One of the first evaluations almost every Dodgers fan makes heading into Cactus League play is the quality of the major league starting rotation. Los Angeles is almost always in the MLB Top 10 to start the year, but more times than not, the starting five has an entirely different look as the home stretch of the regular season approaches.
The 2023 campaign probably will be no different.
2023 MLB Rotation
This season, all eyes are on Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urias, Dustin May and Noah Syndergaard. Even if all five can stay healthy — which is highly doubtful — each one will probably have a brief stint on the injured list at some point, something that has turned into a trademark move of sorts by front-office boss Andrew Friedman.
Although a lot of fans showed disappointment when the club didn’t add more starting pitching depth with Syndergaard, there are some potential options on the fringe. Along with soon-to-be 27-year-old Andre Jackson, the club has a quartet of right-handed blue-chip prospects in Ryan Pepiot, Michael Grove, Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone, all of whom are in major league camp this spring and could see big-league time at some point in 2023.
The 6-foot-3, 25-year-old Pepiot is interesting because he could be one of the first arms to get the call, mainly because he’s among the most talented, and he’s already on the organizational 60-man roster. Some scouts have said that Pepiot’s changeup has the potential to be among the best in the game and that if he harnesses command of his heater and cutter, he could slot easily into any rotation at No. 3 or better.
Remedying the Command
The big if for Pepiot, though, is the command part.
Despite the periodic control issues — which many youngsters seem to have at that point of their careers — Pepiot put up a 3-0 record with a 3.47 ERA over seven starts and 36-1/3 innings in the majors last season, thanks mainly to his change and a mid-nineties heater.
Those numbers are not bad by any means, but his 1.459 WHIP and 6.7 walks per nine innings explain a little more what the team is dealing with as far as command goes. Only 59 percent of his pitches were strikes.
This Year’s Outlook
Still, Pepiot’s 10.4 K/9 shows how much swing-and-miss potential he has, making him an intriguing long-term option in the rotation. According to Bill Plunket of the Orange County Register, Pepiot spent a significant part of his winter in Arizona working on his command with minor league pitching coaches Rob Hill and Sean Coyne at Camelback Ranch. Plunket reported there were no significant adjustments.
Obviously, Pepiot’s stuff could play big in the Los Angeles bullpen, especially at the end of the regular season and playoffs if the rest of the rotation stays healthy. In the meantime, it’ll probably be either Jackson or Pepiot first when the club needs to add someone for a spot-start. Barring any injuries, Pepiot could be the Opening day starter when the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers face Tacoma at home on April 1.