schedule like this both could be available for an inning each in game 1. However, that knocks them out of game 2 and 3 which leaves the bullpen one pitcher down. Assuming each throws 60 pitches in game 4, neither would be available until game 7. To summarize this would leave 4 games where the bullpen would be a man down. That man down is also one that can throw multiple innings. Other than Maeda, Urías and Stripling, none of the others have proven they can go multiple innings, though I’d hope Ferguson could eventually.

In the best case scenario, the game four starter has a great outing and the second pitcher only throws an inning or two. I would be afraid that the Dodger management would stick to the plan and blow out the second arm for the next two games, even in a best-case scenario.

Just Make Maeda, Urías or Stripling the Game 4 Starter

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 14: Ross Stripling #68 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers during the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on April 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

If this happens it takes a real weapon out of the bullpen. A position of strength is not so strong anymore. I would contend it means the Dodgers might need to trade for three bullpen pieces instead of two. Let’s talk about what the Dodgers would lose in the bullpen:

  • Urías – He might be the toughest to replace because he is the only left-hander the Dodgers can count on so far this year. He’s been proven to be elite as a reliever this season and can even replace Jansen in save situations if needed.
  • Maeda – Kenta has been a strong reliever in the post-season in both 2017 and 2018 (especially 2017). He provides a nice 6th or 7th inning bridge and helps shorten the games. He’s especially tough on right-handers.
  • Stripling – He can go multiple innings and keep batters off balance. In 2017 he should have been the long man in game 3 but the Dodgers burned out Maeda instead. Stripling might be the best candidate for the 4th starter job as his loss to the bullpen isn’t quite as severe. However, they’d need to find a reliever who could go 2-3 innings.

A Starter From The Minors

Dustin May against Diamondbacks on March 2, 2019 (Photo Credit: Tim Rogers)

There really are only two starters who have the potential to be a real factor in the post-season; Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May. To be honest, I doubt either are actually ready to be a starter in the Major Leagues but could they be a bullpen factor? Gonsolin averaged almost 95 MPH in his lone start (so far) with the Dodgers and there is more in the tank as it has been reported he can touch 100 MPH at times. Dustin May regularly hits 97 MPH as a starter. If the Dodgers try and turn them into a reliever they need to start soon. When they tried it with Walker Buehler  in 2017 they started him as a reliever in August and it didn’t work out. With the ONLY Trade Deadline on July 31, they need to get some answers soon.

A Reliever From The Minors

To be honest, nobody in the minors makes me think they could replace Maeda, Urías or Striping in the bullpen. However, there are some relievers doing well that could change my mind.

Kevin Quackenbush (AAA)

The journeyman reliever had his debut with the Padres in 2014 and had his best season. Every year after that was a steady decline to being let go from the Padres after 2017. The Dodgers picked him up as a minor leaguer before 2019 and he’s been very good in AAA. In 38.2 innings he’s given up 33 hits, walked 9 and struck out 59. That’s impressive so he could get the call soon. If he can continue that type of work with the Dodgers then maybe there is a weapon for the post-season bullpen.

Jordan Sheffield (AA)

This is one of my two reaches but he has some nasty stuff. He can hit 98 MPH with his fastball but his slider is a game changer. He also has a changeup (former starter) so there is some variety to his arsenal. He was just promoted to AA on May 15 but he is 24 years old. As of this writing he’s thrown 15.1 innings with 26 strikeouts in AA. However, he has walked 10.

Marshall Kasowski (AA)

Another pitcher who gets a lot of strikeouts as he’s K’d 41 is 24.1 innings. He is basically a fastball pitcher that should already be in AAA. He moved quickly through the system in 2018 but the Dodgers are giving him a lot of extra time in AA. I can only speculate is that it is to work on pitches other than a fastball. In order for him be able to have a shot at contributing to the Dodgers in the Major Leagues he needs to be challenged at AAA as soon as possible.

Logan Salow, June 18, 2019 (Photo Credit: Tim Rogers/Dodgers Nation)

Logan Salow (AA)

Another guy who started the season with the Quakes he was just promoted a week ago to AA. However, he is a left-hander and gets a lot of strikeouts as he’s struck out 71 batters in 43.2 innings. What might be a big key for him is that he has a nice slider. The Dodgers need a lefty in the bullpen to get out lefties. Of all the internal options I like Salow as a lefty to get lefties out.

For the above pitchers are any of them able to replace one of Maeda, Urías or Stripling? I’d say “no” but all of these guys are already working in relief in the minors. If either Kasowski, Sheffield or Salow gets promoted to AAA then that could be an indicator that the Dodgers might be ready to give one of them a chance at impacting the bullpen.

Final Thoughts

Rich Hill is a playoff quality type pitcher who needs to be healthy for the Dodgers plans in October to be close to complete. We covered some trade options a couple weeks ago if he doesn’t look to be healthy in October or if the Dodgers want to buy down some risk. Remember, there is only one trade deadline this year, July 31st. After that, only internal options are possible. It seems the best option is to just keep loading up on bullpen options. I’ve stated they need two strong bullpen additions. Given the extra health risk with Hill, they should consider getting three. It’s not like both Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu are models of healthy pitchers either.

I ran a poll on what fans might want to handle the possibility of Rich Hill being out for the post season. What are your thoughts?

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

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