Joe Wieland Is Perfectly Acceptable Rotation Depth

Hyun-jin Ryu‘s sore shoulder is clearly concerning, because it’s not the first time this has happened. The liner that hit Clayton Kershaw in the face yesterday was terrifying, but not much more than that, since it seems he’ll be fine. These two things are completely unrelated, other than that it shines a brighter light on what may yet be a lack of rotation depth, given the extensive injury histories of Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy.

Dodgers @
Rangers
San Antonio, Tex.
SS
Hernandez
3B
Turner
RF
Puig
1B
Gonzalez
C
Grandal
LF
Guerrero
CF
Pederson
2B
Barney
P
Greinke

Predictably, people are panicking about this. Just look at the first three comments of Mark Saxon’s ESPN/LA story from yesterday on the situation, where fans are complaining about the “brainiacs” who focus on sabermetrics, didn’t go get James Shields, and aren’t pushing Julio Urias to the bigs immediately. These people are, of course, wrong, insanely completely wrong, and for any number of reasons.

But it’s true that rotation durability is going to be an issue, and I’ve never expected that the main quintet of Kershaw / Zack Greinke / Ryu / McCarthy / Anderson was going to make all 162 starts. That never happens for any team, no matter how rock-solid their starters are, and it wasn’t going to happen on a team with injury questions. This is why Brandon Beachy is around, to be ready around midseason when he’s likely needed. This is why I wrote last month that “innings pitched” are far more important than “number of disabled list trips. There’s going to be starts made from beyond the first five, and for all of the talk about Cole Hamels, I fully expect the Dodgers to be heavily in on Johnny Cueto (and what the hell, include free-agent-to-be Aroldis Chapman) in July when the undermanned Reds completely collapse.

So, yes, changes will come at some point. But remember what we’re talking about, right now. The way the April schedule works out, the Dodgers could easily roll with a four-man rotation for all but one game until April 25, which is more than a month from now, and when Ryu should be more than ready to return. So I ask: Hey, what’s wrong with Joe Wieland? Yes, he’s already been sent over to minor league camp, but that doesn’t really mean anything other than the fact that the Dodgers have so many pitchers in camp that there just weren’t enough innings to go around on the big team. He’s still on the 40-man, which means he’s easily available at any time.

Dodgers @
Rockies
Scottsdale, Ariz.
SS
Rollins
LF
Crawford
2B
Kendrick
DH
Ethier
CF
Van Slyke
3B
Uribe
RF
Heisey
C
Ellis
1B
Dickson
P
Gaudin

Obviously, he’s had injury concerns of his own over the last few years, but he’s fully healthy now — he hit 94 last week against Seattle — and while he was the least interesting part of the Matt Kemp trade, it’s not like he was some toss-in. As I wrote in December:

With that kind of a track record, it’s difficult to really look at his performance, because he’s missed just so much time. The few scouting reports still out there all say basically the same thing, which is that he’s a flyball pitcher and a very good control artist, an assertion backed up by a 444/86 K/BB in 476.2 minor league innings. When the trade was announced, ESPN’s Keith Law said that Wieland “has the size and mix of stuff to be a solid fourth starter if he’s over his arm issues,” and while that’s maybe unexciting, it’s not without value, either.

No one wants Wieland to be making 30 starts for a contender, but no one’s suggesting that, either. He’s shown more than enough in the minors that he’s absolutely deserving of fill-in starts — this isn’t Red Patterson or Kevin Correia — and so if you need him now and then for the next few months, that’s fine. There’s no need to panic and go crazy for Hamels (who still isn’t coming without Urias or Corey Seager going back), and there’s no one else likely available right now anyway other than scrap-heap guys like Barry Zito.

And yeah, if Kershaw gets taken out by a line drive to the face, that’s going to hurt, because he’s irreplaceable. Now name a team in baseball who could see their ace go down to a freak accident and have an actual backup plan for that. You can’t. The five starters the Dodgers have now aren’t the five you’ll see all year. Their immediate backup options are perfectly adequate for short stints. If something larger comes up, there’s plenty of time to manage that. Not that you can ever take anything for granted, but four other teams in the NL West are either atrocious (Arizona, Colorado), improved-yet-flawed (San Diego), or proven-but-weakened (San Francisco). I’m not going to worry all that much that Joe Wieland may need to make one April start.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.