Dodgers pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report for spring training on Feb. 15. As we count down to the opening of camp, we’re analyzing the various position groups on the roster. Today, the starting rotation. Previously: outfielders, infielders, catchers.
Even with Walker Buehler lost to Tommy John surgery at midseason, the Dodgers’ starting pitchers had the lowest ERA in MLB (2.80) for the second consecutive season and the fourth time in the past six. Following up on his 20-win season in 2021, Julio Urias further emerged as the staff ace and cemented his status as one of the best starters in the National League. Urias finished third in the NL Cy Young voting after leading the league with a 2.16 ERA. But the rotation behind Urias featured a number of surprises. Tony Gonsolin took a major step forward, making the NL All-Star team while going 16-1 with a 2.14 ERA (in fewer innings than Urias) but ending the season with a forearm injury. Signed as depth in the spring, Tyler Anderson had a career year, making his first NL All-Star team while going 15-5 with a 2.57 ERA. Though his season was pockmarked by trips to the injured list, Andrew Heaney was also a successful reclamation project, going 4-4 with a 3.10 ERA when available. Clayton Kershaw remains an elite-level starter. The three-time Cy Young Award winner went 12-3 with a 2.28 ERA in what is now his standard – 22 starts with a trip to the IL when his back acted up.
HOW IT LOOKS RIGHT NOW
Anderson and Heaney parlayed their one-year makeovers with the Dodgers into multi-year deals elsewhere (Anaheim for Anderson, Texas for Heaney). The Dodgers replaced them with another reclamation project, former All-Star Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard’s career was sidetracked by injuries from 2017 through 2021 but he expects the Dodgers’ pitching brain trust to help him turn back into “the old me.” Kershaw returned on a one-year contract. Gonsolin will have to prove his All-Star season was not a one-year wonder and that he can stay healthy over a full season. Dustin May is being counted on heavily in his first full season since Tommy John surgery.
THE NEXT LAYER
There is no shortage of dynamic young pitchers in the Dodgers’ minor league system. Three of them – Ryan Pepiot, Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone – will almost certainly figure into the rotation at some point this season. Pepiot got his first taste of the big leagues last season, flashing impressive stuff – big-league hitters batted just .200 off of him with 42 strikeouts in 36⅓ innings. But he has to make serious improvements in his control – he walked 27 and hit three more. Miller and Stone are among the top pitching prospects in baseball with dynamic pitch mixes but limited experience as pros (two seasons each). Right-handers Michael Grove and Andre Jackson saw big-league time in 2022 but have less impressive potential and could find their future in bullpen roles. The Dodgers have collected some depth with a little more big-league experience, signing former Miami Marlins right-hander Jordan Yamamoto and Chicago White Sox right-hander Dylan Covey to minor-league contracts.
MOVES THEY COULD MAKE
Over the past 10 seasons, the Dodgers have used an average of 12.8 starting pitchers each year. So we are likely to see all of the above in 2023 – and maybe more. The Dodgers missed out on one trade target when the Marlins recently sent right-hander Pablo Lopez to the Minnesota Twins. They could go shopping at midseason if injuries hit the rotation hard or those young pitchers can’t handle the jump to the big leagues. Depending on how their own seasons play out, the Cleveland Guardians (Zach Plesac? Shane Bieber?), White Sox (Lucas Giolito?) or Milwaukee Brewers (Corbin Burnes? Brandon Woodruff?) could make quality starting pitchers available.
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