As a whole, there are a number of factors which will determine how the starting rotation of the Dodgers stacks up to others around baseball as the 2018 campaign progresses. First and foremost, good health is 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 15 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, Hyun-Jin Ryu 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 20-24 times during the upcoming season would certainly be a welcome blessing. As for Kenta Maeda, he 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 rigorous campaign. Some even believe he may be destined for the bullpen, despite management’s clear intentions of keeping him in the rotation.
The Dodgers seemingly have the depth to overcome any hurdles or roadblocks encountered along the way, but this year the club may need to count on the kids to pull their weight, at least until the trade deadlines approach later in the summer. In the meantime, all eyes will be on arms like Walker Buehler, Brock Stewart and Dennis Santana. 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.
Houston Astros—The Astros had a crew good enough to win the 2017 World Series, and with the addition of Gerrit Cole, the team stepped-up their championship rotation yet another notch. Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton will certainly be a tough rotation to top. Beyond that, righty Brad Peacock is a competent sixth man should the need arise for any depth.
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. As Cleveland’s very balanced crew projects to consist of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin, their prospective consistency may even be better than that of Houston. Mike Clevinger and Shawn Morimando will provide extra depth, if needed.
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 A.J. Cole, a healthy Strasburg beside an effective Scherzer will presumably mark the best one-two punch in the National League. Should Washington require depth, Austin Voth and Erick Fedde will be waiting patiently along the fringe.
Chicago Cubs—Many pundits believed that the Cubs would slide back a notch after Jake Arrieta hit free agency, but they maintained their respectable stature by signing righty Yu Darvish over the winter. And while Chicago may lack a true No. 1, the consistency of Darvish, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Tyler Chatwood and Jose Quintana may be enough for another playoff push.
Boston Red Sox—If the BoSox can find a way to stay healthy, their big three of David Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello may very well be the best in the MLB. Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright round out the starting five, with Eduardo Rodriguez and Hector Velazquez waiting on the fringe.
New York Yankees—Like the Cubs, the Yankees may lack the presence of a true ace, but it’s hard to argue that a rotation of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery and CC Sabathia doesn’t rank among the Top 10 in baseball.
Arizona Diamondbacks—The Snakes may have conceivably had a Top 5 rotation up until the moment that ace Zack Greinke injured his groin, jeopardizing his availability for Opening Day. The remaining crew of Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin and Zack Godley isn’t exactly overpowering, but it may just be potent enough to propel Arizona to another playoff appearance.
In the end, without crunching any hard numbers, the Dodgers probably rank somewhere inside these seven, at least in the preseason, and considering that all the staffs are free of any major injuries. Los Angeles definitely 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 has the financial wherewithal to stay under the tax threshold and pursue a legit power arm sometime before the summer deadlines, the Dodgers’ rotation may conceivably vault somewhere into the best two or three in the game.