Dodgers Starting Rotation: 4 Possible Solutions for Second Half of 2021 Season

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(Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

On Saturday night, fans, coaches, managers, and players of the Los Angeles Dodgers reveled in a 22-run outburst against the lowly Diamondbacks, once again showing how schizophrenic the offense can be from one night to the next. On the pitching front, not only was Walker Buehler effective, but he also gave his bullpen somewhat of a rest by going six full innings. However, despite productive games like these, it still doesn’t solve the club’s current starting pitching dilemma.

You’ve probably heard the narrative a hundred times by now — from the eight or so pitchers the Dodgers had available at spring training to build a five-man a starting rotation, only three are available right now. Tony Gonsolin is stretching out more and more (having gone 5-1/3 innings in his latest outing against the Marlins), but he’s still probably considered more of a swing man until he gets a few quality starts under his belt.

Even with the eventual return of Clayton Kershaw from the injured list, the team will still need at least one or two additional starters during the second half of the year, if only to reduce the workload of the burdened relief corps. Trevor Bauer’s future remains uncertain, so it is unwise for the club to bank on any prospective return at this point.

David Price

In my column last weekend, I discussed the options of using David Price and Jimmy Nelson as swing men or starters long before the Kershaw injury. Since that time, Nelson has gone on the injured list with a back issue, but considering how well he has stepped up as a reliever this season, moving him out of the bullpen may have been an unwise move anyway.

Price got the nod as the opener against the Diamondbacks on Friday, throwing three full shutout innings while allowing four hits and a walk with three punchouts. The three innings was his longest outing of the year, and the 51 pitches were the most he’s thrown in a game since tossing 50 against the Cardinals back in early June.

Looking ahead, it seems as if Price is at least a temporary part of the starting rotation plans:

For Price to have an immediate impact, management and coaches will need to take a much faster track in stretching him out than they’re doing with Gonsolin.

Ryan Pepiot or Josiah Gray

Without question, the two most talented starting pitchers on the Los Angeles farm right now are a pair of right handers in Ryan Pepiot and Josiah Gray.

So far this year, the 23-year-old Pepiot has gone 3-2 with a sparkling 1.77 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP with 63 strikeouts over 10 starts and 45-2/3 innings. His heater tops out as high as 95-96, but Pepiot’s bread and butter is his changeup, which he sells brilliantly with fastball arm speed. Pepiot last threw on Saturday, going an even four innings against Springfield while surrendering one run on three walks and six punchouts.

Depending on where you look, Gray, also 23 years old, is ranked anywhere in the top three of most of the Dodgers’ prospect lists. Gray was on the shelf for more than a month with shoulder issues, but he made his return last week with a successful two inning stint for Triple-A OKC against Salt Lake. In his latest outing Saturday, he went full four shutout innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out four on 53 pitches.

Neither Pepiot or Gray are on the 40-man roster right now, but it probably wouldn’t be too difficult creating space when considering the current landscape of the team.

Cole Hamels

Recently, I put together a column discussing the idea that the Dodgers are scouting 37-year-old veteran Cole Hamels as a possible starting rotation option. Los Angeles and several other clubs will be on hand to watch Hamels throw at a showcase next week in Texas. Since we’re well beyond the halfway point of the season, Hamels might be likely to make a quick decision. However, one must wonder if Hamels would be looking for a contract that would encompass the 2022 season as well.

Obviously, it’s highly doubtful that Hamels return to the pitcher who propelled the Philles to a World Series championship back in 2008, but if the Dodgers inked the southpaw, the primary reason would be to eat innings, alleviating the workload of the bullpen in the process.

2021 MLB Trade Deadline

With the summer trade deadline now less than three weeks away, most of the news in the baseball blogosphere has shifted towards all the trade rumors floating around. In previous stories, we’ve discussed trade possibilities anywhere from Max Scherzer to Jon Gray to Kyle Gibson.

Indeed, the Dodgers probably won’t be exclusively seeking starting pitching before the deadline, as the front-office crew will be keeping its eyes peeled for quality relievers as well. Should Price happen to stick in the starting rotation, it will be super-critical to fill his role as a long man in relief.

Either way, if you’re a betting person, it’s probably safe to lay a little money down on the idea that the Los Angeles player roster will be looking a bit different by the time the calendar turns over to August.

22 thoughts on “Dodgers Starting Rotation: 4 Possible Solutions for Second Half of 2021 Season

  1. I realize that today’s topic is the starting rotation but I’d just like to say a few words about Phil Bickford, another discard picked up off the trash heap, a la Muncy, CT3, JT, Nelson and yes, Albert Pujols.

    I haven’t compared that to other organizations but the first three guys are members of this year’s All Star team and for two of them it’s not their first time. I didn’t include Knebel on my list but he may yet prove to be another gem by the time we get to the playoffs.

    That brings us to Bickford, of whom most all of us said “Phil Who?” the day we got him. He’s now appeared in 21 games for us, so we’re getting a decent sample size. ERA barely over 2.00, WHIP under 1.00, k’s/9 = 12.4. He may turn out to be a shooting star and completely extinguish within the next month. Or he could be next year’s closer.

    Kudos to Andrew and the others in the front office for finding these guys. Right now, they’re the difference between our being a playoff team and an also ran.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I never considered myself a philosopher and I therefore have no philosophy.
        Actually, I believe that is TMax’s philosophy and although I agree with many of his points, this is one with which I most totally disagree. I submit Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and Justin Turner as my evidence.

        OK TMax, I await your rebuttal.

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      2. Could be.
        At my advanced years I don’t eliminate anyone as a future major leaguer until they reach the age of 50 and I think I may have to reconsider that after the year Pujols is having. We all know that in spite of what he claims his age to be, he’s actually 54 years old.

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    1. Bickford has a decent fastball and a great change up. So does Nunez. Why everyone doesn’t have both just makes no sense to me.

      Gray will get a shot, but I don’t expect him to be a 5-6 inning starter just yet. I hope I’m wrong about that.

      I like McKinstry at third base. In my mind that might make Rios expendable. There would be interest for that guy.

      “Just inflammation”. I read that and my reaction was “huh? JUST inflammation? I need more information. Inflammation is the body’s response to trauma.

      I still expect a trade.

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  2. Jeff my thoughts on the 26-year rule is for internal farm team players. The Dodgers have spent a lot of money on everything from talented coaching, weight training. and nutrition to maximize the players on their Farm Teams. Read the comments from guys like Gray that have come from different organizations. I think if a player has had that type of a concentrated system and continues to not improve they have either a lack of talent, mental toughness/competitiveness, or discipline to succeed. Santana is a great example they coached him up but he could never consistently throw strikes. Uceta still has a chance as he is only 23 but his mechanics have to mature or he should be DFA’d or traded in a couple of years if he doesn’t improve. Same with White, he will be 27 this year. An organization has only so much time and resources. Peters was at the offsite last year and they worked with him to get his strikeouts down. That obviously did not help much as he was not successful when called up and is foundering badly at OKC. Some guys can hit the ball it’s a gift that can be honed but you need to have the basic hand-eye coordination and mental agility to continue to change as the pitchers adapt. I am starting to wonder if Bellinger has the ability to adapt!
    Pitchers are a bit different as injury and coaching play a large part of the equation. I think the Dodgers have the best organization in baseball when it comes to pitchers especially when rehabbing. Some guys like Peters and Kendall are incredible athletes but seem to lack the skills to consistently hit the ball! My rising star is Vargas, great athlete, his father was a star in Cuba, Great size and he consistently makes contact and has been playing against players 2-3 years older. He is a star in the making. I would not trade him, Miller, Pages, or Cartaya.

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    1. How can you guys disagree with this man. It’s 25 and done. Muncy, Taylor and turner are just flash in the pans. Another 10 years they’ll be bagging groceries.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. My point exactly. Bellinger has not been able to adapt! Yes, he has power and is a Gold Glove defender but he needs to make a big mental adjustment. When you are hitting under the Mendoza line with a shift that has one fielder on the left side hit the ball the other way! IF you are so ignorant or arrogant to constantly attempt to pound the ball into the shift are you a candidate for the everyday line-up? Bellinger needs to at least attempt to shorten up and move the man over. Lux and Bellinger are both flailing away and need to sit down for a while and figure out that this is a Team Game! They should watch and listen to Pujos and Turner both of those gentlemen understand the art of hitting and team play.

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  3. LOL Yep! Hopefully, they continue to platoon Lux until Seager gets back! Then they need to decide what to do if they are in a dog fight for the playoffs. A Pujos & Muncy right side is very good offensively.

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    1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Pujols is hitting below .200 against right handers.
      Pujols and Muncy right side is very good against left handers.
      So after Seager gets back, we will probably see Muncy/Lux against righties and Pujols/Muncy against lefties.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I concur. But Albert got a big one off of a righty in the 9th today. Reks scored the winning run running for Albert and Muncy hits their first walkoff this season.

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      2. Because baseball fans love Freddie Freeman more.
        Actually, I’m guessing that Max is still pretty much unknown outside the Western Division or any Dodger fans throughout the country. He really doesn’t get much play.

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      3. It is a popularity contest. And Arenado is very popular. But Max is starting the game as the NL’s DH. Jackson and Busch both get into futures game and Busch went 1-1 and Jackson pitched a scoreless inning.

        Liked by 1 person

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