No matter how you stack up all the pitchers involved in the landscape of the Dodgers‘ 2020 starting rotation, the fact remains that aside from two or three key pieces, almost anything is possible in the days leading up to Opening Day on March 26.
According to the depth chart models on several outlets, the front four of the Los Angeles rotation right now might consist of Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias and one of either Alex Wood, Jimmy Nelson, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin or Ross Stripling as the fifth starter. With that grouping, it gives the team nine legitimate arms from which to build a front five, plus who knows how many reputable arms joining the crew before the summer trade deadline at the end of July.
Indeed, there are plenty of fans who have expressed their disappointment over the prospect of a substandard rotation, specifically since the team was unable to sign any of the superstars at the forefront of the early free agent market. Nevertheless, based on overall rankings in previous seasons, the Dodgers’ starting crews seem to finish in the Top 5 staffs across the league perennially, thanks in part to its solid corps of young arms.
Admittedly, based on the inexperience of Buehler and Urias, the amount of wear and tear on Kersh’s arm, the lack of late-season endurance by Maeda, and the injury histories of Wood and Nelson, there’s certainly the possibility for disappointment. At the same time, considering the amount of potential and pure ability in the aforementioned list, there definitely lies the chance the Dodgers once again flaunt one of the best staffs in the National League.
One thing that stands out to me is the fact that both Nelson and Wood have no options remaining on their respective contracts, potentially setting up situations where either May or Gonsolin—or somebody else—are blocked from the big league roster.
I’ve always been in support of having the five best arms in the organization making up the big league starting rotation, but along those same lines, I’m even in more support of having those five arms being at the peak of their games by the time the playoffs roll around in autumn. If that means that one or two of the big guns begin the season in the minors, then so be it. The only problem with that theory is that MLB experience is extremely valuable for the development of the youngsters, specifically when considering the career paths of Urias, May and Gonsolin.
Front-office boss Andrew Friedman will certainly be masterful in utilizing the injury list to keeps his starting arms fresh and distributing starts to mostly everyone, despite of all the new rules which have been introduced. Moreover, several of the arms mentioned above will begin the season in the big league bullpen. Still, the fact that May, who conceivably might have one of the highest ceilings in the organization, could start the year in the minors regardless of how he pitches during 2020 Cactus League play, could be a bit disconcerting.
Either way, it should be very interesting to see the front five starting pitchers that emerge once the smoke clears on spring training.