Some Preliminary Thoughts on Triple-A Oklahoma City’s 2019 Starting Rotation

stewart

As many of us know, Triple-A starting rotations are very difficult to predict in the middle of the winter. Even though the big league starting five of the Dodgers has been theoretically set for quite some time, injuries, trades and free agent signings can impact all levels of the farm at any moment. Minor league rosters are often decided in the final hours leading to Opening Day, but that doesn’t prevent us from speculating on how things might look at Oklahoma City right now.

Two of the more notable stories of major league spring training may surround southpaw pitcher Caleb Ferguson and right-handed swing man Brock Stewart. If you missed my column last Thursday, I discussed how Ferguson was undoubtedly one of the best eight relievers in the organization; however, I explained why he’ll probably begin the year in the OKC rotation. And as far as Stewart goes, there could be a chance he may not be with the organization at all come Opening Day.

While I think there’s a small possibility that Stewart breaks camp in the big league bullpen, there’s a better chance he could be designated for assignment, only because he doesn’t have any options on his contract and competition for a major league roster spot is incredibly tight this year. Righty Yimi Garcia also finds himself in the same option scenario as Stewart, but I think Garcia has a much better chance of making the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster than does Stewart.

Of course, there’s also a chance that Brock could clear waivers—if he’s not claimed by any other team—and eventually be outrighted to OKC, giving him a chance to join the starting rotation. Nevertheless, I’m sure there are at least a few clubs around baseball which see some upside in the 27-year-old; so for now, my best guess is that he’ll be gone.

The next biggest question is how the club will handle the left arm of 22-year-old Julio Urias. The youngster was surprisingly selected for the 2018 NLCS and World Series rosters and pitched fairly well in relief. Andrew Friedman told reporters earlier this winter that Urias will definitely be on an innings limit, but he didn’t explain exactly how many innings he’ll pitch or how the strategy will be implemented. Skipper Dave Roberts indicated that Julio would be used in a starting role rather than relief, which suggests that he may be the first pitcher called upon in the event of an injury. That said, it’s safe to say that Urias will either begin the year in either the OKC rotation or extended spring training. We’ll probably know more as spring camp progresses, but for now my guess is that he starts at Oklahoma City. It may also be worth noting that 2019 will be the final option year on his contract, if he does indeed use it.

Another prospective headliner at OKC will be hard-throwing righty Dennis Santana. Still only 22-years-old, the Dominican native made his big league debut last year but was shut down in June with a severe rotator cuff injury. Long term, there could be a possibility that he contributes as a late-inning reliever, but for now, chances are very good that he begins 2019 in the OKC rotation.

Consequently, 28-year-old righty Daniel Corcino was recently signed to a minor league deal and will likely begin his 2019 campaign in the OKC starting five. His contract was purchased by the parent club last year, and he eventually made two big league relief appearances before being released, but he ultimately returned back to Oklahoma City. During his time in the minors last year, he made a total of 24 appearances, 19 of which were starts.

In terms of the final slot, it’s tough to make an educated guess at this point based on the information available. It looks like righty Josh Sborz is finally settling in as a reliever, as will newly acquired right-hander Jaime Schultz. I think there’s a shot that righty Andrew Sopko starts the season at OKC, if only for his level of experience. Flamethrower Yadier Alvarez may also be considered, but he may ultimately begin the year at Tulsa, just so he can establish a solid foundation. Alvarez is another example of a pitcher who may eventually find success as a major league reliever. A few other up-and-comers like Mitchell White and Tony Gonsolin could also be considered to throw at the Triple-A level at some point in the season.

So, for now, OKC’s preliminary starting rotation could look something like this:

  • Julio Urias
  • Dennis Santana
  • Caleb Ferguson
  • Daniel Corcino
  • Andrew Sopko

Of course, there will be plenty of developments as the spring months progress, and I could be completely blown out of the water with my guesses. But, for the time being, it’s as good a start as any.

 

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65 thoughts on “Some Preliminary Thoughts on Triple-A Oklahoma City’s 2019 Starting Rotation

  1. I think OKC will go with a six man rotation bc they have so many guys and they want to limit Urias’ s innings. I definetly see White and Gonsolin as part of that six. The future looks bright for our starters but we need to develop some back end bullpen help. Alvarez has the ability but does he have the makeup

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  2. I like Ferguson, Santana, and Corcino as three of the starters. I still believe there will be one or two more Corcino type AAAA signings. I think Urias starts out the season at extended ST so his work can be better monitored. I do agree with you that he will end up in OKC as a starter, but probably more May than April. I do hope that Sopko gets a shot to be a AAA starter, but he has not taken that starting role with authority quite yet. May, Gonsolin, and White should find their way to OKC once they establish themselves and gain confidence at Tulsa. They will move up as Urias, Ferguson, and Santana move up, or if Sopko or one of the AAAA pitchers to be signed falters.

    I do not think that Yadi Alvarez is a starter. I agree that Yadi goes back to Tulsa to start the season, but I am hoping that he agrees to make the transition to late inning reliever. For one inning, I believe Alvarez can dominate. He loses it after 3-4 innings, and not because of his arm. If he takes to relieving, I think he could rise quickly.

    I agree with you that Sborz is now fully committed to relief, which is where he should have been all along. This will be a big year to see if his conversion is a success at AAA. If so, he could be in LA by summer.

    Brock Stewart, Yimi Garcia, and JT Chargois are all out of options. Stewart stubbornly wants to continue to start, and that is his choice. But he will never start again for LAD. There will be teams like Tampa Bay, KC, Minnesota, Oakland, even SF who can use starters. Brock will get picked up by somebody, and I will wish him well. Both Garcia and Chargois are going to have to pitch their tails off in ST to get back to the LAD bullpen.

    It will be trickle up analysis for starters. How many RC starters are projectable to make the transition to Tulsa in 2019? That will dictate how quickly the Tulsa pitchers can be promoted, which will then dictate how many Manny Banuelos, Justin DeFratus, Tyler Pill, Guillermo Moscoso, and Zach Neal type starters are signed to minor league contracts for AAA and AA.

    Great topic!!

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    1. I was thinking of Holmes as more of a reliever. He went both ways at Rancho, although I believe he may have started all his games in the AFL. I also thought he was mainly a reliever while on the Miami farm.

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      1. I think he will end up as a reliever, but I think they want to see what he can do as a starter. He started his last 9 games with Tulsa and started two playoff games for Tulsa. They may see him as a multi inning non high leverage long reliever type.

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      2. Holmes is 27 and though he started 6 games at AA and pitched well, seems to me at his age in this organization, if he wants to make it with the big club he might want want to focus on being a LOOGY.

        The rest of those guys are names, some of whom we’ve been talking about for quite a while but only a couple show up on top prospect lists. As long as we have veterans like we do, there aren’t many who will get a chance unless there’s an injury, which obviously could happen. Also, when the DL musical chairs starts again this summer whoever is tearing it up in the minors will likely get a couple spot starts.

        We’ve got 6 starters listed on our current depth chart and that’s without Urias. I’m asking the same question this year that I’ve proposed in the past – why not follow the Japanese lead and go with 6 man rotation? None of those 6 are going to start 30 anyway. 6 man rotation gives everyone a shot at 25 starts and with the extra day off every week maybe it would give them more endurance to go 6, allowing all to approach 150 IP, saving wear and tear on the bullpen. It feels like we’ve been moving that direction for a while now.

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    1. Caleb’s 22 and wants to start. He is LH and after Ryu and Hill leave, that leaves Kershaw and Urias as the only LH starters at ML or near ML. John Rooney and Robinson Ortiz are the only LHSP on the Top 30 prospect list. They are going to give him every chance to start. They already know that his floor is as a high leverage multi inning reliever. He can always go back to relief.

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      1. Dennis, agree with you on Leo Crawford. He burst onto the scene in 2016 with Great Lakes, but did not follow that up in 2017. After a slow 2018 start, he was fantastic when he got to RC. Hopefully he gets to start at AA and then we will know what LAD has in him. You are correct, while he is not in the top 30, he is certainly someone who deserves to be followed.

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  3. Without replacing the players we gave away this is what Caesar’s predicts for O/U wins:

    HOU 97.5
    NYY 96.5
    BOS 95.5
    LAD 95
    CLE 91.5

    These are the only teams with over 90. Cubs next at 89.

    No Harper, no Kluber, no Realmuto. The money likes us.

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  4. If Ferguson develops a slider to go with curve and 94-95 fastball he will be lights out. Reminds me a bit of young Kersh. Tho a B version

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      1. I’ll be astonished if Farhan doesn’t move Smith or Watson, or maybe both, depending on what he could get back for them. If Ferguson is going to start the year as a starter in OKC and we aren’t 100% certain that Cingrani is totally healthy and we have questions as to whether Alexander will get his control back and Urias is viewed as a starter it would definitely be nice to have a reliable left hander in the bullpen. Smith would be my first choice but if the cost is ridiculous I would certainly be willing to go after Watson.

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  5. As much as we would like some of Zaidi’s pieces, Giant fans would riot if he did anything to help LA. The Giants just got a 200 million dollar cash infusion as they changed the naming rights to the stadium. Grandal to the Brewers. Great, he will look good in stripes after his crimes behind the dish in LA>

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    1. Your point about helping us is probably correct but the point of a good deal is that both teams are helped by it. He would just have to do the proper PR to convince Giants fans that he got value in the deal that will help far longer than the one year left on Smith’s contract. Shouldn’t be that hard a sell.

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      1. I believe that also. But this kid is really good. I think he and Buehler at some point are going to be the Dodgers 1-2 punch.

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  6. Grandal 1 year $18.25 mil to Milwaukee. That pretty much means it’s the Austin Barnes show now. I’m. It going to be in the popular crowd by saying this but I think LA should have brought Yaz back for one year even if it meant overpaying like the Brewers did. It’s just money and he gives you needed power and thenyou can move on after the season. I think bridges were burned between the two however so it’s all irrelevant.

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    1. You say that now but he also had stretches where he carried the offense on his back. There is no perfect catching situation in baseball but he’s about as good as you can get. At least you knew you had a durable guy back there that could handle the daily grind. Yaz was a well built guy at 6’1” 235, he could easily take the beating that a catcher takes. I believe in Barnes but the one thing that scares me with him is that he can’t hold up catching 120+ games. He’s only 5’10” 190lbs, built more like a 2B than a catcher.

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      1. Yogi was 5’7” and Roy was 5’9”. They did ok. And Barnes won’t play everyday. The Dodgers will sign whoever is left and still win the West.

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      2. There have been a lot of catchers who were short. Hal Smith and Smokey Burgess were not big guys. Sometimes being big and bulky is not the best thing for a catcher. Barnes is more of an athlete than Grandal was.

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      3. Badgers are 11” tall and weigh 30 pounds. There are critters 6 times that size that know better than to test a badger’s resolve. I actually like Barnes. I prefer the ‘17 model. Just as I prefer the ‘17 Taylor and Bellinger models.

        I haven’t given up on Harper yet. I don’t see Machado coming back, but would welcome it. You say we need a right handed thumper, there he is.

        I didn’t see the Canadian signing. Was it for spin rate or exit velocity?

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  7. Andy signed another no name player. This time from Canada. I cannot ever pronounce the guys name. I think he is an outfielder. People on Twitter are delusional. There are still those who believe that not only will the Dodgers land Harper, but that Machado is coming back too….

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  8. You have to be so careful with these long term high value contracts. Much more frequently they have been franchise killers. See Angels. Who have wasted the best years of Mike Trout. Two years ago the Cubs were a dynasty but the Heywood contract has been an albatross. I like that AF is wary of these contracts. And Bear every move AF makes are horrible or he gets ” lucky”. What other franchises are getting so “lucky”. He has delivered 2 years in a row at the trade deadline! Don’t see why all the negativity. We’re the only franchise playing in 2 straight WS! And a good shot to get there again in 2019!

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    1. What you say is valid Rich, but it bears repeating that Friedman was handed the keys to a fairly stacked organization. We were one fastball in the ribs away from maybe closing the deal one year The next year Kershaw gets clobbered in Game 1 at home (he also struggled in Game 6 in ‘13) AND loses Game 4. The only difference between pre and post Friedman is we did make it the World Series twice, only to have the same story play out. From many a perspective Friedman was standing on third base when he got to Los Angeles. All he has had to do is not ef it up – and to his credit he hasn’t. ‘19 is year 5 for this guy. Unless the wheels come off the Dodger go kart we will be in the playoffs again. How does he take the next step? Guess we’ll find out.

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      1. Anyone think Andrew’s job (or to put it accurately his ability to sign a new contract here) is in jeopardy if we don’t win the WS this year? Does ownership use him as the scapegoat and move on to someone else? Does he decide he’d rather go somewhere else or do something else altogether? I would place the odds of his not signing a new contract at about 5% but just wondering what everyone else thinks.

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  9. I just don’t see how it all falls on him because we didn’t win a WS. We certainly had a good enough team. In 17 if Jansen closes out game 2 we win. In game 5 if Kershaw wins a game 5 when we gave him 10 runs we win the series. Not to mention Darvish! 17 falls squarely on the players and coaches. It happens. I still love Kershaw and Jansen. Friedman found Taylor and Morrow. He signed the best trade deadline player in Darvish. Who knew Verlander would transform into the greatest pitcher ever with Houston! He was horrible with Detroit. Friedman and co have done a good job! Not winning a WS doesn’t just fall on him!

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    1. Kershaw did not get 10 runs, he got 7, and gave back 6. Maeda gave up the tying runs in that game. Coulda shoulda woulda. Yeah, it is on the players that they did not come through and a big part of that was Darvish. But just because he trades for 2 guys who are supposed to get them to the finish line does not mean they were the right deals. Machado for all the hoopla was not the same player after the trade that he was before. Darvish was damaged goods when he came over, same as Hill when he was traded here. The fact remains that in season deals not withstanding the FO has NEVER signed an impact player to a free agent contract. In that sense Ol Andy has fallen flat on his ass. And don’t you fret about negativity there bucco. I do not tell you what to think and you don’t tell me either.

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    1. The Angels made some really bad choices. The deal they gave Pujols at his age was really dumb. Same thing when they signed Hamilton. It is not about signing free agents. It is about signing free agents who IMPROVE your team and make you better than you were. In that department, Friedman is dismal. The Dodgers have signed a lot of free agents too, and many of those were huge flops. Schmidt, Strawberry, Stanhouse, Goltz, and of course, Andrew Jones who was probably the worst of the bunch. You can actually throw Ramirez in there too. He was great after the trade and a PED user and very mediocre after he signed a 2 year 45 million dollar deal. Dozier is off the market now, signed with the Nats, Friedman’s options are shrinking more each day and he still sits on his hands. Fine, if he is going to fill the holes he has through trades, but so far all he has done is add more mediocrity to the supposed best team in the NL, a title I do not think this bunch merits. In all my years watching the Dodgers I have never seen a more infuriating front office. Especially when they are probably the richest team in the NL. I don’t want them to spend money on expensive toys. I want them to spend money on players who bring something to the table.

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      1. Doesn’t Ramos’ brother play in the Giants system? I know you’ve been keeping an eye on Henry. Hope he doesn’t become something that we didn’t take advantage of.

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      2. Undoubtedly, I think the Dodgers always knew how much talent Henry has. The problem is that he’s ridiculously brittle, unable to stay healthy for an extended period of time. The Dodgers simply felt they gave him enough chances, I think.

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      3. I absolutely expect it. Probably Yimi also. And why not Chargois. In my mind, all three of those guys deserve to be on an MLB roster, although hopefully not with anyone in our division.

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      4. Hey Dennis, don’t get carried away here. All the guys I mentioned were out of options. Someday Tolesy will get a decent amount of at bats without getting hurt and we’ll all remember why we like him so much.

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  10. My point is look at the Cubs and their free agent signings. Hayward, Darvish and Morrow. It’s crippled them. Most of the time these big, expensive free agent signings haven’t worked out and I bet Harper and Machado join that group. Unless they go to a hitter’s park which Dodger Stadium is not!

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    1. I agree with that. Friedman has avoided those kinds of contracts and for that he gets plus marks. But he also is a dumpster diver to the extreme. He has assembled a team full of utility players which is why the Dodgers platoon so much. Other than Kershaw, who is fading fast, there are no real superstars on this team in a city that demands that of their sports franchises. The Cubs were trying to keep the so called dynasty going and in so doing they made bad decisions on who to sign. They did not look at Darvish’s history over the last couple of years and forgot that when he was traded to the Dodgers he was just coming off the DL ala Rich Hill. Friedman could have gotten some very good players at reasonable prices had he been inclined to do so. This year he is not even doing that.

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      1. To me, very few….but Trout for sure. Probably Stanton, Harper and Machado are considered that by the games media. Bryant in Chicago could be if he stays healthy. Pujols was, but he is a shadow of that now. Votto is also fading. One who could turn out to be that soon would be Judge with the Yankees. Honestly, there are not as many as there once was. Players like Mays. Mantle. There are some really good players, Goldschmidt for instance. Posey before the injuries was a perennial all star. Freeman in the Atl. Betts in Boston. It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that guys make so much money now and they get to the cusp of being those really great players and then fall short. I think that will play itself out over the next several years as the legitimate candidates for the hall begin to dwindle. I forgot Arenado. Most of the players who are the faces of their franchises are considered stars. Super stars in the majors are few and far between now.

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      2. To me a superstar has to play extremely well every year. Trout certainly qualifies. Harper has superstar charisma but isn’t consistent enough. After seeing Machado play here last year, I’m definitely crossing him off the list. I think Stanton falls a little short and, as you mentioned, some of the guys who used to be close are now on the downside of their careers. I think Trout may be the only one right now, but might actually lack the charisma of a true superstar. Maybe Ohtani will be the next one up. We shall see.

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      3. I totally agree with that. I take a wait and see attitude on Judge. He certainly has the skills, and his power is prodigious. The days of multiple true super stars seems to have passed by. In LA, Stanton would be a super star. Home town boy with all that power and he does have charisma. Goldy is probably one of the more consistent guys in the league, and I think he will have an absolute monster year in St Louis.

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  11. I agree with you that he’s a dumpster diver. But I’m ok with that. You go through enough dumpsters and you find guys like Taylor, Muncy and Morrow. But Kershaw isn’t our only great player.! Jansen, Turner and Seager are all 3 all stars. And I’m betting Bellinger and Taylor have big bounce back years! Who would you sign this year to help our club?

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    1. A couple of ways to go, but since I live in Colorado and have seen him play a lot, I think LeMahieu would be a solid pick up, and remember, he is only a couple of years removed from winning a batting title and he had pretty good numbers away from Coors field and he is a solid defender. The catching position is thinning out, but like Keith said, I do not think that they should just shun the idea of maybe signing Weiters for a year. Realmuto is a pipe dream and Cervelli is not really on the market right now. If they want a RH hitting outfielder with pop, they are either going to have to trade for one, or sign someone like Pollock. I think Bellinger gets over his sophomore slump year and hits 30 plus dingers, I also think Taylor will improve and get closer to his 2017 numbers. But, I do not think Muncy repeats last year. He surprised everyone in the league, but they will be ready for him this go round. Offense should be ok I think especially if they can pick up one or two consistent hitters. It all will come down to how well this starting rotation and bullpen perform. Our pitching and offense let us down in the world series. It almost cost us the pennant in the Milwaukee series because their BP was pretty much lights out. Especially that Hader guy. Tweaks are needed. We all know that. And yes, sometimes Andy finds a pearl at the bottom of the garbage heap, but he also buys a lot of garbage.

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  12. Oh and Buehler and Urias could be future all stars. You want the majority of your stars to be home grown because you have so much financial control. With today’s salary cap you can’t free agent your way to the top. You may only get 1-2 stars that way

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  13. Dennis was a proponent for LaMahieu early on, and he convinced me, so I’m on the DJ bandwagon also, but I would like to see the contract be for no more than two years if possible. For some reason Andrew has been holding onto his money so far this off season, he must still feel he may be in on something bigger, that he needs to save his money for. Can anybody else think of a good reason he is sitting on his money? We shall soon see.

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