A Look at The Dodgers Current Rotation Depth

A Look at The Dodgers Current Rotation Depth

Written By: John Moore
Follow Him on Twitter: @ajohnmoore
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW

The Dodgers are currently working with a 5-man rotation that is a combination of both young and old, familiar and new. By simply looking at ERA, the rotation looks pretty good given that it is currently ranked in the top 5 amongst all starting staffs in terms of ERA entering action on Saturday, August 22nd at 3.36. By taking a look at some of the defensive independent pitching statistics however, one wouldn’t be as impressed as the staff ranks middle of the pack in FIP (4.38) due to the staffs closer to middle of the pack ranking in both strikeout rate and home run rate against.

Current Starters

Clayton Kershaw

2020 Statistics

The longest tenure Dodger has been a fixture in the rotation since his debut in May 2008. Kershaw had a legitimate claim for title as best pitcher in baseball for much of the last decade before getting slowed in recent years due injuries and diminished stuff. During his last start on August 20th he was able to move into 2nd place on the all-time Dodger strikeout list.

Kershaw has steadily been decreasing his four seam usage since 2010 to the point where he now throws it about as often as his slider. Kershaw has been primarily 91-93 with his fastball this year. The velocity on Kershaw’s fastball is actually up slightly this year. The pitch has never been an offering he could use to get swings and misses with and he has struggled with his fastball command at times early this year which has resulted in hitters making much more hard contact against his fastball.

His primary swing and miss offering this year has been his slider, which has a whiff% of 41.5% on the year. The pitch has a lower spin efficiency (36.5%) and relies on gyro spin to create the 28.8 inches of vertical break on average the pitch features .

Kershaw also throws a curveball about 16% of the time. The curveball has usually been Kershaw’s most effective offering. The pitch is thrown much slower than his other pitches and relies on about 2450 RPM’s on spin on average to create the movement the pitch features.

While Kershaw isn’t what he once was, he is still a very effective front of the rotation type pitcher at the Major League level and certainly deserves every bit of his spot at the front of this stacked Dodgers rotation.

Walker Buehler

2020 Statistics

The Dodgers 1st round pick from the 2015 draft emerged as one of the leagues best young starters during his first full Major League season in 2018. Despite the slow starts to seasons, Buehler has a legitimate front of the rotation arsenal that will likely be a mainstay at the front of the Dodgers rotation for years to come.

Buehler’s calling card and most primarily used offering is his four seam fastball which he was working 96-98 touching 99 with during his latest outing on August 15th. Buehler has struggled at times in the past with the command on the fastball, which given some of the pitches characteristics (one of the fastballs with most rise in all of baseball, high spin and high velocity), he needs to primarily work up in the zone with it in order to maximize the effectiveness. In his August 15th start, Buehler got 4 swings and misses using his fastball and 3 of these were on pitches located up in the strike zone.

A cutter, curveball, slider and sinker round out the rest of Buehler’s front of the rotation type arsenal. The curveball features an elite spin rate and nice downward breaking movement to generate a high amount of swings and misses when located properly low in and out of the zone. The pitch plays really well of his fastball and despite this fact and the pitches high spin and 52.8 inches of vertical break on average, he has the tendency to occasionally hang the pitch, usually resulting in opponents making hard contact against it.

Buehler uses his cutter, typically thrown in the 91-93 range, to play well off his four seam fastball and generate more weak contact. He has doubled the usage of the cutter since his breakout 2018 season and the pitch has seemingly almost completely replaced his sinker, which was his most second most frequently used offering in 2018. He primarily uses the cutter working away from right handed hitters and inside on left-handed hitters in an attempt to generate weak contact. Even though he’s struggled using his slider at times this year, it uses a relatively higher spin efficiency to create the horizontal movement it features and play well of his four seam fastball and curveball.

While Buehler had early struggles this year primarily derived from inconsistencies in his mechanics, he still has a legitimate front of the rotation type arsenal. Things looked like they were finally starting to come together for Buehler during his start against Colorado on Friday, August 21st and he showed off his front of the rotation type arsenal while going 6 strong innings allowing only 1 earned run on 11 strikeouts with 0 walks.

Dustin May

5524.03.00 3.944.0318.8%5.0%8.2%49.3%22.7%28%
2020 Statistics

One of the talks of baseball early this season, May has an outside chance of winning the National League Rookie of the year this season. He was the Dodgers 3rd round pick in the 2016 draft and is another guy who we should get used to seeing pitching at the front of the Dodgers rotation.

Outside of his hair, the 6’6″ right hander is most known for his upper 90’s sinker, which he has used over 50% of the time this year. The pitch features an absurd amount of horizontal movement, especially so when you consider the pitches average velocity. Despite the upper 90’s average velo and the pitches 19 inches of horizontal movement on average, the pitch has only gotten swings and misses 10% of the time opponents have swing at it this year.

The only other pitch May has used more than 10% of the time this year is his cutter. The pitch has an average velocity of 93.6 MPH this year and out of his primary arsenal, it has been his most effective pitch overall this year. He is able to use his cutter to play very well off his sinker.

His curveball also has the makings of a very effective major league pitch and it features an 80 grade spin rate but hasn’t been very effective this year due to May’s general inability to locate it consistently. May is throwing his curveball about 3.7 MPH faster on average this year, but the pitch now features much less vertical break. Despite some good characteristics, May hasn’t had much success using the curveball yet in his Major League career.

May also mixes in a very occasional change-up and four-seamer. While May has already had success at the Major League level, if he is able to improve his command we could definitely be looking at a another future front of the rotation type starter for the Dodgers.

Ross Stripling

2020 Statistics

The Dodgers 5th round pick from the 2012 draft has now pitched in parts of 5 big league seasons for the Dodgers. While he has solid Major League career numbers he has gotten off to a slow start this year and the strikeout numbers are down and the hard contact against him is way up. While Stripling has relied on a high groundball rate in the past, opponents are hitting the ball on the ground much less frequently against him this year. Perhaps Striplings higher vertical release point has something to do with the results he has seen this year.

His most frequently used offering is his low 90’s four seam fastball. The velocity is actually up over a full MPH for Stripling on his four-seam fastball this year, but he has struggled with his fastball command at times. While Stripling has primarily worked up in the zone with his fastball during his career, he has not been working up with as much this year which is perhaps part of the reason for the pitches decrease on overall effectiveness this year.

His curveball is his most frequently used secondary at 26.9%. While it has been an effective pitch for him at generating swings and misses in the past using it’s vertical drop of around 60 inches on average, he has not been as successful using it for getting swings and misses his year.

Stripling has decreased his slider usage to below 10% this year and now uses his change-up as his 3rd most used offering. The change-up features good deception off his fastball and this, combined with the movement, has made it one of his most effective offerings overall this year.

Julio Urias

2020 Statistics

I’ve long been a believer in Urias since his his days as a 16 year old carving up a historically loaded 2013 Midwest League. Despite the early minor league dominance at such a young age, Urias does have a pretty long track record of injuries at this point in his career and missed parts of the 2015, 2017 and 2018 with injuries before having his innings limited during the 2019 as he worked his way back from shoulder surgery. Urias also missed 20 games due to suspension in 2019. Even though the left-hander has been pitching in Majors since 2016, Urias just recently turned 24. While Urias doesn’t feature huge swing and miss stuff, he has always done well pitching to soft contact and he ranks in the 94th percentile in hard hit % and in the 78th percentile in exit velocity against this year.

In terms of arsenal, Urias relies on his four seam fastball nearly 60% of the time. He was working primarily 93-95 touching 96 with his four seam fastball during his start against San Diego on August 13th.

Urias’ second most frequently used offering is his change-up, which features good deception of his fastball and movement and he has primarily used the pitch to generate weak contact. Even though he has increased the usage rate of his change-up this year, he has only been throwing the pitch to right-handed batters. It’s a very good pitch and it has been his most effective offering overall this season.

While Urias increased his slider usage last season, it has returned to it’s normal career levels again this year. While the slider has an above average spin rate, it features a lower spin efficiency meaning that the pitch relies on more gyro spin to create the downward movement it features. Last year the slider was his best pitch at generating swings and misses.

His arsenal also features an occasional curveball, which was his second most offering in his debut season but he has thrown less than 10% of the time every year since 2017.

Other Potential Major League Options

Dennis Santana

2020 Statistics

A 2012 International Free Agent signing, Santana has strictly worked out of the bullpen over his 18 career major league innings spanning 3 separate seasons. Santana will likely be a reliever in the Majors but he did work primarily as a starter for most of his minor league career, so I will at least mention him.

Santana first came up to the big leagues in 2018, but was shut down with a shoulder ailment in June of that year and wouldn’t return until the 2019 season He struggled in his split time between the Majors and AAA during 2019 and there were some concerns he had lingering effects from his 2018 shoulder injury. After struggling as a starter for much of last year he was converted to a full time reliever in August.

Santana relies primarily on his sinker/slider combination, but he will mix in the occasional change-up against left-handed batters. He has made some changes this year as he has decreased his sinker usage and starter using his slider as his most frequently used offering. His sinker velocity is up this year and he was working consistently in the 94-96 range touching 97 with impressive movement during his relief outing on August 16th.

The slider for Santana looks slightly re-designed last year as the pitch is being thrown harder, with less spin and movement. He has generally done a better job of consistently locating the slider this year and this has resulted in weaker contact and more effective results using it overall.

Dennis Santana Slider 2019
Dennis Santana Slider 2020

Starters on IL

Alex Wood

Career Statistics

Wood was acquired by the Dodgers via trade in the middle of the 2015 season and would spend parts of the next 4 seasons in Los Angeles before getting traded to Cincinnati prior to the 2019 season. Wood reunited with the Dodgers this past offseason on a one-year, $4 million deal.

During his Dodgers tenure from 2015-2018, Wood started 74 games appearing in 434.2 innings with a 3.46 ERA, a 3.50 FIP, a 3.53 xFIP with a 22.3% K% and a 6.7% BB%. Wood has a long track record of injuries and he was placed on the IL after only 1 start this year with shoulder inflammation. There were a lot of red flags that something was wrong with Wood in this first start as his vertical release point was down over a quarter inch from last season. Wood is back pitching to live hitters and pitching in sim games so it looks like a return is likely a few weeks out barring any set backs.

Wood’s primarily used offering is his sinker that’s primarily 89-90 touching 91. Obviously a sinker thrown in velocity range needs to be located at the bottom of the strike zone to be effective. Wood has been steadily decreasing his sinker usage over the last few years and has been steadily increasing the usage on both his change-up and curveball. This has resulted in Wood steadily decreasing his groundball rates and increasing his strikeout rates.

Though Wood isn’t very exciting at this stage, he does project to re-enter the rotation when he is ready to return.

Jimmy Nelson

Career Statistics

The 6 year Major League veteran was signed to a one-year deal by the Dodgers back in January. He had an impressive break out during the 2017 season but his career has been derailed by injuries since then. He underwent surgery in early July to fix lingering back issues and realistically probably won’t be an option for the Dodgers rotation moving forward.

Restricted List

David Price

Career Statistics

The Major League veteran opted out of the 2020 season in early July citing health concerns for himself and his family. Price was acquired by the Dodgers as part of the offseason block buster that also sent Mookie Betts from Boston to Los Angeles. Price still has a couple years on his contract and will likely be a factor in the Dodgers rotation starting next year.

Alternative Site Options

Tony Gonsolin

The Dodgers 9th round pick from 2016 was optioned to the teams alternative site on August 19th despite 3 good starts from him at the Major League level which saw him allow 0 earned runs over 14.2 innings. This move was somewhat expected however given the Dodger’s current rotation depth and the lack of need for a 6th starter given the upcoming schedule.

Gonsolin will primarily rely on his mid-90’s four-seam fastball that plays up due to his deceptive delivery but he has thrown his splitter almost as frequently this year at the Major League level. Gonsolin also mixes in an occasional slider that added over 2 inches of vertical drop and over an inch of horizontal movement this year and a curveball. Both of these offerings are effective at getting swings and misses but he threw both less than 10% of the time this year.

Gonsolin has the arsenal that should allow him to be a mid-rotation starter at the Major League level. Given his success there this year already, there is a very good chance we see Gonsolin back at the Major League level this year.

Mitch White

Another member of the Dodgers great 2016 draft as he was the Dodgers 2nd round pick out of Santa Clara University. He split last year between Double-A and Triple-A. While the results weren’t very impressive last year (5.09 ERA, 4.72 FIP over 93.2 innings), he has always been a high strikeout guy and that trend certainly continued last year as he struck out 26.6% of opponent batters.

White has shown a good pitch mix that includes a fastball, slider and curveball that are all about average to above average pitches with a change-up that lags behind the others. White has worked primarily as a starter throughout his pro-career and projects as a potential back-end starter at the Major League Level but there is certainly reliever risk in his profile. White will need to find a way to consistently stay healthy and show more consistent stuff if he wishes to reach his ceiling.

White was called up to the Dodgers active roster for 1 day in early August, but didn’t make his Major League debut. There is a certainly a strong chance we see him back in the Majors making his major league debut at some point this summer.

Josiah Gray

Originally drafted by Cincinnati in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft, Gray was acquired by the Dodgers as part of the return that sent Alex Wood to the Reds in December 2018.

Gray spent his first year in the Dodgers organization across 3 different levels (A, A+ and AA) and performed well enough at all 3 stops to cement himself firmly amongst the top 100 prospects in all of baseball. Gray didn’t convert to being a full time pitcher until the summer after his sophomore year of college and the strides he has made on the mound in a short amount of time are very encouraging.

He has a four pitch arsenal highlighted by an overpowering mid-90’s fastball and the command that leads many, myself included, to confidently project him as a mid rotation starter. He isn’t as likely to make his major league debut as White but he is certainly a guy that will be pitching for the Dodgers sooner (likely 2021) rather than later.

Edwin Uceta

A member of the Dodgers 2016 International Free Agency class, he spent the 2019 split between A+ and AA. Despite some inconsistent results so far during his pro career, the 2019 season was a solid one for Uceta as he pitched to a 2.77 ERA and a 3.77 FIP over 123.1 innings.

While Uceta’s stuff has made strides in recent years, his stuff still isn’t particularly overpowering but does plays up due to his fast arm action and overall deceptive delivery. His occasional struggles with command are mostly derived from the max effort delivery. Uceta departed summer camp in the early stages for undisclosed reasons and still hasn’t returned.

Despite working mostly as a starter during his pro career and carrying back end potential, I find it much more realistic he’ll end up pitching out of the bullpen long term. Uceta looks to be more in the conversation for a major league appearance sometime during the 2021 season.

Uceta was recently suspended by the Dodgers for breaking protocol at the teams alternative site.

Andre Jackson

Jackson was drafted by Dodgers in the 12th round of the 2017 draft out of Utah after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the entire 2017 season. Perhaps another marvel of the Dodgers fantastic player development machine, he spent the 2019 season split between the Dodgers A affiliate and A+ affiliate. Over 114.2 total minor league innings last year he had a 3.06 ERA. He stands out for his K% rate which was the highest in the entire Dodger organization for pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched.

Overall, Jackson has a fastball that has reportedly been clocked up to 98 and also showed a good curveball and change-up during my viewings in the Midwest League last year that should allow him to stick in a rotation long-term. He will still need to improve the command and consistency on his off speed pitches to reach his ceiling. Even though he was included in the Dodgers player pool but he probably won’t realistically be a factor at the Major League level until 2022.

Gerardo Carrillo

A Dodgers 2016 International Free Agent signing out of Mexico, Carrillo spent the entire 2019 season with the Dodgers High-A affiliate in Rancho Cucamonga. While Carrillo had a breakout 2018 season, the results weren’t very impressive for Carrillo in 2019 as he had a 5.44 ERA with a 4.49 FIP over 86 total innings pitched. While the results weren’t particularly impressive primarily due to his lack of command and control (5.34 BB/9),

Carrillo has still flashed the stuff that have plenty dreaming on his potential. He has a lively fastball that has been in the upper 90’s with reports of him even touching 100 in the fall league last year. In terms of secondary’s, Carillo throws a good curveball and slider that both have the makings of very effective big league pitches. He also mixes in an occasional change-up but this pitch is definitely his least reliable.

If Carrillo can show the ability to more consistently throw strikes and develop a better change-up he has mid-rotation potential. He is still only 21 and doesn’t look to factor into the plans at the Major League level until 2022 at the earliest.

Michael Grove

The Dodgers 2nd round pick in the 2018 draft out of West Virginia. Grove underwent Tommy John during the 2017 season that kept him out of competitive action until making his pro debut during the 2019 season. He struggled during pro debut season as he had an ERA north of 6 over 51.2 innings. Although, he is riskier in the fact that he will be 24 in December and has yet to have any sort success in pro ball, he has shown the stuff that allows to believe in his major league potential. In his return from Tommy John last year he still showed good stuff at times and the 31.6% K% rate is certainly a statement of that.

His most primarily used offering is his fastball which works in the low 90’s and is fairly straight but plays up due to his deceptive over the top delivery. His most effective off-speed pitch is a downward breaking curveball that he uses to get a majority of his swings and misses. I think he most likely ends up as a reliever long term, but Grove is a potential back-end guy but will need to see his command take great strides forward and also some improvements out of one of his other secondary’s if he wishes to reach his ceiling. He isn’t likely to be a factor at the Major League level until 2022 at the earliest.

Ryan Pepiot

The Dodgers third round pick in the 2019 draft he was sent to the Arizona League to make his pro debut but was quickly promoted to Midwest League after only 5 innings. He started 9 games with Great Lakes in the Midwest League and did well pitching to a 2.45 ERA over 18.1 innings.

Pepiot is most known for his mid-80’s change-up that he is able to fool hitters with both it’s deception and movement. Pepiot also throws a 91-93 MPH fastball and a inconsistent curve and slider that both look around average but he will need to learn how to locate these pitches better. While Pepiot is still a couple years away, he is another guy that has a shot at pitching in a Major League rotation someday.

Landon Knack

The Dodgers 2nd round pick from the 2020 draft out of East Tennessee State. Knack started 19 games for East Tennessee State, after spending a few years in JUCO, and had good results pitching to a 2.29 ERA over 122 innings. Despite being drafted this year, Knack recently turned 23 due to the fact he was drafted as a 5th year senior.

Knack’s calling card is his upper 90’s fastball but he also features an array of secondary pitches and the command that have some projecting him to the rotation, there is certainly reliever risk however.

For a more in-depth write-up of Knack be sure to check out our Dodgers Draft Analysis from Zack Silverman

Bobby Miller

The Dodgers 2020 first round pick out of Louisville. Miller appeared in 41 innings during his college career at Louisville and had a 3.28 ERA over 170 innings. Miller’s fastball consistently works into the mid-90’s with his lively fastball and he also throws a devastating slider. For Miller to reach his ceiling as a legitimate mid-rotation type he will need to show development of his third pitch and show improved command/control.

For a more in-depth write-up of Miller check out our Dodgers Draft Analysis.

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