What Should Dodgers Expect from Clayton Kershaw in 2020?

There’s probably no other player on the Dodgers‘ active roster scrutinized more than lefty starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw. When he was at the peak of his game just a few years ago, many folks rivaled his success with the legendary Sandy Koufax; but now that he is on the backside of his impressive career, there are actually some fans who feel he’s not even worthy of a rotation slot.

Aside from his rookie season in 2008, most of Kersh’s 2019 regular season numbers were among the worst of his career, specifically his 3.03 ERA and 3.86 FIP. However, it goes without saying that many rival teams around the league would be happy if their ace produced those kinds of numbers. That’s a great example of how much fans of the Dodgers have been spoiled for decades by superior starting pitching.

Of course, Kershaw has been hampered by the monkey on his back as far as throwing in the playoffs goes. During the regular season, he has a lifetime record of 169-74 with a ridiculous 2.44 ERA, yet during his postseason career, he has tallied a 9-11 mark with a not-so-impressive 4.43 ERA. Obviously, some of those figures involve the scandalous numbers of the Red Sox and Astros that Kersh will forever have on his personal ledger, but his five earned runs in just 6-1/3 frames during the 2019 NLDS are still quite revealing.

It goes without saying that Kershaw has passed the reigns of the “ace” pitcher to 23-year-old righty Walker Buehler. Despite the No. 2 label, the projections by many outlets still have Clayton producing All-Star caliber numbers for the upcoming campaign. According to the Steamer figures on Fangraphs, CK will post a 14-9 record with a 3.55 ERA, a 3.68 FIP and a 4.4 fWAR over 32 appearances and 202 innings pitched. Coincidentally, Baseball Reference has Kershaw tallying a 12-6 record with a 3.24 ERA over 164 innings of work.

Heading into the new campaign blind, I’d probably agree that the aforementioned predictions are as good as any, but something inside me seems to think that the now 31-year-old Kershaw might have a trick or two up his sleeve in order to succeed in 2020. Perhaps he has been putting in extra time this winter when it comes to pinpointing his command, or maybe he has optimized the spin on his deadly slider to produce better results. Despite the apparent decline in velocity on his four-seam, maybe Kershaw will finally discover a way to come somewhere close to the success he once experienced in his heyday.

Instead of avoiding reporters after his squad’s season-ending loss to the Nationals in the 2020 NLDS, Kershaw decided to speak, seemingly revealing the attitude with which he might take the field during the upcoming season.

“Every year is no fun. This year, the abruptness, the way it happened. It’s no fun. It’s not. It continues not to be,” Kershaw told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com after being eliminated by the Nationals. “But you have two options: you can either crawl into a hole, or you can move on and try to get better for the next year. I don’t want to crawl into a hole yet, so I’m going to try to get better for next year.”

My personal guess is that he will indeed get better. And, although he is viewed as the No. 2 starter in the rotation from a theoretical perspective, I’d be willing to wager skipper Dave Roberts still gives Kershaw the ball against the Giants on Opening Day.

 

Dodgers Roster: Additional Thoughts on the Prospective 2020 Starting Rotation

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 BuehlerClayton KershawKenta MaedaJulio Urias and one of either Alex WoodJimmy Nelson, Dustin MayTony 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.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Dodgers Reportedly Sign Alex Wood

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(Los Angeles Times photo)

Almost exactly like we hypothesized a little over a week ago, the Dodgers reportedly signed Alex Wood to a one-year deal on Sunday, which coincidentally was Wood’s 29th birthday.

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A Little Background on Jimmy Nelson

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(Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

Following some patterns of our recent discussions, the Dodgers on Tuesday morning reportedly signed pitcher Jimmy Nelson to a one-year contract.

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Projecting a Preliminary Starting Rotation at Triple-A Oklahoma City

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(Photo by Cody Roper/OKC Dodgers)

As we are all aware, starting rotations at the Triple-A level are very difficult to predict in the middle of the winter. Even though the big league starting five of the Dodgers is theoretically about 80% set, injuries, trades and free agent signings can impact all levels of the farm at any moment. Minor league rosters are often decided in the final hours leading to MLB’s Opening Day, but that doesn’t prevent us from speculating on how things might look at Oklahoma City right now.

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More Teams Actively Engaging with Hyun-Jin Ryu

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(Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

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Hyun-Jin Ryu Suspense Intensifying

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(Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

The good news is that Hyun-Jin Ryu is believed to want to remain on the West Coast, and he may even be willing to offer a bit of a returning discount to do so. The bad news is, even with the slight discount, the lefty’s contract value is seemingly increasing by the day.

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Andrew Friedman Already Hinting at Plans for 2020 Starting Rotation

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If there are two things we learned at this year’s GM Meetings about the Dodgers‘ plans for 2020, it’s that the team is open to snagging a third baseman on the free agent market, coupled with the belief that front office boss Andrew Friedman is happy with his internal options when considering a possible starting rotation.

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What Lies Ahead for Hyun-Jin Ryu?

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(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

With the conclusion of the 2019 World Series this week comes the beginning of the winter hot stove season. Before long, free agents and trade rumors will soar to the top of the MLB headlines. And, based on all the chatter so far, the Dodgers will be one of those clubs at the forefront.

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Moving Kenta Maeda to Bullpen Would Prove Beneficial

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(Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

Like clockwork, when Dodgers‘ boss Andrew Friedman speaks to reporters during his end-of-season press conferences every year, he reiterates that righty swing man Kenta Maeda will be an integral part of the club’s starting rotation at the onset of the following season.

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