Dodgers: The State of the Rotation Heading into 2021
The offseason has officially arrived, and as much fun as the 2020 season was, it’s time to look at what lies in store for the Dodgers going forward.
One of their brightest spots of the 2020 season was the starting rotation, especially considering how young they were. Just to drill down that point, the average age of all starters not named Clayton Kershaw was 24.75 years!
This group has a bright future ahead and will hopefully get the chance to prove themselves in a full season in 2021. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, however, let’s take a look at how the rotation favorites will enter the offseason.
- Regular Season Stats: 6-2 in 10 starts, 2.16 ERA, 62 SO, 58.1 IP
Clayton Kershaw was phenomenal in 2020, albeit in a shortened season. The sample size was small, but when your career is as steady as Kershaw’s, all you look for is continued health and consistent results. He looked as good as he has in a long time, and that’s considering that he has a 16-5 record in 2019. With some newfound life on his fastball (+1.3 MPH) and the World Series monkey finally off of his back, Kershaw will go into 2021 in a great position to lead this rotation back to October.
- Regular Season Stats: 1-0 in 8 starts, 3.44 ERA, 42 SO, 36.2 IP
The 2020 regular season was not up to par with the high expectations we already have for Walker Buehler. Part of this was due to injury, but there was just something off all year long with the young righty. That all changed as soon as October rolled around, as his 1.80 ERA in 5 starts reminded us all of how dominant he normally is.
Blister issues plagued him to end the year, but a full offseason of rest and recovery should bode well for the future (or current?) ace of the Dodgers.
- Regular Season Stats: N/A
The real wild card going into 2021 will be the re-addition of David Price to an already excellent rotation. After opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID uncertainty, he will look to add a veteran presence to a rotation that is full of young flamethrowers outside of Clayton Kershaw.
The best-case scenario is that Price regains his All-Star form and becomes the best number 3 starter in baseball. The flip side would be that Price is nothing more than an innings eater for LA while they give more opportunities to the young guns. Either way, adding Price can only be a good thing for a team fresh off of a title run.
- Regular Season Stats: 3-0 in 10 starts/11 games, 3.27 ERA, 45 SO, 55 IP
The unsung hero of the 2020 playoffs will look to finally cement himself in the Dodgers rotation next year. Another year removed from shoulder surgery, Julio looked fully healthy throughout the year, a much bigger indicator about his future than the numbers he put up.
His stats weren’t too shabby either, though. Although his regular-season numbers were mostly average, he took after fellow pitcher Walker Buehler in completely dominating come playoff time. The experience that Julio gained in 2020 will go a long way in boosting his confidence as the team’s 3rd or 4th starter next season.
- Regular Season Stats: 3-1 in 10 starts/12 games, 2.57 ERA, 44 SO, 56 IP
This is where things start to get interesting. Dustin May was one of the young power arms that the Dodgers called upon to fill some of that pitching depth when Price opted out and Kershaw went down to start the year. He more than lived up to the hype and will certainly be a factor in 2021 and beyond.
The question heading into next season is whether the Dodgers will feel comfortable with a backend of the rotation made up of young guys only. Remember, this is the team that brought in Jimmy Nelson and Alex Wood as security pieces this past season even with all of the starting options already on the club. After the versatility that May showed in the playoffs, it isn’t out of the question that the front office handles him with kid gloves much like they did with Urías and tosses him into the bullpen for stretches to limit his innings in what will be his first full season in the majors.
- Regular Season Stats: 2-2 in 8 starts/9 games, 2.31 ERA, 46 SO, 46.2 IP
Much like Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin is in a state of limbo heading into 2021. He’s coming off of a fantastic regular season but has yet to feel the grind of a full 162-game season.
His 2.31 ERA was second-best out of the starters core behind Kershaw himself, showing just how good he can be when given the chance. Gonsolin will be the name to watch as the Dodgers navigate free agency and the offseason, as his future in the rotation may depend on the moves they make between now and training camp.
The Dodgers certainly have the depth to go with a 6-man rotation next season, but that is in all likelihood not going to happen. Instead, I expect them to finesse their roster manipulation once again in order to give all 6 of these pitchers a healthy amount of work.
A 162 game season has a minimum of 1458 innings, and at least 810 (5.0 IP per start) of those need to be filled by their starters. The offseason is barely getting underway, so expect a lot of changes between now and early February.
Truths About LA Going into 2021: Roberts, Jansen, Rotation Changes, and More
They can afford to stand pat with these guys, that’s 6 quality choices, and Gray ready in the wings, and even Victor Gonzalez if the injury bug forces them to go 8 deep. I’d focus resources on a star infielder like Lamahieu, and use Lux as a chip to land a drop dead close like Hader, then this team is done and unstoppable.
I would trade Price and Wood, not so much because there are pressing needs to fill, but because nether adds much to this championship team. Price wasn’t even part of it. And Wood was almost invisible except as a periodic innings filler. The Dodgers need to commit to May and Gonsolin. Kershaw, Buehler, Urias, May, and Gonsolin should be the starting 5. If you want go with a six man rotation, throw bullpen games and give opportunities to guys like Josiah Gray and other guys in the system. You don’t need an established 6 starter, but you do need to season youngsters at the big league level, and get in work for the bullpen guys.
The Dodgers have other young arms like Gray, White, and Santana that saw some big league time. Do they decide to trade a pitcher and a player to fill the weakest position?
What do they as an organization think about Lux? Do they keep him or trade him? Does Taylor take over 2nd? Do they use McKinstry and other young players like Beatty and Rios to fill the Kike and Joc slots?
Do they sign Turner for a couple of years and use him along with Rios to save Turner’s knees? Perhaps move Turner 1st occasionally? Muncy and Rios both play 3rd well. Perhaps use Smith at 3rd to keep a right-handed bat in the line-up? Do bring up a right-handed Farm player like Mann? Do they bring up DJ Peters and have him play CF occasionally and perhaps teach him 1st? Lots of options and decisions. The great news is the Dodgers have one of the best Organizations in recognizing and developing talent. Hopefully, they will find another great player to trade or sign as they did with Gray & Graterol.
The pitching is in great shape with the core of Kershaw, Buehler, and Price. Youngsters Urias (only 24), May, and Gonsolin will all contribute in some ways in 2021. Santana and White are ready to contribute at the major league level.
The Dodgers usually have extra arms just in case of injury or lack of production. Dont be surprised for them to add a starter or two to this group. Last year, wood and neslon were injured, while price opted out. Yet because of their depth of pitching, they were able to get the job done. I’m really excited to add a healthy Price to the mix.
I’m already hearing Trevor Bauer’s name being mentioned in discussions of next year’s Dodger rotation. I would expect LA to at least be looking at him, depending on his price tag. David Price is a huge question mark in my mind, having been out of the game for an entire season. But with a healthy Kershaw, Buehler, Urias, May and Gonsolin, I think their time is better spent locking up long term contracts with Seager and Belli; re-sign JT, Kike and Joc as well. The pitching will be fine. Focus on keeping the offense downright scary. JMO.
Ben, I agree the Dodgers do not need pitching. I also agree they should bring back Turner on a 1-2 year contract. We all appreciate JT. The Dodgers have Rios and can use Smith for a right-handed bat at 3rd also. The Dodgers also have a young player Devin Mann who is right-handed and was on the 60 man roster that played 2nd originally but they have been gaving him reps at 3rd.
The Dodgers have a lot of young talent ready to bring up to the Majors. I would let Kike and Joc go as baseball is a business and the Dodgers need to promote players or lose them.
I read that Trevor Bauer is looking for a one year contract only in 2021. Dodgers should give it a good look and sign him.
A rotation of CK, WB, TB, DP and JU would be the best in baseball by a wide margin, maybe the best in the history of the game.
Sign Liam Kendriks to be the new closer.
Trade for Arenado. We have the ammunition with guys like Lux, Ruiz, Gray and others.
Rockies will go nowhere in 2021 and Arenados contract will be up soon too.
Lineup of Betts, Seager, Arenado, Muncy, Smith, Bellinger, Pollack, Taylor, DH would be lethal. Coupled with the rotation I have in mind the Dodgers would be the heavy odds on favorits for a repeat.