Dodgers Roster: A Few Random Thoughts About Starting Pitching Depth

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

While many fans of the Dodgers consider the shocking news of Hyun-Jin Ryu‘s groin injury as a huge blow to the starting rotation, the fact that it’s conceivable he may return sometime after the All-Star break could prove to be a huge boost during the stretch run of the season.

To have muscle fibers tear completely off the bone and eventually return to the bump within 90 days is extremely impressive, although by no means will the club rely on the ballpark return date as being concrete.

The way it stands right now, young righty Walker Buehler will be recalled to start the opener against the Padres in Mexico on Friday, followed by Kenta Maeda in the second game on Saturday. Rich Hill is expected to be activated from the disabled list for the finale on Sunday after spending a few weeks on the shelf due to complications from a cracked fingernail. Clayton Kershaw will start the opener against the Diamondbacks at home on Tuesday after the team has a day off on Monday.

Buehler should have a semi-permanent spot in the rotation for now, despite the many organizational rumblings during spring camp that his innings limit for 2018 would fall somewhere around 150 frames. Team management is still being cautious with the 23-year-old after he endured Tommy John surgery not long after being selected in the 2015 draft.

So what does the depth chart look like after Buehler? Well, we know that righty swingman Brock Stewart is always an option. Stewart was seemingly recalled last week to fill Hill’s spot in the rotation last Monday, yet Ross Stripling ended up getting the spot start while Stewart was used in relief, subsequently being sent back down to Oklahoma City one day later. The team doesn’t appear to be firm on a direction with Stewart, as he has thrown mainly as a reliever in his recent big league call-ups while being used a starter at the Triple-A level. Still, the option is there if the club should need it, as is the recourse of using Stripling.

Beyond that, things start to get a bit grim. While there’s indeed plenty of talent on the farm, the highly touted prospects are currently sitting at the Double-A level or below, and some are even finishing up stints at extended spring training in efforts to conserve the lives of their arms.

Manny Banuelos is leading the charge at the Triple-A level, sporting a 3-0 record with a 2.16 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. He has struck out an impressive 29 batters over 25 innings in five starts. Banuelos isn’t on the team’s 40-man roster; however, spots shouldn’t be too hard to create considering that Corey Seager will be shifted to the 60-day disabled list soon. Ryu is another option to move to the 60-day DL at some point down the road.

34-year-old journeyman Guillermo Moscoso has moved into the rotation at OKC, having recently thrown six innings of shutout ball against Memphis on Thursday night. 30-year-old Justin DeFratus is another veteran option. The righty began the season at Tulsa and after being promoted to OKC in mid-April, making his first 2018 Triple-A start against Round Rock three weeks ago. 27-year-old southpaw Tyler Pill and 26-year-old righty Alec Asher are the other memebers of the OKC rotation. None of these pitchers—besides Stewart—are on the organization’s 40-man roster.

One of the dark-horse options for big league action could be 22-year-old righty flamethrower Dennis Santana, who has emerged as the ace of the Double-A Tulsa rotation. He’s on a strict pitch count so far this season, though, not having thrown more than 80 pitches during any of his six starts. Over an even 28 innings of work this year, he has posted a 2.25 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and an outstanding 11.89 K/9. Santana is on the 40-man, and if he doesn’t see any time beforehand, will almost certainly be recalled for some type of action when rosters expand in early September.

One other longshot option is right-handed swing man Tom Koehler, who was sent to the disabled list in late March with a shoulder capsule injury. The 31-year-old Bronx native made 12 starts for the Marlins in 2017 before being shifted to the bullpen after being acquired by the Blue Jays after the trade deadline. Koehler will be eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list at the end of May.

The target date for a return from 21-year-old lefty Julio Urias still appears to be sometime in July.


8 thoughts on “Dodgers Roster: A Few Random Thoughts About Starting Pitching Depth

  1. Pretty thin pickings there although I think there might be some hope for Banuelos. As I have said before, I have no clue what they’re doing with poor Brock Stewart other than potentially screwing with his career. I’m guessing we’ll see a Darvish-like trade sometime before the trade deadline and quite possibly a lot sooner because we all know it’s just a matter of time until Hill or Wood go back on the DL, even if for just a short while. If Buehler pitches well, they’ll want to make sure to save some innings for October, so there is definitely a need here for a proven starter. Before the season, they were counting on having Ryu and possibly Urias. I’m guessing they won’t be able to count on either of them this year. I also hope they don’t get desperate enough to bring up Santana before he’s truly ready. Who would have thought we’d be missing McCarthy this early in the season. He’s now 4-0.

      1. At this very moment, I’m not sure the Cards would trade Norris for Kenley. 6 Saves, 0.89 WHIP, 1.76 ERA, 12.6 k/9. I think he’s replaced Holland as their closer, at least for the time being. No, I think we need to go after someone we can actually get. How about Font?

  2. I wouldn’t mind seeing Banuelos getting a spot start or two with the Dodgers this season. It seems he’s become their latest reclamation project after the Braves pretty much cut him loose. I distinctly remember him being among the top Yankees pitching prospects some time back (along with current Yankee set-up man Dellin Betances) before TJ surgery left his pro-ball career in limbo up to this point. Too bad he wasn’t called up specifically for this international 3-game series against the Padres as he’s a native of Mexico and would probably be excited to pitch in front of his fellow countrymen.

    1. I’m certain he’ll get a shot at some point when another starter hits the DL for whatever reason. By that time, Santana should already be in Triple-A throwing against some more experienced hitters.

  3. Well written informative articles here.

    This write up confirms what I’ve felt about our staring staff for some time – none are 7 inning studs, most are good arms that can do what it is the Friedman Zaidi model calls for – 5-6 innings of 3.5 or less, then turn it over to a deep and capable bullpen. It ain’t as sexy as in their prime’s Kershaw and Greinke, but it’s a plan with purpose. We know how our starters have been for 3 years now. With Kershaw having some mileage he’s now one of them, or almost one of them. Though the design doesn’t comport with my baseball background I do understand how this is supposed to execute. I happen to like many of the bullpen arms, including the not so popular Baez. García has a great arm and if Alexander, Cingrani and Koehler get it together, this could actually work. Glass feels half full to me.

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