2016 Dodgers prospects: 2019 Pitching Staff

In the last part of my 11-part prospect series, I present to you the (unlikely) 2019 pitching staff.

Like with the projected 2019 lineup, this projection does not take into account free agent signings, trade acquisitions, draft picks or international signings (hi, Shohei Otani).

Previous entries in this series:

Just like with the hitters, here’s what I projected for the 2016 team back in 2013.

Hey, I hit .333 (lol batting average). Ryu would have been there if he wasn’t hurt, but Greinke leaving, Billingsley blowing up and Lee regressing weren’t expected. Since then, I have expanded this to include the rest of the bullpen.

Starting Pitcher 1

Player Position
Clayton Kershaw SP 1
Julio Urias SP 2
Jose De Leon SP 3
Kenta Maeda SP 4
Grant Holmes
SP 5
Jharel Cotton
RP
Alex Wood
RP
Yaisel Sierra
RP
Chris Hatcher RP
Yimi Garcia
RP
Josh Sborz SU
Frankie Montas CL

I mean, come on.

Option
Clayton Kershaw: Unless he is extended, he will have opted-out of his deal. He’ll have also been re-signed, because there is no way the Dodgers let him get away.

2019 SP 1: Kershaw

There is no other option. The only way another pitcher occupies this spot is if Kershaw suffers some injuries and/or significantly diminished performance. He is the franchise and the Dodgers cannot afford to lose him. They will do whatever it takes to keep him. The PR nightmare alone makes retaining him mandatory.

Starting Pitcher 2

There are a lot of viable and interesting options to follow Mr. Kershaw.

Options
Yadier Alvarez: Plus-fastball and a “dastardly” slider make this a possibility, but not terribly likely. Will be 22.
Jose De Leon: The 26-year-old will have been in the majors for a few seasons. This will be his ceiling.
Grant Holmes: He might finally be cracking the majors, but probably isn’t ready for such an aggressive spot in the rotation at age 23.
Kenta Maeda: Along with Kershaw, will be the Veteran Presents in the rotation, but not likely a No. 2. Will be entering fourth year of 8-year deal.
Julio Urias: At 22, he might be entering his third full MLB season and has the most talent of anyone listed above.

2019 SP 2: Urias

If Urias is as good as everyone says he is (and he probably is), then he should absolutely be slotted in right here — even at age 22. His pure stuff, pitchability, maturity and mound presence is unmatched. Alvarez and Holmes have great stuff, but their command might hold them back from reaching this ceiling. De Leon and Maeda are more mid-rotation guys.

Starting Pitcher 3

By this time, there should be another current prospect ready to step into this role.

Options
Yadier Alvarez: The most talent of anyone remaining and could be a difference-maker (but maybe not in 2019).
Jose De Leon: While he isn’t the flame-thrower some of the others are on the list, he might be the best overall pitcher by this time.
Grant Holmes: Command will need to have progressed to be in consideration here.
Kenta Maeda: Will be 31 years old and hopefully have acclimated well to the MLB game by this time.
Frankie Montas: Has two plus (or better) pitches, but lack of a third pitch and command could hold him back. Will be 26 years old.
Alex Wood: Will be 28 and in his final year of arbitration. Necessity and the pure stuff of other pitchers might push him to the bullpen.

2019 SP 3: De Leon

De Leon’s combination of two above-average pitches, an average third pitch and above-average command will lead him to be the No. 3 starter. Maeda could claim this spot if he has pitched well enough, but that remains to be seen. Wood is a sleeper here, especially if he has his velocity back and his release point situated for going on three years. Alvarez, Holmes and Montas are all high-upside potentials.

Starting Pitcher 4

This rotation is going to be stupid good.

Options
Yadier Alvarez: The highest ceiling remaining, the Cuban import should start to show why the Dodgers invested so heavily in him.
Grant Holmes: Former 1st-rounder certainly has the talent to be in the rotation. Would be a dynamite reliever, too.
Kenta Maeda: Crafty veteran should still have plenty left in the tank to be in consideration here.
Frankie Montas: Huge fastball and wipeout slider still might not be enough to keep him from the ‘pen.
Alex Wood: A lot depends on 2016, but he’s looking like a bullpen option at this rate.

2019 SP 4: Maeda

Maeda will have a few years (hopefully good) under his belt and profiles nicely as a back-of-the-rotation guy. It’s entirely possible anyone on the list could leap frog him for this spot, but as long as he’s healthy, he’ll be in the rotation.

Starting Pitcher 5

This spot should be occupied by a youngster with tons of upside.

Options
Yadier Alvarez: Big-time investment might start paying off.
Walker Buehler: Will be 24 and normally would be well on his way, but he won’t pitch competitive innings until sometime in 2017.
Jharel Cotton: Probably fits better in the bullpen, but has an outside chance of starting. Will be 27.
Grant Holmes: There just might be too much talent ahead of (and behind) him to crack the rotation.
Frankie Montas: Like Cotton, he fits better in the bullpen.
Alex Wood: Might be forced to the bullpen due to a dearth of remotely quality left-handed pitchers in the organization.

2019 SP 5: Holmes

Holmes has perhaps a ceiling that rivals Alvarez’s. The fact he’s farther along in his development, has the makings of a third pitch and some minor-league innings under his belt give him the edge over Alvarez. But Alvarez is definitely 1A here. He has two potential plus-pitches and while he’s still unknown, the Dodgers didn’t spend $16 million ($32 million, really, as well as passing on Yoan Moncada) on him for nothing. Having said that, he might be brought along slowly as opposed to throwing him straight into the rotation. Buehler might very well crack the rotation at some point, but he’ll be in just his third full season (hopefully). Cotton, Montas and Wood all profile great out of the bullpen as this staff is currently constructed.

Closer

The closer in 2016 might not be the closer in 2019 (or 2017, for that matter).

Options
Jharel Cotton: An above-average fastball, a plus-chnageup and good command profile well here.
Kenley Jansen: He’ll probably be nearing the end of his next contract, and not necessarily with the Dodgers.
Frankie Montas: Two plus-pitches that flash plus-plus is exactly what is needed from a closer. Command might be an issue.
Yaisel Sierra: Will be 28 years old and entering the fourth year of his 6-year deal and has a chance to be dominant out of the ‘pen.

2019 Closer: Montas

The fact the Dodgers’ front office hasn’t approached Jansen about a contract extension as he’s entering his final year of team control is head-scratching — baffling, even. But we know it doesn’t like to allocate a lot of money to relievers. Jansen is absolutely a different situation, but I’m not confident they’ll retain him. Montas has the best combination of everything else to step in for Jansen in the spot, perhaps as early as next year. Cotton is a deep sleeper here, while we still don’t know what Sierra is all about.

Relief pitchers

The options are almost endless.

Options
Yadier Alvarez: Profiles as a starter long-term, but some work out of the bullpen couldn’t hurt.
Luis Avilan: Will be 29 years old and one year removed from being a free agent. Odds are he won’t be around.
Pedro Baez: He’ll be entering his second year of arbitration at age-31. Has a big fastball and inconsistent off-speed stuff.
Jharel Cotton: Perhaps one of the best in-house options to fill a bullpen spot.
Caleb Dirks: A deep sleeper for the bullpen. Will be 26 years old.
Carlos Frias: Will be arbitration-eligible for a second time at 29 and might not be in the organization.
Yimi Garcia: The will-be 28-year-old could be a staple in the Dodger bullpen. Will be in his second year of arbitration.
Angel German: Flame-throwing reliever who is generally unknown but could be one of those young guys who push for a ‘pen spot in 2019.
Chris Hatcher: Will be entering the last year of team control as a 34-year-old.
Jacob Rhame: Great MiLB numbers, but the 26-year-old might be left out or dealt by this point.
Josh Sborz: Will be 25. Was great in college as a reliever and should find his way into middle relief in the majors.
Alex Wood: If he isn’t starting, he’ll be one of the highest-paid relievers (via arbitration) in baseball.

2019 RPs (6): Cotton, Garcia, Hatcher, Sborz, Sierra, Wood

There’s a lot that can happen in three years. Odds are overwhelmingly good this won’t be the bullpen, but the Dodgers have plenty of internal, quality options to fill a bullpen twice over. There’s a severe lack of left-handed pitchers, hence Wood’s inclusion. He very well might still be a good-to-great starting pitcher by this time, but it’s easy to see him being a dominant lefty out of the bullpen. Sborz has the stuff and ability to be the primary setup man for Montas, but any of these guys (save Wood) could fill that role. There’s a lot of velocity, swing-and-miss off-speed pitches and (will be) experience in this group. If these guys all stay healthy, they could all be really good.

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That concludes the 11-part prospect series. There will be more articles throughout the season. I hope you have enjoyed the coverage.

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 does contracts and depth charts for FanGraphs and 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 one-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, California, and has yet to be shot.