It’s a little hard to believe, but when looking at the Dodgers‘ prospective 2020 starting rotation compared to last year’s version, there are indeed quite a few glaring differences.
Gone are Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill. Although the veteran Hill made just 13 regular-season starts for the Dodgers in 2019, Ryu and Maeda combined for a whopping 55. Ryu made 29 by himself, the most he tallied since his rookie year back in 2013.
Enter David Price and Alex Wood. Price has been inconsistent in stringing together consecutive years of 25+ starts and hasn’t registered a sub-3.30 ERA since the 2015 season. Wood logged 27 starts for the Dodgers in 2018, but was basically on the shelf for the entirety of the 2019 season hampered by back problems in Cincinnati.
Also new to the 2020 rotation is 23-year-old lefty Julio Urias. Obviously, he’s no stranger to the Dodgers nor is he foreign to the Los Angeles rotation, but he still hasn’t started semi-regularly for Los Angeles since he started 15 games as a 19-year-old rookie back in 2016.
Barring injury or any unforeseen circumstances, the management crew of the Dodgers has already named Urías a member of the 2020 rotation, conceivably setting up a starting five that features four left-handers. There will for certain be some type of innings limit imposed on the native of Mexico, as he has never eclipsed more than 79-2/3 innings in the bigs, which happened to be his total last year.
Between Triple-A and the majors in 2016, Urías threw an even 122 innings, his most in a single year as a professional. In June of 2017, the young lefty underwent season-ending UCL surgery, which kept him out of MLB action until the tail-end of the following year.
As far as projections for the upcoming season go, Steamer has Urías making 23 starts over 28 appearances, tallying a 3.96 ERA, a 4.23 FIP and a 1.9 fWAR over 124 innings of work. According to the math, that’s just shy of 4-1/2 innings per outing, which might be a reasonable guess based on the extra five relief appearances.
The WAR prediction, though, might be a bit modest. The starting crew of the Dodgers perennially has stellar fWAR numbers, and 2019 was no exception. Walker Buehler led the way last year with an impressive 5.0 fWAR, followed by Ryu at 4.8, Clayton Kershaw at 3.4 and Maeda at 2.5. In his role as a swing man last season, Ross Stripling put up a 1.9 fWAR over 32 appearances and 90-2/3 innings—the exact fWAR Urías is projected to hit in 2020.
Pitching mainly in relief in 2019, Urías posted a modest 1.4 fWAR alongside a 2.49 ERA over 37 appearances.
With Stripling, Jimmy Nelson, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin—in addition to a handful of capable farmhands—available to make big league starts as needed, there really isn’t any pressure for Urías to make a set number of starts in the first half of the season, especially if he wants to find himself peaking by the time the playoffs roll around in October.
Nevertheless, skipper Dave Roberts remains cautiously optimistic for a successful season.
“The conversations we’ve had with Julio have been just more of encouraging,” Roberts recently told Bill Plunkett of the OC Register. “He understands what’s in front of him. He’s got to continue to stay healthy, take care of his body. Last year was very difficult on a lot of fronts. The inconsistency of role I think was hard for Julio. We take for granted his buy-in sometimes. But now things will be more regimented as a starter. So with that, with the way he looks physically, to sustain that, I think he’s gonna have a really nice year.”
Urías made his first Cactus League appearance of the year against the Reds on Monday, officially completing two-thirds of an inning while surrendering one hit, a walk and two runs—none of which were earned.
He made 10 pitches and struck out one Cincinnati batter.