Dodgers’ Spring Training: The Starting Staff

As spring training progresses and as the regular season approaches, some of the Dodgers’ question marks are being answered, though not necessarily resolved for the long term. The prime example of this is with the starting rotation.

In the rotation, major holes due to the lack of the acquisition of a solid veteran to replace

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the departed Zack Greinke and due to continuing injury issues with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy and with this spring’s injury to Brett Anderson, are being filled, but whether those in or close to being in the rotation, other than Clayton Kershaw, are in any way long-term solutions, is yet to be determined. After Kershaw at number one, are in some order Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda, at two and three, though their spring performances and their rotation status could not be more different.

Kazmir, signed by the Dodgers to a three-year, $48 M contract after a horrendous stretch run in Houston late last season, was supposed to be the guy right behind Kershaw, but he has been horrid this spring, and while throwing little better than the mid-80s with his fastball and compiling a spring ERA of 17.17 and a WHIP approaching 4.00, his hold on both the number two slot and a rotation spot at all, is more than precarious. Conversely, Maeda, the bargain-basement import from Japan ($25 M for eight seasons) has been excellent, and may well start the season in that number two slot, though not just because he himself has done so well.

In the fourth slot, the inconsistent Alex Wood has had a good enough spring, especially in light of the lack of competition, to pretty much sew up ownership of that spot. And, the competition for the fifth spot has been basically woeful, and the process of elimination has led to a final battle between Mike Bolsinger, Zach Lee, and Brandon Beachy. The Dodgers’ best young prospects were all given good shots to shine with several appearances each, and all were found wanting. The top three future prospects for the Dodgers’ rotation in the next two to three years, Julio Urias, Jose De Leon and Jharel Cotton. have all been early roster cuts. The fourth guy on that list, Frankie Montas, is recovering from surgery

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(medical problem, not arm or shoulder related) and will not pitch until much later in the season.

So, for the last rotation spot, manager Dave Roberts has the former top prospect Lee, who after a very disappointing 7-13, 5.39 in Triple-A in 2014, bounced back pretty well last season will an 11-6 record, but who was clobbered in one start in LA, Bolsinger, who impresses few people with anything resembling overpowering stuff, was a consistent 6-6 over 21 starts last season, and the resurrected
Beachy, who looked like a solid number one prospect before two Tommy John surgeries derailed his career in Atlanta. I see no issue and no question here – if Beachy is healthy he has to be the number five guy starting the season, and if he remains healthy will more than likely rapidly move up towards the top of the rotation.

I can foresee a Dodgers’ rotation come August and September of Kershaw, Maeda, Ryu, Beachy and McCarthy. I don’t think Wood has full-time major league starter potential, I think Kazmir will be a total loss, and as I previously wrote, given his history of back surgery at the same lumbar level, the chances of Anderson being fully healthy at any time this season is unlikely.

That staff is full of lots of “ifs” but in the weak Pacific Division with the questionable moves made by the Giants, the only other legitimate contender in the division, the Dodgers’ offense and defense should keep them at or near the top until the real core of the rotation is back to work.

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