(Photo Credit: cbssports.com)
Based on the innovative and masterful ways that president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has manipulated the 25 and 40-man rosters so far during the 2016 season, fans of the Dodgers will probably be in store for a few surprises when the team begins to expand its roster as soon as Thursday.
Just as an example, in his most recent exploitation, Friedman optioned rotation stalwart Kenta Maeda to the Arizona League Dodgers to allow rookie Brock Stewart to be promoted and start the series finale against the Cubs on Sunday. When Maeda was recalled to throw in the opener at Denver on Monday, Stewart was optioned to Double-A Tulsa — not Triple-A Oklahoma City — which in essence allows him to be activated sooner because the Drillers likely won’t participate in the Texas League playoffs while OKC has already clinched a spot in the PCL postseason.
Looking at the state of the 40-man roster over the next few weeks, fans can possibly expect a handful of complex moves with the expansion at its peak, in addition to a few players nearing returns from the disabled list.
Undoubtedly, the name that frequents conversations the most among fans regarding players who may be called up is righty pitching prospect Jose De Leon.
After being held back early in the season with a tender ankle and an attempt to save innings for the fall, De León has put together a very impressive showing for Oklahoma City. In 16 starts on the year, the 24-year-old has tallied a 7-1 record with a 2.61 ERA, a .938 WHIP and an 11.6 K/9. Over his last six starts, he has a 1.30 ERA, with 46 strikeouts and four walks in 41-2/3 innings of work. Additionally, he has an active scoreless streak of 17-2/3 straight innings, dating back to Aug. 17.
In his most recent start for OKC, De León fanned a season-high 13 batters with no walks and just four hits allowed over 7-2/3 shutout innings, leading the club to a 6-1 victory over Colorado Springs and an American Northern divisional title.
All that said, there could be a few complications in bringing up De León to the bigs this year, most specifically creating the necessary space on the 40-man roster. Manager Dave Roberts has already gone on record saying that the organization won’t promote the youngster unless there’s an apparent need for him.
“There’s been discussions but also there has got to be a need and between now and when their season ends if it makes sense for him to come up here. If there is an opportunity for him to pitch, then it makes sense, but if there is no need, then it doesn’t make sense,” Roberts said on Sunday. “Jose has really pitched well, and so we’re excited about his development.”
Three veteran Dodgers starters — resident ace Clayton Kershaw, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson — will be throwing to live hitters from Rancho Cucamonga in a simulated setting at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday. Team officials have said that Kersh could be activated shortly thereafter.
While rookies Julio Urias and Ross Stripling are quickly approaching the ceilings of their presumed innings limits for the season, De León could conceivably be used to bridge the gap until the vets are ready to go. The diagnostics are difficult, though, being that there’s really no opportunity for the vets to rehab on the farm with the schedules about ready to end or move onto the playoffs.
As most of the moves will begin to trickle in towards the end of the week, a promotion for De León will simply be a matter of timing based on the returns of Kershaw and others, as well as creating a roster spot. If the healing of McCarthy, Anderson or Scott Kazmir is slowed down for any reason, there’s a good chance De León gets the nod.
Either way, there’s no question that he’ll be ready to throw if given the chance.