As a whole, quite a few factors will determine how the starting rotation of the Dodgers compares to those of others around baseball as the 2017 campaign progresses. First and foremost, good health is particularly critical, while overall stamina and endurance will also play key roles in the team’s prosperity. The presence of resident ace Clayton Kershaw probably warrants a Top 20 MLB ranking in itself, yet without the luxury of a true No. 2 starter, the Dodgers slide somewhere right in the middle of the Top 10, at least in the eyes of most informed fans.
All three of Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy and Alex Wood have had their fare share of struggles with injuries throughout their respective careers. To hope that each one will make 30 starts on the year would be wishful thinking, but the ability for each to take the bump 22-25 times during the upcoming season would certainly be a welcoming blessing. As for Kenta Maeda, the righty has already proven that he has the goods to succeed in the bigs, yet he still needs to show he has the season-long stamina to endure the demands of the playoffs in October. Scott Kazmir played a big factor in the club’s success in the first half of 2016, but the high mileage on his arm could eventually prevent him from being a productive front-line starter once again. In addition, high quality effectiveness from youngster Julio Urias could be an X-factor for Los Angeles during the stretch run of the season.
There’s no question the Dodgers have the depth to overcome any hurdles or roadblocks encountered along the way, yet as good as the rotation appears on paper, there are indeed at least a handful around baseball that may be a little bit better. Before we decide exactly where the Dodgers’ rotation ranks as a unit, let’s take a look at a few of the more elite starting crews around the majors.
Boston Red Sox — The original plan of the Red Sox was to run out newly acquired Chris Sale, David Price, reigning Cy Yound Award winner Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright to start the season, if Price was able to battle through the problems with his strained elbow. The first three make up arguably the best starting trio in the bigs, yet because both Pomeranz and Wright were selected to last season’s AL All-Star squad, it further supports the debate that Boston has the best staff in baseball. Even with Eduardo Rodriguez taking Price’s spot, Boston’s still ranks among the five best.
Cleveland Indians — The Tribe’s rotation is a bit reminiscent of the Dodgers’ in the sense that it could be considered overachieving without the presence of more than one established superstar. While Cleveland’s very balanced crew projects to consist of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin, the fact that the Indians marched directly into the World Series without the injured arms of Carrasco and Salazar last year speaks volumes.
Chicago Cubs — Speaking of the World Series, the Cubs’ rotation remains unblemished, yet with the addition of former Dodger Brett Anderson, Chicago got a little bit deeper. As far as the team’s Top 5 go, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey and Mike Montgomery are among as strong as they come.
San Francisco Giants — The talent of the Giants should play huge in the race for the 2017 NL West Divisional crown. San Francisco will line up Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore and Matt Cain, and will no doubt give the Dodgers all they can handle. Add in the presence of southpaw Ty Blach, and fans of the Giants can argue that they have the best starting pitching foundation in baseball. A full year with the lefty Moore could be the biggest game changer in the end.
Washington Nationals — As the Nats are expected to begin the year with an impressive five of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross, a healthy Strasburg beside an effective Scherzer will presumably mark the best one-two punch in the National League. Should Washington require depth, righty A.J. Cole will be waiting patiently along the fringe.
New York Mets — Injuries destroyed the Mets’ chances of making another run at a World Series last season, but on paper, a healthy starting crew of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz could easily be considered as the best in the bigs. Throw in Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman and the red-hot Seth Lugo competing for the fifth spot, and a depth is created which could produce a highly successful run in the 2017 postseason, so long as the offense produces.
In the end, the Dodgers probably rank just outside of these six, at least in the preseason, and considering that all the staffs are free of any major injuries. Los Angeles certainly has the talent, but how management deals with the expected obstacles throughout the regular season should ultimately define the club’s destiny. And, if the front office crew decides to pursue a legit co-ace or No. 2 starting pitcher sometime before July’s trade deadline, the Dodgers’ rotation may conceivably vault somewhere into the best two or three in the game.
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