2015 Dodgers prospects: 2018 Pitching Staff

This is the penultimate piece in my 2015 Dodgers prospects series. I look at how I think the 2018 pitching staff could shape up.

There are a few Dodger pitching prospects who could crack the 2018 pitching staff, but if there is a big hole that can be filled with a big signing (specifically in the rotation), they’ll probably go that route. But having some young studs in the minors to fill in and develop is never a bad thing.

This doesn’t take into account potential trades, free agent and future international signings. So, despite the possibility (likelihood?) David Price will be a Dodger at some point, I cannot project him into the 2018 pitching staff.

Starting Pitcher 1

Clayton Kershaw should be coming off his fifth consecutive Cy Young award and probably second or third World Series ring. It’s foolish to think anyone else would be the Dodgers’ ace come 2018, provided he’s healthy.

Options
Clayton Kershaw: Will be entering his age-30 season, also known as the last season before he can opt out of his mega contract.

2018 SP 1: Kershaw

If all is going well (no injuries, continued dominance), Kershaw will opt out of his deal. He’d be leaving $65 million on the table, but he could easily sign another 9-figure contract. I’d be surprised if the Dodgers let Kershaw get away, no matter the cost.

Starting Pitcher 2

This is where things get interesting.

Options
Zack Greinke: Will be 34 might not even be a Dodger at this point.
Hyun-Jin Ryu: Will be in the last year of his 6-year deal (and entering his age-30 season). To this point, it looks to be a bargain.
Julio Urias: Could be entering his third full MLB season at the ripe old age of 21.

2018 SP 2: Greinke

It’s hard to get away from Greinke as the No. 2 starter. While he isn’t the innings-eater many top-of-the-rotation guys are, he’d still have some of the best stuff of the guys listed above. This will, one day, be Urias’ spot, but probably not in 2018.

Starting Pitcher 3

The depth of the Dodgers’ pitching staff will show when going through these next three spots.

Options
Chris Anderson: He’ll have to improve his command greatly and develop a consistent third pitch to even be considered.
Jose De Leon: The 2015 season will determine whether he ever gets to this spot. Would be
Hyun-Jin Ryu: Has been the Dodgers’ No. 3 starter since he signed, and could still be.
Julio Urias: The most potential of any of these options.

2018 SP 3: Ryu

Ryu has shown a lot in his first two seasons. His 2015 could ultimately show what kind of pitcher he ends up being. Urias is gunning for this spot, though.

Starting Pitcher 4

Let’s face it: This is Julio Urias’ world. We’re just all living in it.

Options
Chris Anderson: He’ll be 25 years old at this point and probably throwing gas out of the bullpen.
Jose De Leon: Will also be 25 years old and might very well end up as trade bait.
Brandon McCarthy: Will be entering the final year of his 4-year, $48 million deal.
Julio Urias: This is his spot.

2018 SP 4: Urias

To pencil in a 21-year-old as a No. 4 starter on a (conceivably) perennial World Series contender sounds odd, but  he projects to be that good. The only thing really holding him back is his stamina, which should increase beginning in 2015.

Starting Pitcher 5

This spot will likely be filled from within the system — and could even be a player who isn’t yet a member of a Dodger (i.e. a draftee).

Options
Chris Anderson: He’ll probably have shifted to the bullpen by this time, but could make an occasional spot-start.
Jharel Cotton: His 2-pitch mix could play nicely in the bullpen.
Jose De Leon: Could shift to the bullpen.
Grant Holmes: Probably would need one more year in the minors.
Zach Lee: Will be just 26 years old, but also likely pitching elsewhere.
Brandon McCarthy: As long as his arm hasn’t fallen off or he has been traded, he should occupy this spot.
Ross Stripling: Recovery from Tommy John in 2015 will determine where he is come 2018.

2018 SP 5: McCarthy

The grizzled veteran will be in his age-34 season and fighting off young hurlers like De Leon and Holmes for the No. 5 spot. McCarthy could give the Dodgers some quality innings in the fifth spot, but this will be Holmes’ spot come 2019.

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The Dodgers have some really good depth at starting pitcher. I’m 50/50 on whether Greinke will be back (but he will absolutely opt-out, barring injury or poor performance). I suspect they’d replace him with a free-agent pitcher, as the step down from Greinke to having a guy like Anderson, Cotton, De Leon Lee or Stripling in the rotation would be significant.

Closer

Dodger fans have been spoiled with the likes of Eric Gagne, Takashi Saito and Kenley Jansen. Sure, there was the Danys Baez era, but the team has been generally great with closers in the last 10-12 years.

Options
Chris Anderson: He has the mid-90s fastball that could play up, but his off-speed stuff needs refinement.
Yimi Garcia: Not the hardest thrower, but the 27-year-old will be entering his prime.
Chris Hatcher: Will be 33 years old and entering his second-to-last year of arbitration. Could be somewhat expensive.
Kenley Jansen: Will be 30 years old and likely signed to a big-money deal.

2018 Closer: Jansen

Jansen, despite heart issues and a growth in his foot, is still one of the game’s best closers, and he should continue to be putting up ridiculous numbers as the Dodgers’ closer at this point.

Relief pitchers

We’ve already seen how the new front office deals with relief pitchers. There are a lot of low-risk, medium-to-high-reward guys who are signed while passing on the big names like Andrew Miller and David Robertson. Odds are, it will continue to conduct business in this manner.

Options
Chris Anderson: Could be one of the game’s better relievers with his power stuff. Also could have been traded by this time.
Pedro Baez: Big fastball, questionable breaking ball, will be entering age-30 season and first-time arbitration-eligible.
Zachary Bird: Fastball maxed out at 99 MPH as a starter and could get to it out of the bullpen.
Ralston Cash: A mid-90s fastball and potentially plus-slider could be just what is needed out of the bullpen.
Jharel Cotton: Could be a nice in-house option to fill a bullpen spot.
Daniel Coulombe: His left-handedness keeps him in the discussion.
Jose De Leon: Could have been pushed to the bullpen and has stuff to succeed.
Carlos Frias: If he isn’t a starter, he has the heater to have some success in the bullpen.
Yimi Garcia: Is a smart pitcher who could thrive in middle relief.
Chris Hatcher: Likely setup man to Jansen.
Juan Nicasio: Will be 31 is a free agent after 2017. He might not be around.
Chris Reed: Nah.
Paco Rodriguez: Hopefully he’s been honing his craft in the majors and not the minors at age 27.
A.J. Vanegas: The 2014 draftee’s power fastball and slider would fit in well with the bullpen.
Chris Withrow: It’s anyone’s guess how he comes back from Tommy John surgery.

2018 RPs (6): Anderson, Coulombe, De Leon, Garcia, Hatcher, Rodriguez

From the 2015 team, we know Brandon League and J.P. Howell won’t be around in 2018 to pitch out of the bullpen. I removed Nicasio for a few reasons, including his contract status, potential performance (both good and bad). If he performs well, he’ll get a big deal on the open market. If he doesn’t, he probably isn’t worth retaining. Garcia might already be an established reliever and could pick up for the departed Nicasio. Anderson and/or De Leon could be the long men out of the bullpen, but both have the stuff to succeed in short work. Coulombe beat out Cotton for the last spot because he’s left-handed. The Dodgers don’t have much in the way of left-handed relievers close to the majors, and this team would need more than Rodriguez as a left-handed option in the bullpen. I’m also fairly confident the second lefty won’t be Coulombe, but we’ll see.

And just because some of the players listed above aren’t on this list doesn’t mean they’re out of the organization. Sure, some might be, but not all of them. This also doesn’t account for potential draftee/international signings in the next three years — though, those guys don’t tend to fly up the minor-league ladder.

Player Position
Clayton Kershaw SP 1
Zack Greinke SP 2
Hyun-Jin Ryu SP 3
Julio Urias SP 4
Brandon McCarthy SP 5
Chris Anderson RP
Jose De Leon RP
Daniel Coulombe RP
Yimi Garcia RP
Paco Rodriguez RP
Chris Hatcher SU
Kenley Jansen CL

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Next up: 2018 Projected Lineup

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.