(Photo Credit: Tony Capobianco)
As the number of starting pitching options appear to be dwindling with each passing day, the Los Angeles Dodgers may be forced to dip into their reserve of talent at the Triple-A level, where a pair of right-handed pitching prospects seem to be throwing the best baseball of their respective careers.
Just one week after taking a no-hitter into the seventh frame and pitching his first-ever nine-inning complete game, 23-year-old righty Trevor Oaks was honored by being named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week for August 15-21.
Oaks held El Paso scoreless until the ninth inning of the contest, surrendering just one run and three hits with no walks by game’s end. He threw a total of 106 pitches, 78 for strikes. In the effort, he set career highs with both innings pitched and strikeouts. His 11 strikeouts also marked a season high by a Oklahoma City pitcher. Oaks became the eighth PCL pitcher this season to complete a three-hitter and became just the third pitcher in all of MiLB with 14 total wins on the year.
Aside from racking up a franchise-leading 14 wins with a 2.73 ERA across three levels of the farm this year, the Cal Baptist product also won Texas League Pitcher of the Week in early June while with Double-A Tulsa, in addition to being selected to the league’s All-Star squad.
And Oaks wan’t the only Oklahoma City pitcher to flash hints of brilliance over the past week.
(Photo Credit: Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman)
Giving the impression of being fueled by Oaks’ most recent success, 24-year-old Jose De Leon took his own no-hitter into the seventh inning just seven days later at New Orleans, tossing what could be easily considered his best outing of the year.
After throwing 88 total pitches and striking out 10 batters while allowing just one hit with no walks, De León was replaced by reliever Jacob Rhame in the bottom of the 8th inning with a 7-0 lead.
Per Eric Stephen of True Blue LA, De León has lasted at least seven innings in three straight outings as well as four of his last five starts, besides having two straight games with double-digit strikeouts.
The Southern University product was considered by many to be the Dodgers’ second-best pitching prospect in the preseason, and has a 6-1 record with a 2.86 ERA in 15 starts for OKC this year, including 98 strikeouts and 20 walks in 79-2/3 innings of work.
While Scott Kazmir and Bud Norris both materialized from Monday’s contest against the Reds with possible health concerns, Rich Hill and Brett Anderson are fighting through a blister epidemic, and the organization may be forced to use either Oaks or De León and cash in an option year, rather than wait nine days until the rosters expand on September 1. And that’s not even considering the difficult maneuvering it would take to add one of the two to the 40-man roster.
In the meantime, Kenta Maeda, having the luxury of an extra day’s rest between most starts lately, remains the healthiest of the Dodgers’ starting pitching options, alongside rookies Ross Stripling and Julio Urias. Both Stripling and Urías, however, are presumably operating on predetermined innings limits, and are being watched with careful eyes.
Right-hander Brock Stewart is already a member of the 40-man roster, and may be considered an option until a few of the veterans regain their health. In his most recent start, Stewart threw five innings of one-hit, shutout ball against Albuquerque last Friday.
Although resident ace Clayton Kershaw is targeting a return date to afford him several starts yet during the regular season, Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts has already said that lefty Hyun-jin Ryu has been shut down for the entire season, while the seriousness of Brandon McCarthy‘s injury is still vague, as no timetable on a potential return has yet to be revealed.
Keeping all that in mind, it’s very difficult to guess the starting rotation lineup for the coming week, much less for the series against the Giants. With the way things are lining up now, Maeda will throw on Tuesday followed by Hill on Wednesday and Stripling on Thursday.
Beyond that, the waters seem to be a bit murky, yet both Oaks and De León will certainly be ready if the Dodgers decide to call.