The Rotation…

What goes around, comes around, so that is why a team’s starting pitchers are called “a rotation?”Get it… Rotation?  I say…  Rotation…  Son, Rotation?OK – I’ll stop. 2016, the Dodgers used 109 different starting pitchers… well, that may be only a slight exaggeration, but they used a lot.  At one point last year, the Dodgers had seven (count ’em 7) starting pitchers on the disabled list at one time.  That is usually a pretty good sign that the team is going to finish somewhere near last.  This is especially true when one of those pitchers is your Ace who also happens to be the best pitcher in baseball.  The seven pitchers on the Disabled List at the same time were Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Rich Hill and Alex Wood.  Maybe that will help you understand why Dave Roberts was truly Manager of the Year.Brett Anderson is presumably gone, but was a nice pitcher for the Dodgers in 2015.  Bud Norris is also gone.  The other starter who was on the DL at one time or another in 2016 was Carlos Frias.  The Dodgers used 31 different pitchers last season and one can only wonder, will they have to use as many in 2017?  I think the answer is “NO” but  I would not be surprised if they used in excess of 25.  That, of course, brings us to The Rotation.  What is it going to look like?  I am going to start by saying that I cannot and will not predict what the rotation will look like this year, but here are the candidates:
  1. Clayton Kershaw– Of this, I am certain:  The Dodgers have spent considerable time in determining the health of this guy and I am certain that he is on a training regimen that is focused on strengthening his core.  One can never predict health, but Claytony is one of the hardest workers in baseball and if anyone can overcome back issues, it is one Clayton Kershaw. I see another Cy Young in 2017.
  2. Rich Hill– Throw out the book on Rich Hill.  He hadn’t been a starter for about 10 years, so couple the fact that he spins the curveball more than anyone in baseball with the fact that he wasn’t used to throwing a lot of innings and the blisters should not be surprising.  What will be surprising is if they continue.  I heard Guggenheim bought a pickle brine company.  Rich Hill wanted to be a Dodger after working beside Clayton Kershaw and I respect him along with Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner for that.  Look at it this way:  he doesn’t have a lot of innings on his arm.  His arm is like… 31.  I see him with an ERA in the mid to high 2.00’s and 170+ innings.
  3. Kenta Maeda– He obviously ran out of gas at the end of 2016, but he won 16 games while pitching 175 innings with a 3.48 ERA.  He will start the season as the #3, but I think Julio Urias will have that spot by the All-Star Break.  He is smallish, so health is always a question, but the Dodgers have plenty of depth.
  4. Julio Urias– I am not sure many fans understand how great Urias is going to be.  He could be the equal of Clayton Kershaw.  He’s different, but Clayton put up a 4.26 ERA as 20 year-old rookie, while Julio put up a 3.39 ERA as a 19 year-old rookie.  This kid is a stud.  He will be in the TOP 10 in Cy Young balloting in 2017.
  5. Scott Kazmir– Would you rather have Scott Kazmir for 2 more years for $35 million or Jeff Samardzija for 4 more years and $79 Million or Mike Leake for 5 years at $68 million.  They are all the same guy.  Yes, Kazmir was injured last year, so that means he will always be injured?  Of course not!
  6. Brandon McCarthy– He has always had good stuff but is injury-prone, and he re-invented himself with the Yankees in 2014, much like Rich Hill.  I can see him pitching out of the pen, maybe as a set-up guy, but he’s also an option in the rotation.  You can argue that he is injury-prone and I will argue that he is due for a healthy season.  We will find out.
  7. Hyun-Jin Ryu– The fact is that most pitchers with labrum surgery do not make it back.  Will he be different?  We can only hope and wait!  He was once very good.  Maybe he will be again… or not!  I have no expectations… only hope!
  8. Jose De Leon–  He is in the mix, unless he is traded.  I am not convinced that he will be a great starter (although I am not saying he won’t).  I do think he can be an Andrew Miller type arm out of the pen.
  9. Brock Stewart– I really like this guy as a back-of-the-rotation guy.  He can be solid “innings eater” and he has good stuff. His ceiling is that of a #3, but I see him excelling as a #4 or #5.  He’s ready if given the opportunity.
  10. Ross Stripling– He had a nice rookie year, one year removed from TJ.  He will be better in 2017 and will likely pitch out of the pen or as a swingman.  With injuries, he could start if needed.  He is great depth.
  11. Alex Wood– I see him in the pen, but he will be given a shot at the rotation.  His delivery is better suited for the pen, but he has had success as a starter.  Don’t discount him.  He is 25 and has had two seasons where he has pitched over 170 innings.
  12. Walker Buehler– A  year removed from TJ, he is throwing 98 MPH and has absolutely filthy stuff.  I could see him in the rotation after the All-Star Break…. or in the bullpen.
12 starters deep!  Not all will pan out.  There will be injuries and setbacks, but I love our depth.  The Dodgers do not need another starter,  They are set. I don’t think Carlos Frias, Chase De Jong, Trevor Oaks or Jordon Sheffield will be factors in 2017, but they are certainly “depth.”

BTW, If you haven’t read this, you should:

Why Andrew Friedman deserves credit and not blame for the Los Angeles Dodgers

In anticipation of Spring Training, I am going to post Spring Training Pics until pitchers and catchers report.

This article has 26 Comments

  1. Very nice thought provoking post. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule for giving us Dodger fans something to think and talk about. I know for me, it’s a relaxing diversion from what are otherwise busy and stressful days. I don’t always agree with your over the top trade ideas, but I sincerely appreciate what you do to keep this blog going.

    It will be very interesting to see how the rotation plays this coming year. I hope Kershaw comes back really strong with a determination to prove that he can still get better. HIll is just plain fun to watch pitch. It would be nice if he could give us 14-18 wins. If Maeda duplicates last year, I’ll be very satisfied. Barring injury, I think Urias will only get better and better. He’s really something special. I also don’t have a problem with Kazmir. He’s frustrating to watch at times, but he’ll give you 10-15 wins. I’ll take that. Of the others, I really like Stripling. If he’s fully recovered from his TJ surgery, he has the chance to be good. I’m also a little highr on Alex Wood than you might be. It appeared that right before he got hurt, he had figured things out and he put together about 3 or 4 quality starts. Unless DeLeon and Stewart will give the Dodgers some good depth innings. McCarthy should be better than he is, but he sure hasn’t shown it consistently.

    Of the others mentioned, I’m really partial to Trevor Oaks. He attended high school where I served as an assistant coach for about 6 years ( I had moved on before he attended). He’s a great kid, works exceptionally hard and has pinpoint control. His fastball and cutter got better last year too.

    One month and we’ll be engrossed in talking about spring training. So looking forward to that!

    1. I don’t agree with most of my trade ideas either. They are simply conversation starters that many people take way too seriously!

      1. Mark i also agree about some of the trades ideas,but like you said it’s only to start conversation and hear other thoughts on players.

  2. I like the Dodgers’ rotation in concept. Much like the past 2 seasons though, I’m not too sure that the concept will match what actually happens.

    Kershaw is matchless, of course.

    Hill – if the Dodgers get 120 innings (20 starts at 6 ip/start) that would be a lot. Notwithstanding your most optimistic projections, Hill only made 20 starts last year – and he missed a month with the A’s due to a groin strain. He is 36 and has a lengthy history of many arm maladies. The problem is that the Dodgers are constructed in such a way that they will have to rely on Hill as a #2 to face the likes of Arrieta, Cueto, Strasburg, and their ilk. They have no way of regulating when he will be off. It is a frail reed upon which to rely.

    Maeda – Lest we forget, his MRI was so bad that the Dodgers stole him for $3MM/yr plus incentives. He could have another year like last year which would be great – or his elbow could explode.

    Urias – I sure hope that he becomes the Dodgers 2nd ace. They won’t let him pitch over 160 innings this year – that would be a 25% increase over last year.

    Kazmir – unless he’s traded for salary relief, he’s the 5th starter at the start of the season. He’s a better pitcher than he showed last year. But during the 3 years before the Dodgers signed him, he faded in August each year.
    He’s a very good 5th starter, but he’s not durable and he’s expensive – and he’s in the way of the kids pitching.

    McCarthy/Ryu – stick a fork in ’em – they’re done.

    Stripling – I like the way he pitches. I’d be fine with him as 5th starter.

    Stewart/DeLeon – I haven’t seen them yet.

    The Dodgers have “depth” in the minors but not serious quality/depth in the rotation. The Cubs, Giants, nationals have better rotations on paper at this point. The Dodgers won’t get more than 5+ innings/game out of their starters other than Kid K. I worry about the durability (availability) of Hill, Maeda and Kazmir (injury) and Urias, Stripling and DeLeon (innings limits).

    The rotation may be the Dodgers’ biggest question mark this year as it was last.

    The Giants and D-Backs have plugged holes and the division should be tougher this year than last. It should be a tough fight in ’17.

    1. Kershaw, Agreed.

      Hill, He is for the playoffs, only need 120 IP during regular season (or less). Hill when healthy (during playoffs) is as good as anybody’s number 2.

      Maeda, He worries me too. But what a contract.

      Urias, I think he will be as good as any other teams’s number 3. Don’t need 160 IP from him during regular season.

      Kazmir, Inning eater during season. Trade bait.

      McCarthy, I think he will be good this year, maybe in bullpen.

      Ryu, ????????

      Stripling, Good depth.

      Stewart/DeLeon, Good depth. Capable of BIG positive surprises.

      The 5+ inning problem was a 2016 problem, but handled nicely by a deep bullpen. As the young studs grow won’t be a problem. Just in case, for 2017 beef up the bullpen FAZ!

    2. Dodgerrick, I don’t disagree with your analysis as to the status of the starting rotation. You have indicated that on paper the Cubs, Giants, and Nats have a better starting staff, and I agree. However, neither the Cubs nor Giants had any significant injury to their starting 5. But can they count on that again? Neither organization have the ability to combat any significant injury. For the Cubs, Mike Montgomery takes over for Jason Hammel. But who after that? Other than Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks, Lackey, and Montgomery, there were 5 other pitchers that started 1 game last year. Three are gone (Cahill, Warren, and Matucz). The other three were Rob Zastryzny (16 IP), and Jake Buchanan (6 IP). If anything happens to the starting 5, it will be the Cubs that will be looking for the Bud Norris’ on the MLB rosters.

      The Giants have issues with their #5. Who will it be; Cain, Blach, Beede, Blackburn? Matt Moore may be good against LAD, but not against the rest of the league. MadBum is a true Ace. Samardzija is a workhorse, and there is no reason to believe he will not be again. But I always look at Cueto and believes he is one pitch away from blowing out his arm. He has not yet, so good for him and good for the SF. But what if he does? Fans can complain about the term “depth” with the Dodgers, but they were able to overcome injuries and still win 91 games (without their Ace for two months), and IMO neither the Cubs nor Giants have that ability.

      One of the pitchers brought up was Strasburg. He only pitched 147 innings last year, and has only gotten through 1 year without an injury. Who’s to say he will remain healthy and be able to start 33-34 games? The Nats do have a good starting 5, but after trading away Giolito and Lopez, the only pitcher on their roster that might be able to become a #5 SP is AJ Cole. After that Erick Fedde or Austin Voth? Those are unproven maybes, but that is it.

      The other point that is made by many is that the Dodgers do not have any SP not named Kershaw that can be counted to pitch 170 IP. Maeda did pitch 175 innings and will hopefully duplicate that. But IMO 170 IP is very arbitrary. Rick, both you and I (and many) grew up in an era where the starting rotation was 4 and the SP were not special unless they had 300 IP. Times change. Maybe now FO’s are looking for SP who can pitch 6 quality innings and then turn it over to the bullpen. The Royals gave us a look into what that would look like. If Hill starts 20-25 games and averages 6 IP, he can turn it over to Wood/Stripling/Dayton/Liberatore/Baez before Jansen takes the ball. I assume that Kazmir will be #5, and I feel the same way about him. If he can get 6 IP and turn it over to a bullpen, why not? Build the best bullpen and get 6 quality IP by good SP. Yes, fans can say they do not have durability, but they will have wins. With the “depth”, the LAD-OKC express can be used liberally to monitor innings pitched for Urias/De Leon/Stewart. I know many like to disparage FAZ, but Friedman does not look at the roster as 25 man. He views the roster as a 40 man and is more than willing make changes back and forth. Maybe it was that prescience that allowed the Dodgers to win 91 games. Maybe other baseball organizations will come to realize that the roster is truly a 40 man, and will follow the lead. Regardless, I like Kershaw/Hill/Maeda/Urias/Kazmir. Then look towards De Leon/Stewart/McCarthy/Woods/Stripling before having to look at De Jong or Oaks. Which team is in better pitching shape to go through a 162 game schedule? I will take LA.

        1. AC – thanks for your words on one of the previous threads – and taking the time. Much appreciated.
          I did leave a comment.

  3. Good take on our pitching Mark, you made some great points. Maybe we do have some starting depth after all. One thing I think would be HUGE for us is to finally get a shutdown 8th inning set up guy. I can’t take another season of Baez or Hatcher, it’s too frustrating. That would address a huge weakness for us. I don’t think we should trade DeLeon for Dozier anymore. If he ends up being a stud like Urias in a few years, we will be downright scary. Maybe that’s why FAZ hasnt pulled the trigger. Next few weeks might get interesting.

  4. I hear that the Dodgers are still Bullish on Dozier!

    Also, talks with the Brewers involving Braun are not dead.

    … and now there are Profar rumors. His stock has to be pretty low. He’s been a prospect for 17 years or something near that. He’s talented, but….

    1. No reason not to be bullish on Dozier. He would be a great fit. But, I think it’s a buyers market on 2nd basemen. I don’t know what to add to JDL to get Dozier, but, I don’t think another TOP prospect should be added for him.

      I need to read up on the Profar scouting reports. Does seem like he has been a prospect for 17 years, but, he is only 23 years old.

  5. In the interest in keeping things simple, I am only going to have one thread open at a time. When I start a new thread, I will close the comments on older threads. You can still carry that thought forward and comment on it on the latest thread. This is a small gesture to the man who hated multiple threads being open – Dr. Roger Sobin. R.I.P. Roger Dodger aka/Anew Blue Day.
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic
    The Roger Sobin with Josh Rawitch and myself at Camelback Ranch — 2010

  6. Keith Law of ESPN ranks the MLB Farm systems as follows:

    1. Atlanta Braves
    2. NY Yankees
    3. San Diego Padres
    4. Pittsburgh Pirates
    5. LA Dodgers

    Law says“The top of the Dodgers’ system rivals anyone’s.”and then states what many Friedman bashers fail to grasp:

    “There are systems that run deeper in likely regulars, because those teams have been able to focus just on building without having to balance that and contention,but for a team this good to have this kind of star potential in full-season ball is remarkable.”

  7. Now there is talk of Chase Utley coming back which seems ridiculous to me. He can’t hit LH pitching anymore and he will get better this year? How? I’d rather try Jose Miguel Fernandez, but he has been out of baseball for two years and who knows really how good he is anyway? He is also LH so that doesn’t help us a lot.

    I said that when the Dodgers signed Howie Kendrick last year that he would be traded because his contract was favorable… and he was. He was not the answer at 2B and they got $10 million of salary relief. I cannot see any way that Willie Calhoun can play 2B, let alone THIS year. So that leaves Kike, Fernandez, Taylor and Culberson? Someone suggested that they try Toles at 2B – he does throw RH. I suppose I have heard more ridiculous options. It’s worth a try, but it’s not likely to happen.

    The fact of the matter is that the Dodgers need a RH power bat. Brian Dozier is that. Kinsler is not coming because he wants extended and that’s silly. Forsythe costs too much and Profar is such a risk… maybe a good one but at what cost?

    Maybe the Right-Handed Power bats the Dodgers need are already here: Puig and Thompson. Is that too much to hope for?

    1. I was all on board with Utley last year; both as a player and as a mentor to Seager. Seager does not need that mentor anymore, and the Dodgers need a RH bat. I truly doubt that Brian Dozier will hit 40 HR as a Dodger, and I assume he will strike out a lot. But he will be a strong steadying influence on the infield, and he will hit LH pitching. He brings a level of speed to the lineup that this Dodger organization feels comfortable with. He is a 150+ game 2B. He will not be the face of the Dodgers thereby perhaps allowing him to just play.

      It will cost at least JDL. I am bullish on JDL. I believe he has top of the rotation skills (especially with that changeup), but the Dodgers would be better in 2017 with Dozier rather than with JDL. Many in the Dodgers organization believe that Walker Buehler is a better prospect, and Yadier Alveraz has already surpassed him in at least one national publication. There is also Imani Abdullah behind them that many in the organization believe will be a solid prospect. Plus 2016 draftees Mitchell White and Dustin May. So while JDL is a solid prospect, he can be replaced this year, and Buehler and Alveraz will move up to take his spot in 2018 and beyond. Not to mention that the Twins are not going to accept players like Caleb Ferguson and Ibandel Isabel as a return for their single marketable player.

      Ervin Santana is the only Twins SP that had decent numbers in 2016; only SP with an ERA south of 5. They do have a very good prospect in Jose Berrios, but he could use more time. Tyler Jay and Stephen Gonsalvez are two additional prospects that might be solid pieces to their rotation. But they all need time. So maybe Kazmir makes sense for the Twins to get through the next two years to give Berrios, JDL, Jay, and Gonsalvez sufficient time to form the nucleus of perhaps a good rotation. They will replace Santana, Hughes, Santiago, Kazmir (if traded) over the next two years. But they will have a veteran staff to start with to give a very young team a chance to grow. The Twins also need relief help after Abad was traded to Boston, so maybe Baez will help to solidify that bullpen. The point is there are other options to JDL & Stewart or any of Bellinger/Buehler/Alveraz. The price tag at the deadline is more onerous than at this time, so I will trust that FAZ will not give away the farm for Brian Dozier before ST.

  8. By the Way, the Arizona D-Backs are ranked the worst farm system in baseball by Keith Law. Here’s what he wrote:

    “Dave Stewart ritually disemboweled a solid farm system in just two years at the helm of the Diamondbacks. Stewart has better things to do now, and the challenge for new GM Mike Hazen & Co. is substantial. Arizona did not draft well under Stewart. The best player they took in those two drafts is now the starting shortstop in Atlanta, and I don’t think anyone else from either class would make my global top 150 prospects list.

    They blew their international signing budget in 2015 on Yoan Lopez, now a non-prospect, and that precluded them from participating in any meaningful way in the strong 2016 international class. They traded two top 100 prospects plus a third who didn’t miss the top 100 by much in moves that made the club worse off in the long run. This system is several drafts away from getting back into the middle of the pack, and unless they’re willing to trade their superstar first baseman, I don’t think they have a shortcut available.”

  9. As for the farm system, so far only Pederson and Seager have made much of an impact. What I see is a bunch of potential 4A guys, and the world is full of them. Just because the Dodgers have more than most doesn’t mean that any of these guys will have an impact. If they could all be like Seager, it would be great; but he is a 1-15 shot. As for Urias, I think he has to earn a #5 in Glendale. Otherwise, 4&5 go to Kazmir and Wood. What to do with him? Probably back to OKC for a time until someone crashes. I don’t see the any of the young guys displacing the HEALTHY veterans. I agree with Mark on Ryu. What a shame. He is/was really good and made the transition to MLB seamlessly. And, he could beat the giants! I would make a starter out of anyone who can get through the giant’s lineup 3 times. I hope there is more than 1. The team has to have more stability than it had last year because the giants are not going away any time soon. Now the Warriors just broke ground on their arena in SF. Is it the capital of the sports world? I hope not. BTW: Is Mark going to show the index of other sites so we can go to them easily? That is helpful and saves time and annoyance.

  10. Agree that Dozier is the obvious target at 2B for all of the reasons you have stated – but it takes 2 to tango and the Twins have wanted more than the Dodgers are willing to send them so far.

    I don’t have faith that Puig is going to do anything more than he has done the past 2 years. I don’t know if Thompson’s decline was due to injury or that he just isn’t really that good – he didn’t have much of a career in the minors and the Sox never considered him to be a top prospect. If they don’t solve their 2B problem with a big right-handed bat then I suspect they will have the same problem with lefties in ’17 that they did in ’16.

    1. The truth of the matter is that we don’t know for sure that the Dodgers were even willing to part with Jose De Leon. I know the media has reported that, but it does not mean it is true. Trading De Leon seems very “Un-FAZ” like when I think about it.

  11. Something about the way Maeda believes in himself during his life dream’s ‘showtime’ indicates to me we’ll see more out of him than we have a right to hope for. He’s familiar with what the MLB program is all about now and has the drive to make whatever adjustments missed in his first season here. He wants to show he outsmarted the F/O in the team friendly contract. I look for a ‘win-win’.

  12. No way Buehler makes rotation this year.
    McCarthy doesn’t play out of the pen
    I like Wood but that would be 4 lefties
    Kazmir would be traded for 50 cents on the dollar if they could. Also makes 4 lefties.
    Stewart impressed me. May work out of pen if he’s not #5.
    JDL will be in someone’s rotation
    Stripling seems ticketed for long/middle relief.

  13. Some very good takes here by everyone.

    Some agreement. More disagreement. No disagreeableness. This is refreshing!

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