Dodgers: The 2020 Starting Rotation Without Hyun-Jin Ryu

The Dodgers have been blessed with excellent starting pitching depth over the past seven seasons or so and have also been given star-level performances with names like Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler in tow. Now, the Dodgers face somewhat of a dilemma and youth movement with their starting rotation.

The recent departure of Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu to the Toronto Blue Jays on a four-year, $80 million deal does not help matters and the graduations of top prospects lead to reliance on unproven sources.

Now, while not stretched thin in quantity, the Dodgers’ starting rotation appears to be stretched thin in quality. They will continue to have Walker Buehler’s prime seasons and Clayton Kershaw. They have Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, and Julio Urias. They have top prospects like Dustin May, Josiah Gray, and Tony Gonsolin. The issue is, though, that they are missing that one co-ace. Clayton Kershaw might not be that anymore.

Let’s take a look at the way the starting rotation currently stands.

Walker Buehler

The young ace is excellent. He will be for years to come, boasting a powerful fastball and curveball combination that keeps the ball on the ground and aids the swing and miss. Buehler posted a 3.26 ERA in 2019 and a 2.89 DRA. He tossed 182 1/3 innings while striking out 215 batters. Similar numbers should be expected out of him going forward, but the club should look to find someone of similar caliber to step in as the #2 in the rotation.

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Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw’s velocity has diminished while his spin rate has spiked. Simply put, there is still more left in his arm that might not have been fully enabled by the coaching staff in recent seasons. Despite the velocity decline, the best pitcher of the generation posted a 3.03 ERA and 3.33 DRA in 2019. His strikeout rate shot back up, seeing him punch out 189 batters over 178 1/3 innings of work. He might take another step back, he might not. However, he is almost a lock to be at least a #3 starter in 2020.

Who Will Clayton Kershaw be in 2020?

Julio Urías

This might be the season where the Dodgers allow Julio Urías to finally break free and eclipse 150 innings as a starting pitcher. He has undergone some major surgeries in his career and should continue to be handled with kid’s gloves at just age 23, but less so than in past years. Urías appeared in only 37 games due to a domestic violence suspension but fared well when he was on the field. He posted a sparkling 2.49 ERA and a 3.39 DRA. His first half was a lot better than his second half, but inconsistencies in his roster placement could have contributed to that. He is a virtual lock to be a #3 starter if given the ball every fifth day.

Dustin May

Big Red might be the biggest piece to the puzzle for the Dodgers in 2020. If he takes a Buehler-esque step forward, the Dodgers will be in an excellent spot. May made 14 appearances (four starts) for the club, racking up 32 strikeouts over 34 2/3 innings with a 3.63 ERA. That ERA is inflated by two bad performances as he was transitioning from the rotation to the bullpen. He has tremendous upside as one of the game’s top prospects and the hope inside the Dodgers’ front office is that he can deliver on that upside in as soon as 2020. If all else fails this season, the bullpen might be his home for just this year.

Kenta Maeda

Kenta Maeda seems to be the Dodgers version of ‘ol’ reliable’. He has done everything they have asked him to do, including moving to the bullpen during postseason runs. He holds an excellent 3.15 career DRA and is averaging 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings since he came to Los Angeles in 2016. He might be the Dodgers’ most underrated pitcher. At 31 years old and on a cheap deal, he is a lock for return on their investment.

Ross Stripling

Chicken Strip could very easily be dealt before the season begins. He is a valuable asset — a number four type of starter who eats innings, is versatile, and under club control for a few seasons. He could be a building block in a deal for a Francisco Lindor, Mike Clevinger, or Mookie Betts. He is almost as underrated as Kenta Maeda is. In fact, Stripling’s career DRA is 3.21, or somewhere around 20th amongst starting pitchers since he came into the league. He might seem like a number-five starter to you, but he simply is not based on his production.

Tony Gonsolin

Gonsolin really pitched well in 2019 and was robbed of a spot on the postseason roster. He pitched to the tune of a 2.93 ERA across 11 appearances (six starts). He might initially be placed in the bullpen in 2020, but could very easily find his way to the starting rotation before the season ends. It would almost be an expectation. If Gonsolin can return value at the level of a number four starter in 2020, he is a very valuable asset.

Look forward to more Caturdays next season.

Josiah Gray

The only pitcher on this list to not have pitched in an MLB game yet, Gray seems poised to be a star. There is something about him that makes scouts and fans salivate and pray for the day to come soon where he pitches on the mound at Chavez Ravine. In 2019, Gray finished the season with the Tulsa Drillers at the Double-A level and fared well. He averaged about a strikeout per inning across 39 1/3 frames while putting up a great 2.75 ERA. In 2020, he should progress to Triple-A Oklahoma City quickly and could be on the major league roster in September — possibly in a 2019 Gonsolin/May hybrid role. All eyes will be on him as the year progresses as he heads to the hitter-friendly OKC environment.


The Dodgers have a bright future and a solid present. Any addition of help would strengthen the rotation — think Mike Clevinger or Noah Syndergaard — but as presently constructed, there are no real flaws outside of their collective inexperience. The Dodgers would be fools to expect ace production of their rookies, but it could happen with ease.

NEXT: MLB Network Experts Discuss LA’s Free Agency Desperation

Daniel Preciado

My name is Daniel Preciado and I am 19 years old. I am a sophomore Sport Analytics major and Cognitive Science and Economics dual minor at Syracuse University. When I am not in New York, I live in Whittier, California --- not too far from Chavez Ravine. I am pretty old-school for being an analytics guy and I will always embrace debate. Also, Chase Utley did absolutely nothing wrong.


  1. So Buehler vs Strasburg game 1. Kershaw vs Sherzer game 2. Urius vs Corbin game 3.: looks like games 2 and 3 end up as Bull pen games for the Dodgers. How about the Yankees \ Dodgers? Optimism is always a positive thought, but reality is the Dodgers once again don’t have the talent to beat numerous teams! This is just starting pitching! The Yanks, Nat’s Astros all have 300 hitters all throughout their line ups. Total bases and runs. 33 year drought, brought to you by your Oakland Dodgers!

    1. And an unbalance lefty heavy hitting lineup. Someone on another blog told me that actually only Joc was fully platooned. But guess what happens EVERY TIME the Dodgers face a LHP….the inept Roberts plays his shuffle board and 3 ring circus routine and we know what usually happens there.

  2. Friedman will trade for a #2 pitcher in July just like he did for Darvish and Machado in the past seasons. Let’s hope this July trade works out better.

    1. You mean a so called #2. Some guy with a 3.70 era that mlb always talks up as a great get. They love to overrate guys during July and make it seem like they’re pieces that will put a team over the top

    2. Stick with these young arms for now since missing on Cole. GMs are going to try to clean our coffers because the perception is desperation. I wouldn’t advocate a move under that premise. Personally, i think the best bet we have to improve is Betts. He wont cost as much as Lindor/Clevinger. Our offense needs guys who can put the ball in play consistently. Betts might get done for Pederson and Seager.

  3. A Team that Kasten and Friedman have continually stated is built on promoting from within may actually promote from within and you are surprised?
    Wow! The Team had 9 rookies debut and make a contribution last year. Urias has amazing talent. May, Gonsolin and Grey also look to be potential aces. The Dodgers should win the NL West in a walk and by then have some experienced young arms to pitch in the playoffs. Enjoy the run quit complaining that the team is doing what they have said they would. Pay attention to what management says. Not what the idiotic sportswriters and commentators talk about they do not run the team…
    I remember the dark times of McCourt and others Do you? Enjoy the games. Teams would LOVE to have the Dodgers young staff…

    1. Agree completely, FA don’t guarantee anything except a very large payroll. Cole didn’t bring a WS title to Houston. Also Cole and his agent were using the Dodgers to up the Yankees bid.

    2. it has been mentioned that Dodgers have been benefiting from playing in a sub par division as well for these past few years. But many including myself are not sure having a roster 100% from the farm will be enough to get them over the top and actually win a WS. But then again, many of pointed out that a WS Championship is not something they are all in on, IDK. One other thing tmaxster that you and I do agree on is that no matter who is on this roster we won’t win it all with Roberts as the manager. We have all see examples of that as well, and that in of itself (Roberts) could very well be the reason that perhaps players from the outside do not want to play here.

    3. The run to nowheresville. Those rookies all stormed onto the scene and faded late that’s the farm talent we produce. Good for division in specific years but not yearly playoffs

    4. It’s hard to argue with the talent and potential of the Dodgers young arms. But it’s also hard to argue with history that says relying on young arms in the playoffs isn’t likely to bring a WS championship. Buehler is a dominate pitcher. Kershaw is in decline but still good. What the Dodgers will need come playoff time is a second dominate pitcher. Kershaw’s history says it won’t be him. Maybe one of the young guys can step up. But it’s highly unlikely. The same with Jansen. He is no longer the dominate closer he once was. We can hope the reliever they signed can make a comeback but that’s a big gamble. And not having a top closer in the playoffs is a losing proposition. Dodgers fans have this same argument every year about relying on youth vs. signing FAs. And every year the team takes the frugal course, then goes out and dominates in the west and loses in the playoffs. Right now it looks like they’re headed in the same direction.

  4. I don’t see any team benefitting from signing a player for a 10 year, $300M + salary. Most teams won’t even entertain that kind of deal since it destroys the infrastructure of their salary base for remaining salary players for years to come. Its economic suicide. How many players were worth it years 7-10? As for Ryu, I loved his demeanor and approach to the game, but how do you justify 4 years to a player who has had medical injuries for the last 4 years? He is no more loyal to the Dodgers than vice versa. The bottom line is the players will always follow the money. It’s the nature of sports nowadays. Let’s have a exciting 2020. Go Dodgers!!

    1. Craig completely agree. The Yankees may win next year but they have insane contracts to Stanton, Cole and others to contend with. The Cubs are contemplating trading Bryant as their finances are so upside down. The Bosox are stuck with Price’s contract and are attempting to figure out what to do with Betts. The Nats had to let Rendon go to sign Strasburg and I am not sure I would have chosen Strasburg over Rendon. The Angels have Trout, Rendon etc but lack pitching.
      The Dodgers should be in contention for years. The Playoffs and WS are a crap-shoot and depend on momentum, injuries and a few breaks. Oh and it helps if you Cheat….

      1. Crapshoot HA. Go ask champions if they got lucky and were carried by a mystical force or if they went out and got it done. You are a joke poster with your excuses and justifications

  5. The Washington Nationals spent big money in FA agency and signed Sherzer, and also big money on Corbin in FA. At the time many so called baseball experts said the same thing about those contracts would cripple the future of that team! The Astros did the same with pitchers. The Red Sox spent big money in FA for Price,Martinez etc. The teams that go big win big! The Yanks will now also win it in the upcoming seasons. All of those teams will always have a shot at winning a championship, because their ONLY goal is to do so! If the Dodgers had the same philosophy we wouldn’t be here disgruntled and distraught over the orgs ineptness and pondering! And anyone who says that’s not true Kirk, fans here have always complained no matter who is running the Dodgers! That would be correct, because Dodgers for the past 33 years have wanted another championship club in L.A. Some like myself remember when the baseball world feared the Dodgers, and every kid in America wanted to be like Ron Cey and Steve Garvey! Now those kids grew up and look at their once proud historic franchise and say ” who are these money men?” And when will they bring back some Dodgers pride and reconnect with the fans and city of L.A. ? Something the Lakers have done!!!!!

  6. Analytics!!! Until the Dodgers get rid of the analytics and Roberts as manager, us fans can forget about a world series

  7. I would pay yearly residual bonuses to the talent acquisition team if we could sign hidden gems like Max Muncy, or Justin Turner. We have had some real good results with Asian free agents and should consider buying another ace pitcher from their major league system.

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