This piece is just like the Projected 2023 Lineup piece from last week, but even more difficult to project because it involves pitchers. It definitely isn’t ironclad, but it’s fun to think about — especially now (if we make it to 2023).
Here are the previous attempts at this exercise (year written in parenthesis):
Before we get to it, let’s look back at my 2020 projection and … oh.
- SP 1: Clayton Kershaw
- SP 2: Julio Urias
- SP 3: Yadier Alvarez
- SP 4: Walker Buehler
- SP 5: Kenta Maeda
- RP: Ross Stripling
- RP: Adam Liberatore
- RP: Brock Stewart
- RP: Yaisel Sierra
- RP: Grant Dayton
- RP: Mitchell White
- CL: Kenley Jansen
Pitching staffs — especially bullpens — are volatile, but hooo boy did I whiff on some guys here. Only five of the 12 above would (probably) make the Opening Day roster, while a sixth (White) is actually on the 40-man roster. Four (Maeda, Liberatore, Stewart, Dayton) aren’t in the organization anymore and two have dealt with injuries and off-the-field issues (Sierra and Alvarez, respectively).
A player’s season-age will be in parenthesis. This exercise also does not take into account potential trades or free agent signings. I know it isn’t terribly realistic to think the Dodgers won’t venture outside the organization for talent, but this is not that kind of post.
Starting Pitcher 1
Walker Buehler (29): Arb3 (of four), could be in line for a big extension
Dustin May (25): Has top-of-the rotation stuff, but unlikely to beat out Buehler
2023 SP 1: Buehler
Not much of a question here. Aces are in short supply, and the Dodgers are fortunate to have one to follow up Kershaw’s decade of greatness. Buehler will be fully in his prime and probably established as one of the best pitchers in baseball, if he continues his current trajectory.
Starting Pitcher 2
Brusdar Graterol (24): Some of the best stuff in the org, but also a lot of questions
Josiah Gray (25): Big 2019 season raised his ceiling
Dustin May (24): Could be first-time arbitration-eligible and should be established
Julio Urias (26): Still has a high ceiling, but not as high as it once was
2023 SP 2: May
Urias looked to be lined up for this spot for the last few years, but injuries, workload questions and off-the-filed issues have clouded his future (for me). May has the best combination of everything you look for in a top-end starter among this quartet. If he can figure out how to miss more bats, he could be a 1b to Buehler.
Starting Pitcher 3
Tony Gonsolin (29): Big-time stuff that could still land him in the ‘pen, but has every chance to make it as a starter
Brusdar Graterol (24): Bullpen need might take precedence over keeping him in the rotation
Josiah Gray (25): Should be first-time arb-eligible and a rotation fixture
Clayton Kershaw (35): Old-man Kershaw might still be around, but his contract expires after 2021
Julio Urias (26): Final year of arbitration (Arb4) and will be looking for a big pay day in 2024
2023 SP 3: Gray
Gray would give a bit of a different look than the first two in the rotation. Sure, he throws hard and has a slider, but he’s he might have the best makeup of any pitcher in the org and should be a budding star by this time.
Starting Pitcher 4
Tony Gonsolin (29): Didn’t miss as many bats in his MLB debut, but has the stuff to succeed in the rotation
Brusdar Graterol (24): Might be an Arb1 guy who could do his best work as a reliever
Clayton Kershaw (35): If he’s healthy and is willing to take a lesser contract (provided he isn’t the Kershaw of yesteryear), he could still be a factor
David Price (37): Not out of the question he’s still in baseball, but maybe not in LA
Julio Urias (26): Might be his spot to lose, based on what happens over the next three years
2023 SP 4: Urias
If it were up to me, I would have moved on from Urias, but if he’s still around, he’s no worse than the No. 4 starter on this team, with a chance to be even better. Health and stamina will be big factors in determining that.
Starting Pitcher 5
Caleb Ferguson (26): Extreme outside chance, thanks to the addition of a slider
Tony Gonsolin (29): The way things shape up, he might be a super valuable long/swingman or late-inning guy
Brusdar Graterol (24): Seems destined for the bullpen, and could be great there
Clayton Kershaw (35): As long as he’s around and in Dodger blue, he’ll have a rotation spot
Ryan Pepiot (25): 2019 3rd-rounder would give the rotation a different look thanks to a great right-handed changeup
David Price (37): Probably playing elsewhere or enjoying retirement
2023 SP 5: Kershaw
I can’t, in good conscience, remove Kershaw from the rotation (even though I did it last year). Yes, he’ll have to re-sign (for a likely lower rate) or not choose retirement, but knowing the competitor Kershaw is, he won’t hang it up until he absolutely has to. And 35 isn’t that old (says the current 37-year-old).
Caleb Ferguson (26): Not a ton of left-handed closers, but he has great stuff and could compete for the role
Brusdar Graterol (24): Seems like his job to lose
Tony Gonsolin (29): Has the stuff to close, but might be more valuable in another role
Kenley Jansen (35): May or may not still be with the org (FA after 2021)
Dennis Santana (27): Some of the best raw talent of any pitcher in the org, could be a legit late-inning guy
2023 Closer: Graterol
This was close between Graterol and Gonsolin. In this case, Gonsolin’s versatility worked against him, as he seems to be too good to use for just one inning per outing. Graterol’s stuff is perfect for the role. If he can improve his command a bit and stay healthy, he could be a top-tier closer for many years.
Scott Alexander (33): Free agent after 2022 season, but lack of lefty depth could lead him to sticking around
Gerardo Carrillo (24): Big-time stuff that could tick up out of the ‘pen
Brett de Geus (25): Promising results as a full-time reliever in 2019, could be a sleeper for ’23
Caleb Ferguson (26): Second-time arb-eligible, should be the left-handed version of Gonsolin
Tony Gonsolin (29): If he’s healthy and with the org, he’ll be in the ‘pen
Victor Gonzalez (27): Could be the best true LH reliever in the org by now
Michael Grove (26): Was getting rave reviews in ST before the pandemic, could be a nice RP option
Andre Jackson (27): Underrated current prospect who could open some eyes as a reliever by this point
Melvin Jimenez (23): Incredible stuff and a sleeper to be an impact reliever
Marshall Kasowski (28): Could end up being a fungible middle reliever-type teams always have
Adam Kolarek (34): Arb3 by this time, 3-batter rule strategy should be figured out one way or the other by now
Ryan Pepiot (25): Fastball-changeup combo out of the bullpen would give a different look
Logan Salow (28): Similar to Kolarek, but might be able to get righties out
Dennis Santana (27): Filthy stuff that should bolster a strong potential ‘pen
Josh Sborz (29): Cost-effective middle reliever
Jordan Sheffield (28): High upside, but command/control issues could keep him on the outside looking in
Edwin Uceta (25): Made a nice impression in 2020 Spring Training, stuff could tick up with a move to the bullpen
Mitchell White (28): Still has some of the best stuff in the system but it comes and goes
2023 RP (7): Ferguson, Gonsolin, Gonzalez, Grove, Salow, Santana, White
Not gonna lie, this looks like a tremendous bullpen. Of course, a lot of them look that way on paper. But, the Dodgers could do far worse than this for the future. There’s a nice balance (three LHP, four RHP) and the overall ceiling is high. There’s some volatility, but also a lot of intriguing arms as relievers. I’d be particularly interested to see how guys like Grove and White do as full-time relievers by this point. Ferguson and Gonsolin should be the anchors, with Gonzalez, Salow and Santana being solid complimentary pieces.
If a guy doesn’t crack the Top 8 on the reliever depth chart, he might still be in the organization, but there’s no way all of them will be in three years time.
|Walker Buehler||SP 1|
|Dustin May||SP 2|
|Josiah Gray||SP 3|
|Julio Urias||SP 4|
|Clayton Kershaw||SP 5|
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