Who Should be the Dodgers’ Third Starter in the Playoffs?

Don’t look now Dodgers fans, but the playoffs are right around the corner. Although we’re only 42 games into the 2020 season, we have reached that point where magic numbers make an appearance, which is at 14 by the way. Now that the finish line is within sight, we can start to dream of October baseball and the hope for an end to a World Series drought.

While previous versions of the Dodgers have been known for their pitching staffs, this year’s team has gotten by on their timely hitting. The starting rotation has been in flux all year, but the playoffs require more stability and trust. Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler can be penciled in as the first two starters, but who pitches game 3?

The third spot in the rotation would have gone to David Price had he remained with the club for the season. In his absence, however, the Dodgers have been left with three options: Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May. With the new playoff system this year beginning with a 3 game series, who would you feel most comfortable with taking the mound in a winner-take-all?

Julio Urías

2020 Stats

3-0   3.86 ERA   37.1 IP   35 Strikeouts   1.313 WHIP

The numbers do not tell the full story of Julio Urías. While he remains unbeaten on the season, every outing seems to be a nailbiter with quite a bit of traffic on the bases. He has not had a single scoreless outing this season and is averaging 1.3 baserunners per inning, which are not the numbers you want in a playoff starter.

Although his numbers have been disappointing up to this point, Julio does have one leg up on both May and Gonsolin. Roberts could choose to roll with Urías simply as a way of giving the rotation some variation. Outside of Kershaw, all of their other options are right-handed and Julio could help balance things out. It’s not the smartest way to decide such a matter, but baseball is a sport that sometimes does things the old fashioned way regardless of what the data says. His 15.2 innings of Postseason experience could be an argument to give the rotation spot to him as well, although most of that has come out of the bullpen.

Tony Gonsolin

2020 Stats

0-0   0.76 ERA   23.2 IP   25 Strikeouts   0.718 WHIP

Gonsolin can make a pretty good argument to be the team’s third starter in a playoff series, if not the fourth. Although he has the smallest sample size out of the three players, he has been nothing short of spectacular in his outings. His best start came against Seattle on August 18th where he went 6 full innings without giving up a single run and only 2 hits. With a mid 90’s fastball and some excellent breaking pitches, he has the stuff to excel on the big stage.

If there’s a knock on Gonsolin, it would simply be his sample size and lack of big-league experience. It’s always hard to predict how a rookie would handle the pressure of a playoff start, much less a deciding game. Still, I would have no issues with Gonsolin being the third starter if the Dodgers had no other options.

Dustin May

2020 Stats 

1-1   2.88 ERA   40.2 IP   28 Strikeouts   1.107 WHIP

Dustin May is another starter who has allowed at least one run in every start, but he has done a much better job of limiting the opportunities to score. Out of the 13 runs that he has given up this season, 6 have come on solo home runs. If he is able to cut down on those little mistakes, his ERA becomes even smaller.

Although he is a rookie himself, Dustin May has already been through some pressure situations, including a spot start on Opening Day this season. He has been put to the test and proved that he can be trusted to give you a solid outing every time. All that’s left is for him to win Rookie of the Year to prove that the Dodgers’ farm system is an Ace producing machine.

Final Thoughts

It will all come down to who outperforms the others in this final month. Both Gonsolin and May have had excellent auditions, but Urías has shown signs of exiting his funk lately as well. It could honestly go to any of the three.

If it were up to me (and boy am I glad it’s not), Gonsolin would be the pick. Not only has he been impressive every time out, but May and Urías would be much-needed additions to a reeling Dodgers bullpen. Dustin May and his filthy 100 MPH Sinker would be devastating in an inning where he could let loose, and Julio Urías would add an experienced lefty to the mix as well. After the first round, May would become the fourth starter and complete a lethal rotation.

We are exactly 21 days away from the first round of the playoffs, and if they started today, the Dodgers would face the Rockies in a best-of-three. The earliest they could clinch the division would be Tuesday, September 15th against the San Diego Padres. Now wouldn’t that be something?

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  1. Right now I would go with Gonsolin. However, May with his filthy slider, velocity, and his use of secondary pitches might make him more dominant now or in the future.
    Watching him pitch May sometimes gives the batter too much credit in being able to hit his pitch. He should throw that borderline low pitch more to get grounders and swing and misses but occasionally he should change elevation. No one is going to hit his fastball if positioned correctly on a high strike.
    The great news here is that the Dodgers have two dynamic rookies that will be in the starting rotation for several years. Hopefully, Urias can figure out his control problems.
    Urias has had control issues starting games.
    The Dodger future is in good hands next year with Kershaw, Buehler, May, Gonsolin, Urias, and Price all under contract and with Gonzalez, Santana, White, Gray, and others competing for playing time. The Dodgers at some point need to make some decisions on their young talent and trade some of the young arms away and get young prospects. As they did with Striping.

  2. I was gonna say Ryu…..oh never mind. This has been a glorious year for the Dodgers thus far. The only thing nagging on me is that we don’t have any “experience” beyond Kershaw and Buehler. If one of those two gets lit up in a playoff series, that puts a lot pressure on one of the three youngsters to right the ship. Of course, if we keep piling on the jacks in the later innings, it may not matter.

  3. You are correct, Daniel, in your assessment as to who should be the third starter. Tony Gonsolin has showed the demeaner it takes to remain cool and calm under the stress of playoff baseball. Dustin May’s competitiveness, which has served him well up to this point, leaves him shaken when things don’t go well and tends to have an adverse affect on his pitching when he is in a pressure situation. He has definitely improved this season over last but it still comes out when the going gets rough. Julio is not consistent enough to warrant the position at this point. But, in the end, it is all up to Dave Roberts. When it comes to managing the pitching staff, Dave fails time and time again and I don’t expect it to be any different this post season from what Dave has shown us thus far this season. Not only with the pitching staff, but from managing the team as a whole. It is a tribute to this team that it continues to win, in the regular season, despite having Dave Roberts as their manager!

  4. I feel the 3rd starter spot should be filled by Tony or Dustin..There is way to much inconsistancy with Julio and that is very concerning to Dodger Fans!! Our Dodgers have come so far and to possibly lose a Win because of bad pitching would be HEARTBREAKING!! We need to rely on a pitcher that will get the job done.This is going to be our year to WIN the World Series!! LETS GO DODGERS

    • Wood. He’s not as bad as everyone thinks. If not Wood then May. Gonsolin is a great relief pitcher and I believe he enjoys coming in and shutting the offense down.

  5. Wow, Kershaw pitching right handed…geez he is amazing…feel free to proof read your articles…lol…
    Go with the Hot Hand…Urias has done well in relief….have him be a swing man first series…unless he turns it around…..then again if Roberts does start Urias and he bombs we will have another reason to shake our heads at his decisions….(tough being the Mgr)