Dodgers Prospect Watch: Keeping an Eye on Josiah Gray

While the concept of a 60-man player pool affords select prospects to participate in some form of baseball activity this year, it still doesn’t replace the level of competition a player would see on the high levels of the farm.

At some point of the season, it would not be surprising to see clubs around the majors promote their most prized prospects to their respective big league squads, if only to see how they stack up against the competition.

And, even though each victory will be absolutely meaningful in this shortened season, the Dodgers could be one of those clubs.

For those of you who remember the philosophies of former General Manager Ned Colletti, you’ll recall—especially towards the end of his time in the front office—that he much preferred veterans over prospects as far as 25-man roster spots went. Part of that philosophy was because team owner Frank McCourt was not providing the necessary resources to develop a thriving minor league system  (the talent was a bit minimal), but the flip side was that Colletti simply felt there was not a legit replacement for earned MLB experience and the fiery grit of a seasoned veteran.

This is perhaps the biggest difference between Colletti and current boss Andrew Friedman, who has certainly shown over recent years—see Cody Bellinger, Gavin Lux and Dustin May—that he’s not afraid to take a chance on very young talent at the highest levels of the franchise.

One of the most prized pitching prospects in the organization is 22-year-old righty Josiah Gray. According to MLB Pipeline, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder is currently ranked as the third-best prospect in the system (just behind Lux and May), and it will not be a shocker if we see him make his MLB debut at some point this year, especially in light of all the roster loopholes created by the pandemic.

Last season, Gray, alongside Lux, was named by the Dodgers as one half of the Branch Rickey Minor League Players of the Year.

In 26 games (25 starts) combined in 2019 between Low-A Great Lakes, High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa, Gray finished with an 11-2 record, a 0.99 WHIP and a 2.28 ERA (33 ER/130.0 IP) with 147 strikeouts against just 31 walks.

The New York native started his 2019 campaign in the Midwest League, posting a 1.93 ERA (5 ER/23.1 IP) in five starts before being promoted to Rancho. In 12 Cal League starts, he went a perfect 7-0 with a 2.14 ERA (16 ER/67.1 IP), a 0.97 WHIP and a .209 opponents’ batting average, throwing many of his innings in the hitter-friendly confines of LoanMart Field. After earning a promotion to Tulsa on July 17, Gray pitched to a 2.75 ERA (12 ER/39.1 IP) across nine games (eight starts) for the Drillers.

Gray was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Cincinnati Reds out of Le Moyne College in New York. He was acquired along with infielder Jeter Downs in a trade from the Reds on December 21, 2018 that saw Yasiel PuigMatt KempAlex Wood and Kyle Farmer shipped back to Cincinnati.

In 38 career minor league games (37 starts) over two seasons, the right-handed pitcher is 26-7 with a 2.37 ERA (48 ER/182.1 IP) and has struck out 206 batters against 48 walks.

As far as his repertoire goes, Gray’s bread and butter is his heater, which has some natural cutting action while sitting comfortably in the mid-nineties. It has been clocked as high as 98 MPH in 2018. For his age, he commands his fastball extremely well. His slider is also considered a plus pitch, but it often lacks command, unlike his fastball. He also throws a changeup that’s somewhat raw. Presently, he’s being groomed as a starter, but based on the brilliance of his four-seamer, he could end up throwing in relief at some juncture of his career.

Without a doubt, Gray has one of the most talented arms in the organization—at least what he has shown of it thus far. Consequently, the upcoming season might just end up being a special one for him.

As crazy as this year was from a national, non-sports perspective, it might end up being even crazier in terms of a Major League Baseball season.

Keep an eye on those youngsters.

 

David Price Opts Out of 2020 MLB Season

In what was certainly the most surprising news coming out of the Dodgers camp on Saturday, lefty pitcher David Price revealed that he would be sitting out the entirety of the shortened 2020 MLB season.

“After considerable thought and discussion with my family and the Dodgers, I have decided it is in the best interest of my health and my family’s health for me to not play this season,” Price said via Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

He continued, “I will miss my teammates and will be cheering for them throughout the season and on to a World Series victory. I’m sorry I won’t be playing for you this year, but look forward to representing you next year.”

Price came to the Dodgers from Boston with outfielder Mookie Betts in the biggest blockbuster deal of the winter. Once all the smoke settled on the trade, the Dodgers sent outfielder Alex Verdugo, catching prospect Connor Wong and infield prospect Jeter Downs back to the Red Sox.

The 34-year-old Price was a two-time Cy Young runner-up and was the 2012 American League winner. He was also the runner-up for the World Series MVP when the Red Sox beat the Dodgers in 2018 after their franchise-record 108 regular-season victories.

The 2020 season would have marked Price’s first year pitching in the National League.

Conceivably, many thought that Price would slide into the 2020 Los Angeles rotation somewhere between Clayton KershawWalker Buehler, Julio Urias and Alex Wood. While the absence of Price will certainly be felt, it will not be a huge blow, considering that Ross Stripling, Tony GonsolinDustin May, or Jimmy Nelson could theoretically slide into Price’s vacancy with relative ease.

Bill Plunkett of the OC Register indicated that Price has two children under the age of four. Plunkett further explained that Price is not believed to be in a high-risk category for exposure to COVID-19. If that is true, Price’s decision not to play means he will forfeit his 2020 salary, potentially about $11.85 million if MLB is able to play a 60-game regular season as planned.

The Dodgers released an official statement to the media on Saturday saying, “The Dodgers fully support David’s decision to sit out the 2020 season. We have been in constant contact with David and we understand how much this deliberation weighed on him and his family. We know he’ll be rooting hard for the club every day and look forward to having him back with us in 2021.”

After the 2020 season, Price still has two additional years remaining on his contract.

 

Clayton Kershaw Eyeing Another Opening Day Start for Dodgers

While there’s still plenty of time remaining before the beginning of the abbreviated 2020 MLB season, there is a good chance that Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the Dodgers for the opener, so long as everything stays on track.

Leading up to the original Opening Day back in March, there seemed to be a bit of speculation as to who would get the starting nod. Young righty Walker Buehler has emerged as perhaps the most talented arm of the group, yet skipper Dave Roberts settled on Kershaw in his final decision.

“It was a difficult decision, and I think that’s a good thing,” Roberts said back on March 9. “I think it was a difficult decision in the sense of what Walker has done and what we expect him to do this year, so I think that’s a compliment to both players. I think, ultimately, having Clayton start Opening Day made the most sense for us that day and also going forward.”

As humbled and tuned in as Kershaw is, the veteran lefty has never lost his high regard for what it means to get an Opening Day call.

“It’s really cool,” Kershaw said in March. “I feel like I’ve said it every year, but I don’t take it lightly. It is an honor. It is just one game, but it’s an honor to get the start. Opening Day is a special day in baseball, to get to be a part of it is really cool.”

A starting nod this year will be Kersh’s ninth career Opening Day start, extending his own team record.

Los Angeles won all of Kershaw’s first seven Opening Day starts, as he compiled a 5-0 record with a 0.99 ERA during that span. However, his win streak was broken in 2018 when the Dodgers were blanked by the Giants, 1-0.

Last year, lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu took the mound on Opening day for the Dodgers when Kershaw was deemed unable to throw after dealing with shoulder problems most of the spring.

Kershaw was the team’s first pick in the 2006 draft, joining the big league squad in 2008. The Dodgers have gone to the playoffs in almost every year he has been in the rotation, including winning six straight division titles from 2013-2018, three straight NLCS appearances, and back-to-back World Series appearances in 2017-18.  Kershaw won the NL Cy Young in 2013, 2104, and 2106.  He also was the NL MVP for the 2014 season.

So far during Spring Training 2.0, CK seems to be a bit ahead of the curve. The 32-year-old lefty told reporters on Friday that he threw a full three innings in a simulated game last week and another four innings when he cleared his intake testing on Wednesday.

Bill Plunkett of the OC Register reported this weekend that the plan is for Kersh to throw five full innings on Monday, setting him up for a potential 100-pitch outing on Opening Day.

“We want to get this going,” Kershaw told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com on Friday. “We want to do this.”

 

Major League Baseball Awards 2022 All-Star Game to Dodgers

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As expected, Major League Baseball officially announced on Friday morning that the 2020 All-Star Game, which was scheduled to be hosted by the Dodgers and the City of Los Angeles, is being cancelled.  However, with the Atlanta Braves already named as host of the 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta, the Dodgers will host the next scheduled event in the summer of 2022.

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Dodgers Prospects: Mitchell White Might Be Worth Watching in 2020

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(Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

While we’re still not exactly sure how—or if—the 2020 MLB season will play out, because of all the rule changes and roster ramifications, there still could be a handful of new, young players who emerge as key contributors to their respective clubs at some point this year.

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Dodgers Announce Player Pool for 2020 Season

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(Photo Credit: Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports)

The Dodgers on Sunday afternoon announced their player pool for the 2020 season, including 28 pitchers, five catchers, seven infielders, seven outfielders and four infielders/outfielders.

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Coronavirus Already Factoring Heavily into Preseason Activities

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(Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

While the confirmation of a 2020 season has already brought overwhelming excitement to the state of Major League Baseball, the coronavirus has caused about an equal amount of caution and hesitancy among most teams moving forward.

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Major League Baseball Planning on 60-Game Season in 2020

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After several months of back-and-forth negotiations, Major League Baseball announced on Monday evening that the 2020 season has been scheduled to proceed under an agreement previously reached in March between the owners and the players’ union. The announcement indicates that the owners unanimously agreed to launch the campaign after further negotiations with the players failed to result in a deal.

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MLB Players, Owners Still Haggling as Chances of Season Slip Away

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From logistics standpoint, the chances of an actual Major League Baseball season in 2020 still seem highly possible. After all, Commissioner Rob Manfred still has the ability to unilaterally mandate a shortened season per an agreement in March, coupled with the idea that teams could conceivably play wherever the hotspots of the coronavirus are not.

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MLB Owners and Players Still Worlds Apart

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At one point during the weekend, the vast majority of fans around the world were near certain they would see at least some Major League Baseball action this year.

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