What Dustin May’s injury means for him, the Dodgers, and others in the org

It didn’t look good at the time he exited the game, and now we know what happened to Dustin May on Saturday.

It was expected, but man, this is such a bummer. May had already taken a big step forward from last season and appeared to be a budding ace. Seriously, that strikeout rate, ground ball rate and command/control had all the makings of a top-of-the-line starter. Now, we won’t see May on a big league mound until late-2022 at the earliest, but it isn’t unrealistic to think we won’t see May back on a MLB mound until March/April 2023. Recovery from Tommy John surgery tends to vary, but 14 months is a somewhat safe bet. That would make it August 2022 at the earliest, and the Dodgers probably won’t be inclined to rush him back from the procedure. And that doesn’t factor in any potential setbacks or slowdowns.

Of course, TJS isn’t a metaphorical death sentence by any means. Walker Buehler had it after he was drafted and ended up getting better. I don’t think May is going to come back throwing 105 MPH with a 3,500 RPM curveball, but there’s a decent chance he comes back as the guy we’ve been accustomed to, even if it’s definitely not a guaranteed outcome.

As for the rotation impact, with Tony Gonsolin still on the mend (and probably a month away) and David Price with a Grade 2 hamstring strain, the Dodgers’ starting pitching depth is quickly eroding. Don’t get me wrong, they still have four starters who are No. 2 or better, but after them, it gets pretty thin.

Gonsolin is probably going to get the biggest opportunity to replace May in the rotation — as well he should. He was really good last season and still has a bright future as a starter. But he has to get back (and stay) on the mound, first. Price would be the next logical choice, but apparently, Dave Roberts said they aren’t going to stretch Price out to return to the starting rotation. He could miss a few weeks, but being 35 years old and having missed the 2020 season, a return to the rotation doesn’t seem terribly likely at the moment.

The Dodgers have some guys on the active and 40-man rosters with starting experience — Gerardo Carrillo, Andre Jackson, Jimmy Nelson, Dennis Santana, Mitch White, Edwin Uceta — but it’d be difficult to see any of them grab the No. 5 spot for any significant length of time. Josiah Gray, on the other hand, could get his chance in Los Angeles sooner than expected.

Gray, my No. 1 prospect for 2021, is 23 years old and set to make his Triple-A debut this week. While he’s only been pitching since 2018, he has really taken to it and catapulted up the prospect rankings. If Gonsolin is out for longer than expected and Price remains in the bullpen for 2021, there’s a decent chance Gray gets a look. He has shown flashes of brilliance at the minor-league level, as well as in Spring Training and at the alternate site (last year). He’s going to have to be added to the 40-man roster after this season anyway if the Dodgers want to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, so they might think it’s worth it to start his clock a little earlier than they want.

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It really sucks that May is going to be out for the better part of two seasons. There’s no getting around that. By the time he’s back, there’s no telling if Clayton Kershaw, Price or even Trevor Bauer will still be with the team. When he does return, he might be an even more important piece than he already was. Until then, the Dodgers (and fans) have to hope guys like Gonsolin, Price and/or Gray can help make up for the loss of May.

Or, you know, just go trade for Max Scherzer in July and really piss off the rest of Major League Baseball.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. 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.