(Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)
After taking a quick look at which position players we thought would begin the postseason on the Dodgers‘ NLDS roster yesterday, today we move over to the pitching staff to project the pitchers that will make up the starting rotation and bullpen.
Without going into much detail about the rotation, we all know that resident ace Clayton Kershaw, Japanese righty Kenta Maeda and veteran southpaw Rich Hill will be the headliners. Kersh showed the Dodger community on Saturday that he’s almost back to his normal self, while Maeda has been the stalwart of the club’s rotation for the entire season. Hill has shown several glimpses of his capabilities, with the near no-hitter against the Marlins just two weeks ago at the forefront of his best performances.
And if you ask Kershaw who would be the Dodgers’ best option for a fourth game, he’d probably just smirk at you and walk away, knowing there’s no doubt he’d make the start if the series was on the line. After all, he’s done it several times in the past. But in this instance, management must err on the side of caution and carry a fourth starter who could also double-up as a long man in relief if needed.
While southpaw starter Scott Kazmir re-injured himself in his quest to return for the playoffs, Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy are likely running out of time to stretch themselves out properly and fine tune their mechanics. After the dust settles, it’s the four rookies — Ross Stripling, Julio Urias, Brock Stewart and Jose De Leon — who are best suited to fill the fourth starter/swing man slot.
De León is probably the freshest, Urías the most skillful, with Stripling being the most prepared mentally. In the end, it was almost a blind choice, but we went with Stripling just because he’s been kept loose out of the pen recently, and he’s been with the team for the entire ride, showing that he can shoulder the load in any type of game situation. Any other decision wouldn’t surprise us, though, as it is indeed a very tough call to make.
Moving on to the bullpen, Kenley Jansen, Joe Blanton and Grant Dayton are the first three to cement spots without going into any great detail in regards to their stats. As for the remainder of the relief corps, it’s certainly safe to say that the Dodgers will carry at least an eight-man crew, and could consider nine if they want to sacrifice a position player off the bench.
Despite throwing very well down the stretch, we all know that righty Josh Ravin is ineligible to participate in the playoffs, so there’s one quick scratch off the list.
While Adam Liberatore and Louis Coleman have earned spots in our playoff bullpen, neither has been the same since returning from injury last month. Liberatore has thrown to the tune of a 8.64 ERA and a .924 OPSA in exactly eight innings of work since being activated, while Coleman has posted an 8.44 ERA with four walks in 5-1/3 innings.
After redeveloping his changeup during a brief minor league stint last month, righty Pedro Baez appears to be a certainty to nail down a playoff roster spot. Since being recalled on September 6, the 26-year-old had struck out 13 batters in nine innings thrown, and hasn’t yet surrendered a run.
As for the final two spots, it came down to a group of five — Jesse Chavez, Luis Avilan, J.P. Howell, Alex Wood and Josh Fields. First, we chose Chavez just because of his sense of comfort in any type of scenario, long or short. And we ultimately picked Howell based on his track record alone. If management feels that the team has enough lefties with Liberatore and Dayton, we could see Fields chosen over Howell. Plus, with the success that Avilan has shown recently, these spots are not solidified by any means.
So in the end, including our position player projections from yesterday, here’s our initial playoff roster forecast against the Nationals in the opening round of the NLDS:
Outfielders (5) – Josh Reddick, Andre Ethier, Andrew Toles, Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson
Infielders/Outfielders (2) – Enrique Hernandez and Howie Kendrick
Infielders (4) – Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Chase Utley and Adrian Gonzalez
Catchers (2) – Carlos Ruiz and Yasmani Grandal
Starting Rotation (4) – Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Ross Stripling
Bullpen (8) – Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, Louis Coleman, J.P. Howell, Joe Blanton, Jesse Chavez, Grant Dayton and Adam Liberatore
Obviously, based on performance and the potential for injuries, several things could change over the final few games of the regular season, so we’ll make sure to chime in one final time before the club reveals its own version prior to the beginning of the NLDS. In the meantime, please make sure to check back frequently for any new information or updates.