2017 Dodgers Prospects: Projected 2020 Pitching Staff

Photo: Stacie Wheeler

Like last week with the lineup, I’m foolishly trying to predict the 2020 pitching rotation — a venture that will prove to be less fruitful, I’m sure.

There are so many options that it’s an almost impossible task, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Previous entries in this series:

Just like with the hitters, here’s what I projected for the 2017 team back in 2014.

The best laid plans, as it goes. Technically, I’m assured two wins here in Kershaw and Jansen. Ryu is a wild card and could net me another victory, while Urias will be in the rotation at some point (but not to open the season). Everyone else is no longer with the organization, save Anderson, who is looking like an incredible first-round bust.

Starting Pitcher 1

There can only be one.

Options
Clayton Kershaw: I’m of the opinion Kershaw, even when he opts out after the 2018 season, will be re-signed by the Dodgers and he will finish his career in Blue.
Julio Urias: If the Dodgers don’t retain Kershaw, Urias will be the guy.

2020 SP 1: Kershaw

We saw the first crack in Kershaw’s armor in 2016 when he suffered a herniated disc in his back. So far this spring, he looks plenty healthy. He’s still the best pitcher in baseball, and as long as he holds up physically, he could be that guy for the next 3-5 years (at least). Even when he begins to decline (and it will happen, unfortunately), he’ll still be a near-elite pitcher. Urias has all the makings of an ace, but he might not get his chance for several years.

Starting Pitcher 2

While the options are intriguing, there’s really only one guy who will fit this role.

Options
Yadier Alvarez: The Dodgers declined to sign Yoan Moncada so they could nab Alvarez, and the 23-year-old will be ready for the show by 2020, but maybe not the No. 2 spot.
Walker Buehler: The 25-year-old should be somewhat established in the majors by this point. Has the best stuff in the system.
Julio Urias: Old man Urias (23) will be in his fifth (!) MLB season by this time and should be one of the game’s best pitchers.

2020 SP 2: Urias

Urias is as good as he appears. He had a fantastic debut in 2016 and should only get better — especially once the governor on his innings is removed. By 2020, he should be a consistent 180-plus-inning pitcher. He has ace upside with a very high floor thanks to his nasty stuff, solid command and pitchability.

Starting Pitcher 3

A big-time investment should begin paying off by this time.

Options
Yadier Alvarez: It’s going to be hard to not project him in this role.
Walker Buehler: Could push for this spot, but limited workload could hamper that.
Kenta Maeda: Savvy veteran will be 32 and will either have established himself as a mid-rotation starter or back-end guy (more likely).
Brock Stewart: Will be 28 and should be in his first year of arbitration. Shoulder soreness this spring is a concern, but his ceiling is that of a No. 3 pitcher.
Alex Wood: Will be 29 and a free agent. Dodgers may choose to re-sign him or may have already traded him by this time.

2020 SP 3: Alvarez

This might be a little aggressive for the 23-year-old, but the stuff is there. If his command improves, his ceiling is even higher than this. He projects to have two plus-plus pitches and a plus third pitch. He’d be among the best No. 3 starters in baseball.

Starting Pitcher 4

A guy with ace-upside might be pitching toward the end of this rotation.

Options
Walker Buehler: As long as he’s healthy, he’ll have a spot in the rotation because of his pure stuff.
Kenta Maeda: Will be interesting to see how he holds up over the course of his contract.
Jordan Sheffield: Incredible stuff, but not a lock to remain in the rotation. Will be 25 years old and a pre-arbitration guy.
Brock Stewart: While he has the stuff to be a starter, he might ultimately end up in the bullpen.
Alex Wood: Not sure he’ll be re-signed after the 2019 season; also not sure he’ll be a starter by this time.

2020 SP 4: Buehler

There are other safer options here, but Buehler was a former 1st-round pick and has everything needed to succeed in the starting rotation. Durability and injury concerns will stick with him until he proves those issues are behind him.

Starting Pitcher 5

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

Options
Kenta Maeda: Will be in Year 5 of an 8-year deal; should still be an effective pitcher, if he’s healthy.
Trevor Oaks: Could be a solid back-end starting pitcher with his sinker, curveball, splitter combo. Will be 27 and should be an established MLBer.
Jordan Sheffield: Stuff works in either the rotation or bullpen, durability could force him to ‘pen.
Brock Stewart: A relief role appears more likely for Brock Brock.
Mitchell White: Big-time sleeper for this spot. His stuff is top-notch, but the sample size (so far) isn’t there. Will be 25.
Alex Wood: I’m assuming Wood will either be traded by this time or not re-signed when he hits free agency. Won’t be retained as a reliever.

2020 SP 5: Maeda

While Maeda might not be the best pitcher of any of the guys listed above, he’ll be a veteran who is still under contract for four more seasons. I will say, if a guy like Maeda (even at 32) is your No. 5 starter, you’ve done something right. And just because I have him penciled in at No. 5 doesn’t mean he’s going to make 30 starts in that spot.

Closer

This is Kenley’s spot, right?

Options
Pedro Baez: I hesitate to put him here, but if he develops a legitimate secondary pitch and command, he could be this guy. Will be 32 and in his last year of team control.
Grant Dayton: The 32-year-old will be a well-established big leaguer by this time and in his first year of arbitration.
Kenley Jansen: He was re-signed, but he has an opt-out after the 2019 season. Will be 32 years old.
Josh Sborz: Not flashy, but should be a solid reliever for many seasons. Will be 26.
Jordan Sheffield: Some of the nastiest stuff in the system, could play well at the end of the ‘pen.
Yaisel Sierra: The 29-year-old will be in the fifth year of his 6-year deal; definitely a wild card.
Mitchell White: Like Sheffield, he also has nasty stuff and should be a pitcher at the MLB level. Might not be the best pitcher of the 2016 draft class, but should be a good one.

2020 Closer: Jansen

Despite the opt-out after ’19, the Dodgers will see the value in having an established, elite veteran in the bullpen. Jansen is equipped to be dominant for many years thanks to his 80-grade cutter and impeccible command. If for some reason he doesn’t come back, though, the Dodgers should be able to sustain his loss.

Relief pitchers

A laughable number of options here.

Options
Pedro Baez: He’ll be entering his second year of arbitration at age-31. Has a big fastball and inconsistent off-speed stuff.
Grant Dayton: Could be one of the league’s elite lefties in three years.
Yimi Garcia: Still has a chance to be a solid MLB reliever, despite having Tommy John surgery before the 2017 season. Will be 29 and a free agent after ’19.
Adam Liberatore: Lefty will be 33 years old and an established reliever. Could be in another organization, but the Dodgers don’t have a lot of LHP in the system. Will be in Year 2 of arbitration.
Trevor Oaks: Could be the ground ball specialist out of the bullpen that has been lacking in recent years.
Jacob Rhame: Will be 27. Has good MiLB numbers, but might get squeezed out of a ‘pen spot.
Josh Sborz: Could carve out a nice role as a “relief ace,” as it were.
Jordan Sheffield: If he isn’t in the majors by this point, he won’t be far off.
Yaisel Sierra: Dodgers hope he can make the $30 million investment worth it by this point.
Devin Smeltzer: Doesn’t have the talent of anyone else on this list, but is funky lefty, so he could be in contention for a spot.
Brock Stewart: Could be a long reliever-type capable of missing plenty of bats.
Ross Stripling: Should have carved out a niche in the bullpen as a long reliever capable of missing bats and getting grounders. Will be 30 and will be in his first year of arbitration.
Mitchell White: Sinker/cutter combination could be devastating out of the bullpen.

2020 RPs (6): Dayton, Liberatore, Sierra, Stewart, Stripling, White

Keep in mind: Just because a guy isn’t listed doesn’t mean he isn’t still with the organization. I suppose that’ll be the case for a lot of these players.

—–

This was a tough one. The Dodgers have so much pitching depth — even after trading guys like Jharel Cotton, Jose De Leon, Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes (all of whom appeared on last year’s version of this). The rotation was easy enough to figure out, but the bullpen is absolutely stacked. And if things keep trending the way they have been, the Dodgers could have multiple pitchers capable of starting and relieving.

Player Position
Clayton Kershaw SP 1
Julio Urias SP 2
Yadier Alvarez SP 3
Walker Buehler SP 4
Kenta Maeda SP 5
Ross Stripling RP
Adam Liberatore RP
Brock Stewart RP
Yaisel Sierra
RP
Grant Dayton RP
Mitchell White SU
Kenley Jansen
CL

Next up: Best tools

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., and has yet to be shot.