Even though the best available arms at Oklahoma City will undeniably be called upon more than once during the upcoming campaign, if the big league starting rotation of the Dodgers somehow stays relatively healthy for the majority of the season, the projected Triple-A rotation certainly has both the required talent and potential to be among the most elite in recent history.
The battle for the fifth spot in the major league rotation will undoubtedly have an impact on the way the OKC pitching staff shapes up, as Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart will all presumably compete for one starting slot during 2017 Cactus League play. Consequently, any forthcoming last minute trades will obviously affect both prospective rosters.
Assuming that management follows through with the idea of holding him back at extended spring training in Glendale, Julio Urias will be absent from both rotations for approximately the four to five weeks of the season. That being said, it shouldn’t take long to completely stretch out the southpaw, so a cameo or two for the OKC crew may be in the cards come late April or early May.
And it’s probably also safe to guess that Hyun-Jin Ryu won’t play into either rotation equation early, as the Dodgers will likely take things slow again this spring, making sure he’s 100 percent or close before even being considered for the big league rotation. Depending on how he throws early on and if management elects to begin his season at extended spring training with Urias, Ryu may see action at several different levels of the farm before heading back to the majors.
Figuring that both Kazmir and McCarthy remain healthy through spring camp and earn spots in the major league rotation, Wood will headline the Oklahoma City starting five, followed by a potent two-three punch of Stripling and Stewart. Youngsters Chase De Jong and Trevor Oaks are solid bets to bring up the back-end of the OKC rotation, with arms such as Josh Sborz and Fabio Castillo lingering on the fringe.
Wood made 10 starts through May of 2016 before he was forced to the disabled list to rest his elbow for a month because of an apparent posterior impingement. Ultimately, he underwent an arthroscopic debridement procedure on his elbow and missed an additional eight weeks. Although it appeared as if his season was finished, Wood persevered through rehab and went on to make four impressive relief appearances of shutout ball down the stretch of the regular season, eventually earning a spot on the NLCS roster against the Cubs last October. If he’s free of injury and his mechanics are in full tune, there’s no question he’s among the Top 4 arms in the organization.
Stripling surprised the entire fan base of the Dodgers and earned a spot in the 2016 major league rotation right out of spring camp. The Pennsylvania born righty went on to appear in 22 big league games, including 14 starts. Over an even 100 innings pitched, Strip logged a 3.96 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 30 walks. He also made five appearances for the team during its 2016 postseason run.
Besides his seven appearances in the majors, the 25-year-old Stewart went 9-3 with a 1.68 ERA in 20 minor league starts across three levels of the farm in 2016. He made nine starts each with Double-A Tulsa and Oklahoma City after two starts with Single-A Rancho, logging 126 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 118 total innings.
De Jong, 22, was selected as the Double-A Texas League Pitcher of the Year, honored by the league as a mid and post-season All-Star, and was named by Baseball America as a Double-A Classification All-Star in 2016 after combining to go 15-5 with a 2.82 ERA in 26 starts with Tulsa and OKC.
Oaks racked up 14 wins to go along with a 2.73 ERA across three levels of the farm last season. For Oklahoma City, the 23-year-old righty was 5-1 with a 2.99 ERA over 10 starts in 63 innings of work. He started the year at Rancho Cucamonga, where he went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts. With the Drillers, he went 8-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 10 starts.
In 20 games for the Quakes last year which included 19 starts, the 23-year-old Sborz went 8-4, registering a 2.66 ERA with 108 strikeouts over 108-1/3 innings of work, eventually earning him a promotion to Tulsa for the stretch run of the regular season. He also merited a non-roster invite to the big league side of camp during the upcoming spring training period.
Please be sure to check back frequently, as we plan on laying out one additional updated edition of our projected rotation as the spring months progress and the beginning of the 2017 regular season draws closer.