Dodger Starting Pitching – The Best in Baseball

MLB.comnamed the Top 10 Rotations in baseball and the Cleveland Indians were listed as #1 with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber.  The Dodgers were listed as #2 and the Nationals were listed as #3.  I am going to take issue with that for several reasons:
  1. The Indians are likely to trade one of those pitchers.
  2. AlmostNEVERdoes a team just use 5 pitchers during a sesaon.
  3. The Dodgers were Number #2, and the rotation did not include Julio Urias (former #1 prospect who may be as good as ever),  Ross Stripling (All-Star last season) and Kenta Maeda (a pretty good starter in his own right).
Yeah, they got it wrong. The Dodgers have the NUMBER ONE ROTATION in baseball!However, they are likely to trade a couple of those pitchers… and it doesn’t mean they might not trade for a Corey Kluber if he is available and the price is right.  I think that of Wood, Hill and Maeda, only one will be on the team come Spring (or maybe July – shoot, by July all three may be gone).The reality of the situation is that this is the rotation I expect to see, come Summer:
  1. Buehler
  2. Kershaw
  3. Ryu
  4. Stripling
  5. Urias
The Dodgers currently have eight (8) starters, and it’s obviosuly not up to me, but if the season started today, here is what I would consider to be out best starting pitchers.  I will discuss my opinions of each pitcher with regard to:
  1. Upside
  2. Downside
  3. Worst Case Scenerio
  4. Best Case Scenerio
  5. Most Likely Scenerio
Here we go!

Clayton Kershaw – LHP

Upside– Look at his best season.  That’s his upside. He’s a generational talent. His greatest strength is his tenacity.Downside– See last year…. minus 20%.  His greatest weakness is his tenacity.Worst Case– His back and hip flare up and he spends half the season on the DL and has a 6-8 record with a 4.26 ERA..Best Case– Cy Young Award.Most Likely– Pick somewhere in the middle.  He will start the season opener (if healthy) because he is due that amount of respect. I do think he could re-invent himself and become a solid #2.  I see a 15-7 Record with a 2.99 ERA.

Striker Buehler – RHP

Upside– Never call him “Walker.” What the hell is wrong with you?  He’s “Striker,” not Walker. This is a pitcher who can win the Cy Young Award in 2019.  That’s what we are talking about!Downside– The only thing that can stop him is injury.Worst Case– He gets injured and spends half the season on the DL.Best Case– Cy Young Award.Most Likely– He should start the season opener but he won’t because of respect for Clayton.  I see him at 20-8 with a 2.36 ERA.

Hyun-jin Ryu – LHP

Upside– This guy can be “lights out,” and it’s not outside the realm of probablity that he can pitch 200 innings.Downside– HIs shoulder injuries are behind him, but his body-type (think David Wells) can be subject to breakdown.Worst Case– He spend most of the season on the DL.Best Case– 200 IP and a 20 win season..Most Likely– I will step out and say 180 IP with a 2.78 ERA – the win loss record might be 14-8.

Ross Stripling – RHP

Upside– I read a review of Ross Stripling’s 2018 season inTrueBlueLa.comand was extremely disappointed as to what that review was! Ross Stripling was awesome as a starter the first half of the season.  In fact, he was an All-Star. There was a stretch where the only better pitcher was Jacob deGrom. He got shelled in the All-Star Game and was never the same afterward! End of story?  Not at all (and that is the part they left out).  Chase Utley figured out that Ross was tipping his pitches which was  the reason he was unhittbale before the All-Star break and and cannon fodder after.Downside– A useful bullpen piece.Worst Case– He is unable to totally quit tipping pitches, is relegated to the bullpen and loses all confidence as a starter. It’s not easy to quit tipping pitches.  Odds are, he was tipping them for quite some time before someone figured it out.  Old habilts are hard to break, which was why he was left off the playoff roster.Best Case– He figures out how to stop tipping pitches and return to form as one of the elite pitchers in the NL.Most Likely– It’s likely that he starts in the bullpen and works his way back to the rotation.  It’s hard to predict what will happen in his case as his newly developed pitches last year were not utilized in 2017.  With his new repertoire, he has show he is a potential Ace, but I can’t see that kind of jump.  I really can’t even guess what he will do.

Julio Urias – LHP

Upside– As a Rookie, Julio was dramatically better than Clayton Kershaw in his Rookie Season.  At one time, he was anointed the “Ace-in-Waiting”.  I would say he’s now a #2… only because he has missed time aand because Striker Buehler isTHATgood.Downside– He never builds his arm strength back up and becomes a high-leverage reliever.Worst Case–  He has to have Tommy John Surgery (well, that’s a worst case, isn’t it?).Best Case– He take up where he left off, builds up his arm and is again the pitcher he was destined to be.Most Likely– He may start at AAA and build back his arm strength.  I would say he will be back by May 15th, but he will have a cap, even though his shoulder is healthy (he still can throw his fastball at 97 MPH… maybe faster, next year – however, like Clayton of old, he sits around 93-95). I think  he wins 10-11 games with an ERA around 3.00 before he is shut down… unless he sits out the start of the sseason.  It is tough to figure out how to limit his innings. Maybe you just shut him down for three weeks after the All-Star Break and work him back in 5 or 6 weeks later…

Rich Hill – LHP

Upside– I love Rich Hill! He’s great for any lockerroom and is a guy you want to go to war with. I do not agree with Dave Roberts use of him and think he should be allowed to pitch deeper into games. Even at his age, if he is allowed to pitch 200 innings, he could win 20 games.Downside– The blisters return… although it appears he has figured that part out.Worst Case– The blisters and injuries limit his use.Best Case– 20 Game Winner.Most Likely– If he is healthy, and I think he will be, I see 14-8 with a 3.15 ERA in 150 innings…. or he is traded… most likely at the trade deadline,IFStripling and Urias are healthy.

Kenta Maeda – RHP

Upside– He has proven he is an effective starter and that he can be very good in the bullpen.  He likley needs to be one place or the other, but his contract is heavily weighted towards starting and neither he, nor his agent will be happy with him moving to the pen for the 2019 season, which is why a trade makes sense.Downside– He gets injured or can’t wrap his head around being in the bullpen.Worst Case– His arm finally falls off.  Part of the reason he signed such a friendly contract is because of arm issues not disclosed,Best Case– He is not traded and becomes the 8th inning lockdown reliever.Most Likely– If not traded, he will bounce between the rotation and bullpen and do about what he did last season.

Alex Wood – LHP

Upside– Before the All-Star Game in 2017, Alex Wood was as good of a pitcher as anyone, actually better. He was hitting 97-98 on the gun and his stuff was filthy.  He looked like an Ace.Downside– Swingman like he is now.Worst Case– I think he is injured.  His velocity his dropped 8 to 10 MPH but he still can pitch effectively.  He may need surgery…Best Case– He regains his velocity and is again one of the best pitchers in the NL (I don’t believe that will happen).Most Likely– He is traded!  If he stays, he will be a swingman and will not be happy… and who can blame him?  He is pitching for a new contract in 2020.  The problem is, other GM’s think he is injured too.  The market may not be what we think.

Other Stuff

  • According to, the Dodgers have reached out to the White Sox about Jose Abreu who had a bad season last year partially due to “testicular torsion and an  infection in his thigh“.  He had a “procedure” done and should be good to go in 2019. Ouch!  I am sure Max Muncy will be part of that… or at least that’s what I believe to be true.
  • Let’s say that happens, I am going to float another deal:  The Dodgers get Mitch Hanniger and Kyle Seager.  The Mariners get Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, Conner Wong, Dustin May, Matt Kemp and Edwin Rios.
  1. Taylor/Toles  LF
  2. C. Seager  SS
  3. Turner 3B
  4. Bellinger  CF
  5. Abreu  1B
  6. Hanniger  RF
  7. K. Seager  2B
  8. Barnes  C

Great Music

This article has 55 Comments

  1. Just out. A new metric. DRC+
    Mike Trout is all time leader on a list that goes back to 1921. Duke Snider is on the all time Dodger ranking about 5 times. The list can be sorted by clicking on the category at the top of each column.
    Top 4 Dodgers were in order Muncy, Turner, Puig, and Pederson. That’s right–Pederson.
    Regarding Kyle Seager. I have always thought it would be great for the Seagers to play together on the Dodgers. But he is expensive, fading, and is another lefty swinger, whose best position belongs to Turner. Dodgers need to maintain or improve defense.
    It might be Verdugo and Ruiz for Realmuto or Verdugo and Puig and White for Kluber or Verdugo and Puig and Stewart/White for Mitch Hanniger.

      1. Hopefully a team besides the Dodgers do. I can’t take another season of watching him swing the bat like he’s swatting at a swarm of bees.

        1. Rudy: I’ve been trying a long time to come up with a description of
          Joc’s “unusual” approach to hitting.

          I think you’ve nailed it here:-).

    1. Sox operating under the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

      Let’s hope it works (speaking as a Boston fan.)

  2. Great start for this day MT…
    Kersh – He is my ace and despite his past end of season woes he still remains the Man…
    Walker B. – God knows what we have… Something very special I’d bet the ranch on…
    Stripling – I’m indifferent…
    Julio Urias – See Walker B. above. I’m hoping he’s working on arm strength as we speak and if necc we cap him based on his results…
    Rich Hill – Big fan and agree with your assessment…
    Maeda – see above (Hill)
    Wood – Just trade him already…
    I find it hard to believe that there is any better staff in baseball!!!
    Other Stuff – Pipe dreams… Why do we need to unite the brothers??? Good PR???
    Just resign LM and go. Testicular Torsion made me squirm in my seat and get up and walk a little…
    Great Music – Made me want to slip into my overalls, stick a piece of straw in my pie hole and head out to till a few acres…

    1. “Made me want to slip into my overalls, stick a piece of straw in my pie hole and head out to till a few acres…”
      I did that and milked the cows and fed the pigs and chickens before the sun came up.

    2. Mark “Let’s play two!” Timmons. Ernie B had nothin’ on you in
      the optimism dept. See annual prognostics on K. Hernandez:-).

      But I do agree with most of this. My skepticism about a champ run
      in the last two years, even in the midst of that 43-7 stretch in 2017,
      was the starting pitching, to wit, identifying the guy I’d be confident
      would deliver two wins in a seven-series.

      They might finally have him in Walker B. Might…..

  3. Where is Puig going? I think Bums has him going to any of the other 29 teams, but I did not see where you have him going.
    Your Seattle trade – I can see a Matt Kemp for Kyle Seager deal straight up. Two salary dumps. LAD reduces 2019 CBT because of reduced AAV, but assumes $35.75 additional salary for 2020 & 2021. However apparently Seager has a clause in his contract that turns his 2022 $15MM club option into a player option if he is traded. Thus his commitment grows from$35.75 + $15.00MM (plus any escalators) to $50.75MM for three years. I am not saying I think Andrew & Co. will or should do it, but a straight up Kemp for Seager deal is the best that Seattle could hope for.
    That would leave Joc, Verdugo, Wong, May and Rios for Haniger. Me thinks that is an overpay. I would have to say a hard no on that one.
    DJLM is a RHH, is still a less expensive 2B option, and a much better defensive 2B than Kyle Seager. I am staying away from Kyle. There are better opportunities for a RH bat and RH OF than Haniger if Seager has to be tied to the deal. I do not know who they are just yet, but I am sure Andrew has a War Room wall full of them.

  4. David Wells body type subject to breakdown? Wells pitched 200+ innings for 7 out of 8 years from age 33 to 40. If that’s breakdown, I hope all our pitchers breakdown like that! I always liked the Ryu/Wells comp.

    Wood was totally out of wack last year, he finally went on the DL for a adductor strain / tendinitis late in the season. I’m not sure anything was wrong with his arm. Like Kershaw, maybe he had a tough time finishing pitches while losing a few miles per hour unable to extend fully at the end of his delivery.

    Has there ever been a staff that’s this deep and talented? Urias is dirty as F*&^ and I can see him returning to Ace in waiting form, after a “slow start” to limit his innings of course.

    Maeda is the enigma. When they get him to focus on attacking hitters, he looks as unhittable as anyone. Last year, he added a nasty “split change” that no one could touch. It seems like it disappeared in the post season. If he comes back with that pitch and attacks hitters with his fastball, he could win 16 games again, maybe more.

    I sure hope Kersh returns to form, that dude looked like a shell of his former self last year. Maybe he hangs out with Verlander this off-season to see how he fixed himself. It sure seems like he’s on a mission to figure it out.
    Regardless, this rotation is the strongest it’s been since vintage Kershaw, Ryu, and Opt-Out Greinke. And you didn’t even get to touch on the Santanas, Fergusons, Mays, Whites and Gonsolins. That’s another whole rotation of minor leaguers! (Ferguson is in the pen temporarily, he will be a starter again).

  5. Eovaldi 4 years $67.5MM – $16.88MM AAV. That is an awful lot for a double TJ. If Houston was willing to go that high, the Alvin Texas native would be an Astro. Boston is not going to be outbid if they want someone. But they are getting close to $240MM CBT threshold. Boston is at 30% CBT Tax plus a surtax after exceeding CBT threshold by $20MM.

  6. OOPS… By LM I was meaning Brian Dozier… With good health he’ll be good for us and provide defense up the middle….

    1. I agree wholeheartedly peterj. I think Dozier would take a 1 yr deal to reestablish his worth as a FA.

    2. Totally agree with Brian Dozier. He plays great defense and had a bone bruise all year. Big time comeback candidate. Sometimes you gotta buy low. Plus, he usually crushes lefties. He’ll keep the seat warm for Lux.

  7. My April rotation would be Kersh, Ferris, Ryu, Hill and Maeda with Strip and Alex going to the pen as swing men one L and one R, with Urias held back a bit at the outset. If healthy Wood or Hill are moved at the deadline for max return. Trades or injuries can change that and I would be getting a 3rd team involved at the Winter Meetings to make Kluber happen. Dodgers want to move some salary to offset and Indians want payroll relief, may need another team to take Puig and/or Wood. That’s about the only guy I would move Puig for unless they want to move on from him. He would be a deadline trade candidate as well.

    It seems like Freidman is ‘in’ on everyone but won’t pull the trigger. I can’t believe there is no market for Toles, Rios, Joc, Strip, Maeda or even Kike or CT3 but the facts are they are cheap compared to Kemp, Hill, Puig and Wood and those are the guys the Dodgers want to move. I believe they don’t want to trade Verdugo, Lux, May or Rios and possibly Peters. They also will not move Muncy, not before they see what they have with that bat.

    I see some off radar bullpen additions, a backup catcher and a RH OF bat, all from the Blue Light Special aisle. It is just as likely they mostly stand pat as make a really smart deal but I can hope. The Grandal market has sure not developed, hope they don’t take him back unless the price drops to $10M for 1 year.

    1. I cannot see LAD paying Grandal a dime more than $7.9MM, last year’s salary thru arbitration.

    2. Lux and Ruiz are the untouchables. I think they would be fine moving Verdugo, or letting him rack up frequent flyer miles between LA and OKC and giving him a shot at RF post Puig if they can get steady power in LF (Harper). Peters is probably expendable since he racked up close to 200 Ks in only 132 games for TWO YEARS IN A ROW!

      Looking ahead to a possible post-season rotation. It’s gonna be tough to get all the quality arms in a 4 man especially if they land Kluber. Kersh, Kluber, Bueller, Urias. That would mean Wood, Hill, Ryu, Stripling and Kenta all being expendable. Those spare parts are better than a lot of team’s entire rotation! Kenta’s contract is very team friendly, but they’re also waiting for his arm to fall off. He’s also best suited as a swing man since we’ve seen him dominate in the bullpen briefly. Point is, there’s a ton of trade pieces including May, Rios, Peters, Verdugo. Ruiz is possible “generational talent” and Lux is Seager with more speed / less power. Those are the only two that are unblocked as well.

      I think they’ll get a quality bullpen piece to pair with Jansen, especially since the FA market has a big supply on relievers as opposed to an under the radar guy. Abreu for a package around Muncy makes way too much sense, that will get us the right handed bat to pair with Harper in the middle of the order.

      Realmuto for Smith and May
      Abreu for Muncy, Uceta
      Kluber for Verdugo, Kendall, Alvarez
      Harper and Hererra and maybe even Dozier as free agents

      Taylor / Kike / Dozier 2B
      Seager SS
      Taylor 3B
      Harper LF
      Abreu 1B
      Bellinger CF
      Realmuto C
      Puig RF


      Jansen / Hererra

      Now that’s a World Series winner.

        1. I kind of like what you did there. However, I think the White Sox are going to need more for Abreu. I think you need to add another piece to the Cleveland. Throw in Kike and it still might not be enough. I don’t want Dozier back. Dodgers are rumored to be in on Marvin Gonzalez. Lux is a year away it seems. Probably need a 3rd piece for Realmuto too. I think there are better options than Herrera. For some reason he worries me these days.

          1. Yep, those are the guys to build the deal around. Include other, lower minor leaguers or depth from the 40 man. Not that any of these or any other proposal on this site are ever going to happen, but those are the guys I would target among known available players.

            The trubluela podcast says the Indians would rather deal Bauer instead of Kluber. I would take either. Not too many pitchers are clear upgrades over the pitchers we’re replacing. JA Happ is even borderline for me. After that, you would think teams that need pitching would be interested in our surplus.

  8. I’m beginning to think that Kluber or Bauer haven’t been moved yet is because Kipnis is attached to the package.i think Friedman moves on. I think Verdugo, Smith and Alvarez could get Realmuto. Sign DJLM and Kelvin Herrera rework Maeda’s contract to include relief incentives.


    1. I like that lineup with DJLM on top. If the Indians want Kipnis attached to Kluber then they take back Kemp. The hard part is none of us have much of a clue what is about to happen with the Dodgers trade plans.

      1. If the Indians include Kipnis and agree to pay his buyout for Kemp. The Dodgers could waive Kipnis and save $5 million or trying to buy his contract down some more in trades.

  9. The best rotation in baseball? Who knows, all conjecture and opinion. If they are #1 or #2 why are they looking to acquire another starter from Cleveland, especially when they have more pressing needs (C, 2b, BP, )?

    The one thing that is certain is that the Dodger rotation (aside from Buehler) has certainly not pitched in the WS like they are the best. Some good games, yes, but a lot of flops.

  10. I cannot see Verdugo being traded except to get a RH OF bat in return. So if it takes Verdugo to get Haniger that would be acceptable for me. If Verdugo is traded, that leaves Joc and Toles, with converted infielders, CT3, Kike’ and Belli as the only OF ready to play MLB next year. And Joc and Kike’ for 1 additional year. They both become FA in 2021. I cannot see both Joc and Toles as everyday OF. The Dodgers traded their best OF prospect for a Machado rental, leaving DJ Peters as the only potential OF who will be on the 40 man next year. As I have stated on more than a few occasions, I am not a DJ Peters fan. I hope he turns it around, but I do not see it. Jeren Kendall needs to learn how to put bat to ball a little better, before he becomes known as the next Billy Hamilton. I do not count Beaty or Rios as OF. Maybe one of them will be out there on occasion, but neither are OF. The Dodgers have a huge hole in OF prospects. They do have a surplus of OF this year and pitching. Some of it needs to be moved to find a RHH OF in AAA or AA that can play at Dodger Stadium for the next 7 years.
    Puig is a better option than any other OF not named Bellinger, but unless he agrees to an extension, he has to be considered for a trade. If they want to extend him for 3-4 years, then Verdugo becomes tradeable as well as Joc. Andrew is doing what he is supposed to do, and that is look 3 to 4 to 5 years down the road. Andrew is not blind and he can see the big hole the OF is leaving. No team would want to rely on Peters and Kendall as their OF of the future.

    1. I like Haniger a lot, so do the Mariners…I think it takes more than Verdugo but I would do that deal straight up in a heartbeat. Maybe add a AA pitcher to the deal with Verdugo.

      I would love to see them extend Puig but they may be seeing if he is on his best behavior. If he goes off this year his price goes up. If he does not is he worth the QO? He might just take it to stay a Dodger. Interesting possibilities.

    2. AC, you said “If Verdugo is traded, that leaves Joc and Toles, with converted infielders, CT3, Kike’ and Belli as the only OF ready to play MLB next year.” If Verdugo goes for Hanigar, you can add an outfielder to that mix.
      I like this lineup for 2019
      3B Turner
      SS Seager
      C Realmuto/Smith (traded Barnes, Muncy, and White to get Realmuto)
      LF Pederson/Kemp
      RF Hanigar (traded Verdugo, Maeda, Alexander, and Stewart to get Hanigar)
      1B Bellinger/Freese
      2B Hernandez/Lux (Lux joins team in mid July)
      CF Taylor/Toles
      Kluber (traded Puig, Stripling, Wong, Alvarez, and PTBNL)

    3. The Dodgers should be looking at a modest extension for Puig if he would be amenable. He’s a perfect 6 hitter, plays excellent defense, led the team in SB’s, has played well in the post-season, and most importantly has matured and is in his prime. I don’t buy he’s a lefty hitter and can’t improve his splits.
      I think once Happ and Keuchel find homes we will see movement of the Wood, Maeda, Stripling type of players. Here is one problem I imagine the Dodgers have right now. If you want Kluber the Indians want Verdugo in the deal. If you want Realmuto the Marlins want Verdugo in the deal. Can’t trade him to both teams and make Ruiz, Lux, and May all off-limits..

    4. They didn’t trade their best outfield prospect for a rental. Verdugo is their best outfield prospect and Yusniel Diaz is the slightly worse right-handed version of Verdugo with the same profile. Not enough power for the corners, not enough speed for center.

      1. Best prospect not on the 40 man. I am sorry you did not get that. The whole point was what would happen if the Dodgers traded Verdugo with no OF in return. If you are happy with Peters and Kendall, then I am happy for you.

  11. I don’t know if it was true, but I heard today that the D-Bags hired Robert Van Scoyoc away from the Dodgers after the 2017 season to intice JD Martinez into staying.

  12. Carrasco has been extended by the Indians. That leaves Kluber and Bauer if they ever decide to move one of their top 3.

  13. The Indians are revving up to trade Kluber or Bauer. It has been reported that NYY didn’t even make an offer for Corbin. NYY apparently floated around they would be comfortable with a 4-5 year contract at $17MM AAV to $20MM AAV, but nothing more. When Corbin’s agent said they want Yu Darvish money, NYY never came back with an offer. The Phillies were supposedly in it for 5 years at $20MM as well, but nothing more. The Nats met Corbin’s price and then a little extra.
    NYY is not comfortable with meeting J A Happ’s number of years request, and will likely pass if he insists on three years. It is also widely speculated that NYY will NOT be in on Harper or Machado. They too want to stay under the tax threshold. They are going to try to find that second top of the rotation starter via trade. It could be a prospect bidding war for Kluber between LAD and NYY. But I think that Cleveland wants this trade before the Winter Meeting or at least at the beginning of the meetings. If neither LAD or NYY are in on Harper, Scott Boras is going to blow a gasket. It is his opinion that Baseball Owners have more than enough cash to pay for his clients. If they do not, they are colluding. Somehow he suckered San Diego into bidding against themselves for Hosmer. But he couldn’t get any traction on Moustakas or JDM.
    These teams want to make these trades now before teams start to look at the free agents. LAD and NYY want Kluber at his cost, but will not spend for Corbin, Eovaldi, Keuchel. LAD will sign 100 waiver wire relievers before they sign a Kimbrel or Britton or Ottavino or Familia or Robertson, or Kelly or Allen or Soria…etc. All they need is that 1 out of 100 that can come through. Plus they will be waiting on Jesen Therrien.

      1. Mark

        I heard JD has our hitting coach Scoyoc, under contract right now.

        Because the guys on the Dodger radio channel asked how Scoyoc was going to work it out with JD, and still be the Dodger’s hitting instructor.

        I read a lot of the Dbacks players had trouble with the concept of tunneling, although I don’t know if Scoyoc was the one teaching that, or it was the other Dbacks hitting coach.

        1. Tunneling is a pitching idea. That all pitches comes out of the same “tunnel” reducing a batter’s pickup.

          1. Bluto

            Ya it is a way to identify what pitch is coming, for hitters.

            But thanks, I didn’t know it was a predominate concept from pitching.

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