Clayton Kershaw and Brian Wilson hurting, but don’t fret too much

kershaw_clayton_ST 3.15.14

Ouch, my teres major. (By: Dustin Nosler)

The Dodgers are picking up where they left off last year — with the wins and the injuries. Are you worried yet? If you are, don’t be.

The Dodgers placed Brian Wilson on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday with nerve irritation in his surgically repaired right elbow. Wilson infamously gave up three runs on Sunday night and failed to record an out on the way to a 3-1 loss to the Padres.

It wasn’t the end of the world, but it ended Wilson’s next (at least) two weeks. Wilson looked fine (better than fine, actually) in Australia, but he looked a little “off” on Sunday, as his velocity was down and he wasn’t locating his pitches. Turns out, there was a reason for it.

There’s no timetable for his return, but I’m guessing he’ll be out longer than the 15 days. Luckily, the Dodgers’ already strong bullpen shouldn’t suffer too much, especially if they recall a guy like Jose Dominguez, Yimi Garcia or Red Patterson. It’ll also mean an increased workload for J.P. Howell, Chris Perez and Jamey Wright.

The more troubling news from Wednesday is regarding Clayton Kershaw.

While that may seem like bad news (and it isn’t exactly good news), it isn’t as bad as it seems.

Kershaw has been on the disabled list since March 23, after his Australia start. He’s suffering from a muscle issue in his upper back. It’s near his shoulder, but the injury isn’t impacting his shoulder that much. There’s no structural damage, so that’s a good thing. It’s mostly inflammation, and the Dodgers need to take it slow with Kershaw, and that’s something the Dodgers can afford to do.

The Dodgers — unlike most MLB teams — have this luxury. Everyone moves up a spot, meaning Zack Greinke is the No. 1, Hyun-Jin Ryu the No. 2 and so on. Most teams would love to have Greinke and Ryu as their 1-2 punch, but the Dodgers have the luxury of having them in the 2-3 spots.

Kershaw’s injury could also lead to Zach Lee being recalled sooner than most expected. But Dan Haren, Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm will round out the rotation until Kershaw is healthy.

And that’s the key — Kershaw needs to sit until he’s 100 percent. Period. There is absolutely no reason for him to rush back. Remember Matt Kemp (who could be in the lineup on Friday)? He had basically a lost 2013 season because he tried to come back to soon from his injuries. Granted, this is the first time Kershaw has been on the DL and, knowing his competitiveness, he’ll want to be back as soon as is humanly possible. But the Dodgers’ somewhat maligned medical staff needs to tread carefully with the franchise pitcher.

If Lee doesn’t come up, a guy like Stephen Fife or Matt Magill — both already on the 40-man roster — could get the call. If Kershaw is indeed out until June and Chad Billingsley is 100 percent recovered from Tommy John surgery, maybe he gets the call.

Pitching depth is a beautiful thing. The Dodgers had some of this depth last year, but it feels like a better situation this year.

So, back away from the ledge, Dodger fans. It’s going to be OK.

News That Isn’t As Bad As It Sounds: Clayton Kershaw Is On The Disabled List

kershaw_2014-02-26Earlier today, I ended a post about how good things were looking with this:

As we look forward to the final exhibition game tonight and the start of the regular season tomorrow, we’re being hit with nothing but good news on the eve of what should be a fantastic season. So like any good Dodger fan would ask, what could possibly happen to make us rue feeling so positive? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. For now, nothing but good news.

I was joking, mostly, but even I thought I’d get more than 6 hours of it before finding out that Clayton Kershaw was going to land on the disabled list, which he did after feeling something in his upper back earlier today.

That he felt something is certainly not good news, but then, this doesn’t feel like it’s really going to have as much of an impact as you would think when a team puts their ace on the DL barely more than 24 hours before the season starts.

Why’s that? Well, we already knew Kershaw wasn’t pitching against the Padres. Hyun-jin Ryu, Zack Greinke, and Dan Haren were going to start the three games before Kershaw went on the DL, and they’re still starting them now. We also know that this is the best possible time to put someone on the 15-day disabled list, because it’s already been a week since Kershaw pitched in Australia. That means that this is more of an eight-day list than a 15-day issue, since he would be able to return on April 8 (the 7th, really, but the Dodgers are off that day).

It’s much too soon to know if Kershaw will actually be ready to come off the DL that day, but the point is that he could, so we should probably cool it on the “15-day” stuff, even though that is the proper name of the list. There’s also this: with Jose Dominguez optioned to Triple-A, as expected, the roster is basically set without having to make that choice no one wanted to see between Brandon League and Chris Withrow. (“Choice,” he says, as though there was any chance that it was anything other than Withrow going down.) No, having Withrow in the pen is absolutely not worth not having Kershaw in your rotation. But for a few days, at least, it’s a decision you can avoid.

Also, as every Don Mattingly quote has indicated, this prevents Kershaw from trying to push through the pain. (And if you’ve read anything I’ve written at FanGraphs lately, the fact that Kershaw was honest about what he was feeling is such a great, great thing, that cannot be overstated.) Not having Kershaw right not is a huge bummer; not having him for weeks or months were he to aggravate it would be far worse.

Really, the main roster impact here is that game on Saturday, April 5, where everyone hoped Kershaw would be able to start. Now, it’s going to have to be Paul Maholm doing his best Chris Capuano impression, or Josh Beckett being activated off the disabled list. Neither option is ideal; then again, some teams have multiple pitchers of that skill level already in their rotation, and most teams don’t have a two-win head start headed into the season.

Again, putting the best pitcher in the game on the disabled list because he’s hurt is never going to be a good thing. But from all indications, this is a minor thing, one that has nothing to do with his arm, and one that doesn’t impact the team immediately as much as you might think it would. If Clayton Kershaw is ever going on the DL, that’s the way to do it.

So Much Good News. Too Much Good News?

ryu-australia_2014-03-23

This right here, this is good news:

The Dodgers will start Hyun-jin Ryu in their domestic regular season opener on Sunday night against the Padres at Petco Park. The southpaw cracked his right big toenail while running the bases on Sunday in Sydney (Saturday night in Los Angeles), but has been cleared by the team medical staff to return to the mound.

So is this:

The Dodgers’ home opener against the Giants on April 4 could double as a homecoming of sorts, and not only because that may be Clayton Kershaw‘s first regular-season appearance on the mainland: There is a good chance it also will mean the return of Matt Kemp.

The Dodgers’ outfielder, recovering from surgery on a major weight-bearing bone in his left ankle, Friday pronounced himself all the way back and ready to roll.

And this, from Don Mattingly on Clayton Kershaw:

“He didn’t feel anything throwing. Obviously, he was not trying to throw 95.

“My next question was did he feel anything when he played catch the other day, and he said yes.

“That means we’ve taken a little step forward.”

And so, somehow, is this:

Given their spate of early season off-days, the Dodgers will not need a fifth starter until April 19. And when that day comes, a familiar face appears ready to step back into the rotation: Josh Beckett.

In fact, Beckett is doing so well that if Clayton Kershaw isn’t ready to pitch by next weekend, the veteran right-hander could be called upon.

And what the hell, this was great to see from Joc Pederson last night, too:

As we look forward to the final exhibition game tonight and the start of the regular season tomorrow, we’re being hit with nothing but good news on the eve of what should be a fantastic season. So like any good Dodger fan would ask, what could possibly happen to make us rue feeling so positive? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. For now, nothing but good news.

Dodgers Back Home, Still Loving Kershaw’s Contract

You know what we really, really liked at the time? When the Dodgers signed Clayton Kershaw to a $215 million extension, even if he isn’t starting on Sunday. You know why? Not just because he’s the best pitcher in baseball — he is — but because due to his youth, he’s only signed through age 32. (Assuming he doesn’t opt out first.) You’re paying him a lot, but you’re paying him through what can reasonably be expected to be his best years. It’s not like signing Robinson Cano through age 40, or Albert Pujols through age 76.

I’m reminded of this thanks to today’s news that the Tigers have given Miguel Cabrera — arguably the best hitter in baseball — an additional eight years and $248 million on top of the two years he has left. Total, they’re tied to him for the next 10 years, for $292 million. Cabrera is great, possibly on his way to being one of the 10 best hitters of all time, but he turns 31 in April. He’s limited defensively at best; his body type isn’t exactly the sort that traditionally ages gracefully; his off-the-field record isn’t impeccable. He’s two years away from free agency.

The average value isn’t what bothers me — it surpasses Kershaw, which, fine — but the seemingly needless extension though his age-40 season just cannot work out well. (Just ask the Angels and Albert Pujols!) And that’s why this makes me think of Kershaw, the Dodgers, and their crazy spending over the last year or two: you can complain about taking on all that Carl Crawford salary, or signing Brandon League, or giving Brian Wilson $10m a year, or signing every Cuban — and for many of those things, we have — but they’ve stuck to their “not past age 36″ rule so far. It’s a rule that’s served them well, and one I hope they stick to.

Angels
Dodgers 
7:10pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
LF
Calhoun
RF
Puig
CF
Trout
LF
Crawford
1B
Pujols
SS
Ramirez
RF
Hamilton
1B
Gonzalez
3B
Freese
3B
Uribe
DH
Ibanez
CF
Ethier
2B
Kendrick
2B
Turner
C
Ianetta
C
Ellis
SS
Aybar
P
Greinke

***

Anyway: baseball! It’s been weird to see every other team playing spring games this week while the Dodgers have been on the sidelines after their journey to Australia, and it’s probably going to be weirder to watch this game knowing that it doesn’t count after they just played two games that did. (Or, watching those Australia games didn’t feel like they counted. I’m not sure which.) We get our first look at Zack Greinke since March 12, Yasiel Puig selfishly bats before everyone else, and otherwise these are more or less the Opening Day lineups for both teams. (The Angels will utilize Raul Ibanez at DH, while Greinke will hit for himself, because Greinke is awesome.)

You won’t, however, see Alex Guerrero, who apparently strained an oblique and is out for this series. But at least Corey Seager is in town and available, and it’s never a bad thing when we get a look at him.

While the game is on SNLA, you’re in luck if you can’t get it, because the Angels will be broadcasting it as well on Fox Sports West. Also, we’ll get our first look at what seem to be some cool improvements to Dodger Stadium. But mostly, we’ll be watching mostly real lineups play kind of fake baseball, reminding us that the real thing is so very, very close.

Clayton Kershaw Scratched From Opening Day Start Due To Back Inflammation

Everybody panic! Earlier this evening, the Dodgers announced that Clayton Kershaw will miss his scheduled start on Sunday night. After reporting stiffness yesterday, Kershaw underwent an MRI earlier today, which revealed inflammation in his teres major muscle, which “stabilizes the upper arm.”

An injury so close to the shoulder is pretty scary, but it seems a bit early to worry very much:

Kershaw stated later that he could probably start on Sunday despite the injury, but an overabundance of caution with pitchers is necessary.

Kershaw has been incredibly durable throughout his career. He has never been placed on the disabled list, though he dealt with a hip impingement and plantar fasciitis in 2012. His durability is one reason why his huge contract seems like a bargain.

Figuring out Kershaw’s replacement for Sunday night’s game against the Padres is not an easy task. Zack Greinke is currently in line to start tomorrow’s Freeway Series game, and it has been announced that he will start next Tuesday in San Diego. Hyun-jin Ryu has an injured toe, suffered while running the bases in Australia. His toenail was treated earlier today, and he felt good enough to throw off of a mound afterwards. Don Mattingly stated earlier tonight that Ryu is still in the mix for Sunday’s start. Dan Haren, who missed the trip to Australia due to a tired arm, is apparently ready to go. Paul Maholm will pitch in tonight’s intrasquad game, though that can be viewed as a bullpen session and would not prevent him from starting on Sunday if necessary.

If Kershaw’s injury is indeed minor, then the rotation shouldn’t be impacted for very long. Despite the long paragraph going through Sunday’s options, right now the main obstacle is getting everyone in order on short notice without sending anybody to the disabled list.

I think it’s premature to blame the Australia trip for Kershaw’s back injury (and that it will probably be tiresome when the trip is blamed for everything that goes wrong later in the year). Unless the team says for sure, we’ll never know. Kershaw’s velocity did seem a bit low on Saturday, though the announcers blamed a cold radar gun. We’ll never know for sure how different things would have been had the Dodgers heeded Dustin’s advice.

Clayton Kershaw starts season off right, Dodgers prevail 3-1 in opener

MarkTrumboFail

The Dodgers led off the 2014 MLB season with a 3-1 victory over the D-Backs on Opening Day in Sydney, Australia.

Clayton Kershaw gave the Dodgers the quality performance that’s become routine when he takes the hill, striking out seven in 6.2 innings while only allowing one run on five hits and a walk.


GIF Link

The run given up by Kershaw was his first allowed in 25 Opening Day innings, and his Opening Day ERA is now 0.35.

As for the offense, it started with Adrian Gonzalez, who wanted to walk more in 2014, and he led off the top of the second with a four-pitch walk. Then things got weird, as Mark Trumbo Trumbo’ed a Scott Van Slyke fly ball to left in glorious/hilarious fashion.

Continue reading

A Look At Historic Scouting Reports

(via)

Well scouted. (via)

 
Padres
   
Dodgers (ss)
 
1:05pm PT
   
Glendale, Ariz.
CF
Venable
 
2B
Gordon
RF
Denorfia
 
LF
Crawford
1B
Alonso
 
SS
Ramirez
LF
Smith
 
1B
Gonzalez
C
Hundley
 
CF
Ethier
2B
Amarista
 
C
Federowicz
SS
Jackson
 
RF
Baxter
3B
Gonzalez
 
3B
Rojas
P
Urias
 
P
Demel

A few weeks ago, Daren Willman added another search database to his excellent Baseball Savant website. The new database searches through scouting reports found on the Hall of Fame’s archives. It makes it easier to sort through the reports by team. Obviously, my first instinct was to search for Dodgers. Below are some of my favorite reports from the list.

Clayton Kershaw – 3/11/2006 - Report Link

Best quotes: “Dead ringer for Dave Righetti at the same edge”, “Likes to hit, has some power, but is where he belongs on the mound”, “Fits nicely in first round”

I can’t do anything but smile when I read this report. I think the pitch grades in relation to each other are fun. The scout gave Kershaw’s curve, slider, and change-up the same present grades. He also projected Kershaw’s slider to be his best off-speed pitch in the future, which is interesting since Kershaw didn’t really develop the pitch in the majors until 2011.

Matt Kemp – 4/16/2003 - Report Link

Best quote: “He presents an interesting package… Tools are there and so is size and strength”

When he was in the minors, Kemp had the reputation of being an extremely raw athlete with a lot of potential in his tools. This scouting report, filed when Kemp was in high school, had the same conclusion. It’s fun that Kemp’s hit tool was only listed as a “30″, but the scout projected a big improvement. Knowing what we know about Kemp’s peak, it’s nice to think about how far he advanced from the low present grades on the report.

Gilbert Bodet, the same scout who wrote the report on Kershaw, also filed this one. He evaluated Kemp as a fourth to sixth round pick and the Dodgers managed to get him at the end of that range. How did they use the fourth and fifth round picks that year? They selected Xavier Paul and Jordan Pratt.

James Loney – 3/30/2002 - Report Link

Best quote: “His mechanics to hit are very similar to that of Garret Anderson who was the same kind of hitter as HS player”, “Also a LHP but did not see him that way”

This is another Gilbert Bodet report. He was pretty high on Loney’s talent at the time, especially his defense. In terms of overall hitting ability, comparing Loney (105 career wRC+ without late career decline) to Anderson (100 career wRC+ with late career decline) isn’t too far off, though Anderson did it without the huge platoon splits. Given Bodet’s low grades in other scouting reports, the future 75 that he gave to Loney’s defense sticks out quite a bit. Loney was always very good at first for the Dodgers, but probably not quite to that magnitude. The 30 grade on running speed is amusing, too.

This high of an evaluation of Loney seems to be a “miss”, but given the talent Loney showed during his trip through the minors (and occasionally in the majors), it doesn’t seem that bad. The Dodgers drafted Loney in the first round, higher than what Bodet suggested in this report.

Darren Dreifort – 1993 (multiple) - Link 1 - Link 2

Best quotes: “Throws an overpowering and explosive fastball with well above average ML slider”, “Become a closer out of the bull pen”, “could be youngest closing pitcher in ML history”

Both of these reports aren’t from the Dodgers, so they show some interesting insight on how other organizations viewed Dreifort. Both the Angels and the Royals viewed him as a closer, but Dreifort only ended up with 11 saves in the majors. Neither of the reports could have seen Dreifort’s injuries coming, though. The superlatives given to Dreifort’s fastball, such as “overpowering”, don’t quite match what we’d say about it today (87 to 92 per the Royals report). Times have changed. Both reports also said that Dreifort had the ability to jump straight to the majors, which he did.

 
Dodgers (ss)
   
White Sox
 
7:05pm PT
   
Glendale, Ariz.
RF
Puig
 
CF
Eaton
SS
Turner
 
2B
Beckham
1B
Van Slyke
 
1B
Abreu
3B
Uribe
 
RF
Garcia
C
Ellis
 
DH
Dunn
2B
Guerrero
 
LF
Viciedo
CF
Pederson
 
SS
Ramirez
LF
Figgins
 
3B
Gillaspie
P
Kershaw
 
C
Flowers

Mike Piazza – 4/15/86 - Report Link

Best quote: “A long way to come with overall ability but worth selection on bat and power”

Piazza was famously a 62nd round draft pick, but this scouting report seems more positive. The highlighted quote definitely seems like something that would be selected earlier. I found the “2″ rating on Piazza’s hit tool to be interesting (as well as the future “4″, far below where he ended up). He was also scouted as a first baseman on this report.

Sandy Koufax – 5/15/1954 - Report Link

Best quote: “Not interested in pro ball until he graduates”, “also plays first because of his hitting ability”, “has averaged 16 strikeouts per game this season”

Koufax’s Wikipedia article briefly mentions this scouting report, saying it was filed away and forgotten. That’s baffling, given how positive the language is. Perhaps the Dodgers were less inclined to pursue Koufax due to the interest in schooling that is stated on the report. Koufax tried out for a few other teams before the Dodgers finally signed him, and we all know what happened after that. The high grades are interesting, given how rocky Koufax was at the start of his career.

I also enjoyed the line about Koufax’s hitting, but that ended up being fairly inaccurate. Koufax was a terrible hitter during his career (-4.2 oWAR), but he did manage two home runs.

Today’s split-squad double header features some fun news. Julio Urias is on the roster for the afternoon game and is scheduled to pitch one inning. Of course, that game is one of the only spring training games that the Dodgers will not be televising this year.

We are now less than a week from baseball that counts.

Update: The Dodgers have announced that Urias will be starting the game in Demel’s place. They have also confirmed that there will not be a webcast from Camelback (which the White Sox do sometimes). I guess we’ll have to wait for first-hand reports from Dustin and the other media in Glendale.

2014 Spring Training preview: Starting pitchers

haren_2014-03-01

Dan Haren could be one of Ned Colletti’s best signings.

Age IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP xFIP WAR
Clayton Kershaw 26 2013 236 8.8 2.0 1.83 2.39 2.88 6.5
’14 ZiPS 227.1 9.2 2.1 2.26 2.55 N/A 5.7
’14 Steamer 192 9.2 2.4 3.11 2.98 N/A 3.6
Zack Greinke 30 2013 177.2 7.5 2.3 2.63 3.23 3.45 2.9
’14 ZiPS 192 8.2 2.1 2.95 3.00 N/A 3.7
’14 Steamer 192 7.8 2.3 3.48 3.25 N/A 3.0
Hyun-Jin Ryu 27 2013 192 7.2 2.3 3.00 3.24 3.46 3.1
’14 ZiPS 182.1 7.7 2.5 3.65 3.93 N/A 1.3
’14 Steamer 189 7.6 2.6 3.58 3.38 N/A 2.7
Dan Haren 33 2013 (Nationals) 169.2 8.0 1.6 4.67 4.09 3.67 1.5
’14 ZiPS 162.2 7.6 1.7 3.71 3.59 N/A 2.0
’14 Steamer 173 7.4 1.7 3.56 3.55 N/A 2.2
Josh Beckett 34 2013 43.1 8.5 3.1 5.19 4.66 3.81 -0.1
’14 ZiPS 103.2 7.8 2.7 3.73 3.83 N/A 0.8
’14 Steamer 77 7.5 2.7 3.81 3.73 N/A 0.7
Paul Maholm 32 2013 (Braves) 153.0 6.18 2.76 4.41 4.24 3.89 0.7
’14 ZiPS 147.1 6.11 2.51 3.97 4.12 N/A 2.0
’14 Steamer 77.0 6.22 2.74 4.01 3.76 N/A 0.6
Chad Billingsley 29 2013 (Dodgers) 12 4.5 3.7 3.00 4.38 4.66 0.0
’14 ZiPS 97 7.1 3.3 3.90 3.74 N/A 0.9
’14 Steamer 19 7.0 3.1 4.14 3.91 N/A 0.1
Stephen Fife 28 2013 (Dodgers) 58.1 6.9 3.1 3.70 4.35 3.89 0.1
’14 ZiPS 124 5.5 3.8 4.57 4.68 N/A -0.5
’14 Steamer 19 6.2 3.6 4.48 4.23 N/A 0.1
Matt Magill 24 2013 (Dodgers) 27.2 8.5 9.1 6.51 7.13 6.04 -0.8
’14 ZiPS 117.1 8.2 5.7 4.60 4.74 N/A -0.4
’14 Steamer 19 8.4 5.9 4.47 4.21 N/A 0.1
Zach Lee 22 2013 (AA) 142.2 8.3 2.2 3.22 33.7 N/A N/A

The Dodgers have always been known for their pitching — especially their starting pitching. With this potentially stellar group led by Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers figure to have one of the best rotations in the majors.

Kershaw is coming off his second Cy Young award in three years, and it easily could have been 3-for-3. He’s the first starting pitcher (who qualified for the ERA title) to post a sub-2 ERA since Pedro Martinez did it in his historic 2000 season. Greg Maddux last did it in the National League in 1995. Yes, ERA is becoming more and more like batting average, but if a guy hit .375, that’s going to open some eyes.

A’s
Dodgers 
1:05pm PT
Glendale, Ariz.
CF
Burns
2B
Gordon
SS
Punto
LF
Crawford
3B
Donaldson
SS
Ramirez
DH
Cespedes
CF
Ethier
1B
Callaspo
RF
Puig
RF
Taylor
3B
Uribe
CF
Gimenez
1B
Van Slyke
LF
Fuld
C
Federowicz
2B
Elmore
P
Ryu

The soon-to-be-26-year-old signed a monster contract extension in the offseason and will be a Dodger for at least the next five seasons. While he’s off to a slow start in spring training (10.00 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, .308 BAA), it’s nothing to be concerned about. He’s going to be one of the two pitchers to start the Dodgers’ opening series in Australia. While the last memory some folks have of Kershaw is his disastrous Game 6 performance in the NLCS, he’s primed to bounce back from that.

Zack Greinke is coming off a great first season in Los Angeles. Despite missing time with a broken collar bone, he was still able to be the unquestioned No. 2 starter on the staff. For a time last season, Greinke was the Dodgers’ best pitcher; he has that kind of ability. Entering his age-30 season, Greinke is showing no signs of slowing down. He might not be the 220-plus inning workhorse many would like him to be, but he’s going to give the Dodgers quality innings while he’s out there. He’s been hampered by a calf injury thus far, but he should be ready for stateside opening day.

Hyun-Jin Ryu’s debut season was fantastic. After a lot was made of his signing, and the uncertainty behind it, he went out and pitched about as well as anyone could have expected. He should take a step forward this season and be a 200-plus inning pitcher for the Dodgers. I’m predicting a big season from Ryu, i.e. better numbers than he posted in his rookie year (even if the projection systems disagree). He’ll join Kershaw pitching in Australia.

Dan Haren was a quick signing by Ned Colletti, and it could pay off big time for the Dodgers. Haren is a local kid and, despite a couple of down seasons, could be one of the best No. 4 starters in the game. Both ZiPS and Steamer expect him to be better than Ryu. I don’t think he’ll be that good, but he should be a quality pitcher for the Dodgers.

Those are the locks, barring injury. Now comes the fun part.

Josh Beckett has looked pretty good this spring, even if the Mariners roughed him up on Sunday. His velocity seems to be solid and his curveball (in his first start) was good. He’s recovering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery, so it’ll be interesting to watch his progress. He has the inside track for the No. 5 spot right now.

Paul Maholm was a nice value signing, and an insurance policy in case Beckett’s offseason surgery prevented him from pitching (well) in 2014. He won’t overpower hitters and he’s the definition of a crafty lefty. He said after he was signed that he’d be willing to pitch out of the bullpen, if needed As of right now, it looks like that might be the case.

Chad Billingsley won’t be ready until — depending who you believe, June or July. He’ll likely be brought back slowly, pitching out of the bullpen to build up his endurance. Remember, he won’t get a regular spring training. Sure, he’ll get a few rehab starts in the minors, but it isn’t the same. If he comes back and is a anywhere close to his former self, that would only be a good thing for the Dodgers.

Stephen Fife had a solid stretch in 2013 when he was an effective pitcher. Some poor late-season outings put a damper on an otherwise solid season. He should head the Albuquerque Isotopes’ pitching staff and be on the short list if the Dodgers need an emergency start.

Matt Magill had a fantastic debut against the Milwaukee Brewers only to see Matt Guerrier blow the game for him. There wasn’t much other good from Magill’s time in the majors in 2013. He completely forgot how to throw strikes and couldn’t be counted on. He had control issues in Triple-A, but he showed flashes that made him a Top-10 prospect last year.

Zach Lee had a solid spring debut on Friday, throwing two scoreless innings against the Rangers. He is the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect and the one closest to the majors after Ross Stripling was diagnosed with a torn UCL. He could make his debut in 2014, but it’d be in a capacity not dissimilar to Joc Pederson‘s — an extended period of time, not a spot-start.

=====

With that, we conclude the Dodgers Digest Spring Training Preview series. Baseball is almost here for real, folks.

Projected 2017 Dodgers’ pitching staff

If you thought projecting the 2017 lineup was tough, you haven’t seen anything yet. While you’ll recognize a lot of the names listed here, the pitching projections are a lot more unstable than the position player projections.

Without further adieu, here is who you should expect to see Opening Day 2017.

Starting Pitcher 1
If Clayton Kershaw isn’t the Dodgers’ No. 1 starter in three years, it’s highly likely he’s been abducted by aliens.

Options
Clayton Kershaw: Will be in his age-29 season and rolling around in his millions of dollars he’ll have already earned.

2017 SP 1: Kershaw

Even with the opt-out clause in his 7-year deal (after the fifth year), Kershaw will still be owed $33 million for the 2018 season, with a $65 million due the next two seasons — which will be his age-31 and 32 seasons. Odds are he’ll opt out, and the Dodgers will sign him to a new mega deal.

Starting Pitcher 2
This is a situation similar to Kershaw’s, as Greinke is clearly the second-best starting pitcher the Dodgers have now (and probably will have) in 2017.

Options
Zack Greinke: Will be 33 and will likely have been re-signed to a new contract (opt-out after 2015).
Hyun-Jin Ryu: Will be in the fifth year of a 6-year deal and entering his age-30 season.
Julio Urias: Almost preposterous to include him, seeing as he’ll be 20 years old and could conceivably be in his second full season.

Dodgers
Reds
6:05 p.m. PT
Goodyear, Ariz.
CF
Gordon
CF
Hamilton
DH
Crawford
2B
Phillips
RF
Puig
1B
Votto
1B 
Gonzalez
LF
Ludwick
3B
Uribe
RF
Bruce
LF
Pederson
3B
Frazier
2B
Guerrero
SS
Cozart
C
Federowicz
C
Pena
SS
Rojas
DH
Duran
P
Ryu
P
Bailey

2017 SP 2: Greinke

Greinke is probably going to opt out of his deal in 2015. He’s such a good pitcher, has such good mechanics and is one of the smartest pitchers in the last 15 years that the Dodgers couldn’t possibly pass on bringing him back. He figures to age well as he doesn’t rely on elite velocity to be successful.

Starting Pitcher 3
Here’s where things get a little murky — in a good way. There are two or three guys who could realistically lay claim to this spot in the rotation.

Options
Chad Billingsley: Will be entering age-32 season and could be on a different team by this point.
Zach Lee: If he reaches his potential, this could be his spot — even in his age-25 season.
Hyun-jin Ryu: Only figures to get better; certainly doesn’t figure to get any worse.
Julio Urias: The most potential of anyone on this list.

2017 SP 3: Ryu

Ryu figures to have some really solid campaigns behind him by this point. He’s the best pitcher of the four listed above and could be one of the game’s best left-handers by 2017.

Starting Pitcher 4
This spot almost seems reserved for a certain 20-year-old, as he has some of the most pure talent in the Dodgers’ farm system.

Options
Chris Anderson: The 2013 first-rounder will be 24 and probably one of the best prospects in the system, if he’s still eligible.
Chad Billingsley: Probably on a different team by now.
Zach Lee: More likely the No. 5 starter — or a No. 3 or 4 on another team.
Ross Stripling: Will be 27, unlikely after Tommy John surgery, but still has a starter’s repertoire/build.
Julio Urias: This is his spot.

2017 SP 4: Urias

This will be just the beginning for Urias. He’ll be 20 years old and on his way up. He’ll eventually be the Dodgers’ No. 2 starter — at least, as long as Kershaw is still around.

Starting Pitcher 5
This spot will likely be filled from within the system — and could even be a player who isn’t yet a member of a Dodger (i.e. a draftee).

Options
Chris Anderson: While it’d be nice to see him make it as a starter, he could be dominant reliever.
Chad Billingsley: Love ya, Chad, but I’m sure you’ll be in Cincinnati by this time.
Zach Lee: Hoping that $5.25 million bonus pays off by this time.
Ross Stripling: Might be a reliever or with another organization.

2017 SP 5: Lee

Lee could end up being a Kyle Lohse-type, which would be a fantastic No. 5 starter in this game (at a fraction of the cost). His stuff could be average at this point and he’d still be a great No. 5 starer.

Closer
At one time, everyone thought Eric Gagne would never break down and he’d go down as one of the greatest closers ever. He had the best 3-year stretch of any reliever, but he eventually broke down. Kenley Jansen is great, but there’s a chance he could — eventually — break down. Not because of anything he has or hasn’t done, but because of the position itself.

Options
Chris Anderson: Has the arsenal to do the job, but makeup/poise are unknown.
Onelki Garcia: Has a potentially devastating 2-pitch combo that gives him a closer’s ceiling.
Kenley Jansen: Will be 29 years old and be making crazy money.
Chris Withrow: Has the best stuff of this quartet, but control/command are question marks.

2017 Closer: Jansen

Provided Jansen’s cutter is still as filthy as it is now, I don’t see him breaking down physically (as long as his heart is OK) and I see his control/command holding up just fine. But it’s nice to see the Dodgers have some legitimate options if things change dramatically in three years.

Relief Pitchers
The most volatile of any player on the baseball field, don’t expect to see a lot of veteran presents here, as the Dodgers should fill voids in the bullpen from within.

Options
Chris Anderson: Heavy fastball and slider combination should play up out of the ‘pen.
Jose Dominguez: Elite fastball velocity should be sustainable as he enters his age-26 season.
Onelki Garcia: Will be in age-26 season and could find himself traded by this time.
Yimi Garcia: Will be entering age-26 season, and despite fastball spin, lack of plus-velocity could hold him back.
J.P. Howell: Will be 34 and a free agent, likely not brought back.
Matt Magill: Will be 27 and needs to keep command/control in check to have a long-term career.
Chris Reed: Only on here because of his prospect ranking, I have no faith in him — even out of the ‘pen.
Paco Rodriguez: Should have established himself as one of the best lefty relievers in the game at age-26.
Tom Windle: Will be 25 and a cheaper option than a guy like Rodriguez.
Chris Withrow: Should start getting expensive at age-28, could be a trade candidate.

2017 RPs (6): Anderson, Dominguez, O. Garcia, Rodriguez, Windle, Withrow

Aside from Howell and, to a lesser extent, Rodriguez, these are all power arms and all should do quite well setting up the Dodgers’ 2017 closer. The only problem is, guys like Rodriguez and Withrow figure to start getting expensive — perhaps too expensive for the Dodgers (as funny as that sounds). That’s where the next tier of reliever prospects comes in — Victor Arano, Ralston Cash, Jharel Cotton, Scott Griggs, etc.

Player Position
Clayton Kershaw SP 1
Zack Greinke SP 2
Hyun-Jin Ryu SP 3
Julio Urias SP 4
Zach Lee SP 5
Jose Dominguez RP
Onelki Garcia RP
Tom Windle RP
Chris Anderson RP
Paco Rodriguez RP
Chris Withrow SU
Kenley Jansen CL

Zack Greinke isn’t going to Australia, and that’s OK

greinke_2014-02-27

G’day, mate.

When I opined last week that Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke should skip the Dodgers’ trip to Australia, I had the scenario playing out differently. I certainly didn’t have Greinke suffering a calf injury on his fourth pitch of his first 2014 spring training appearance that would effectively force out of the game.

But here we are — five days later — and Greinke is only now beginning to play catch. Don Mattingly told reporters after Monday’s 7-3 loss to the A’s that Greinke was not an option to go down under. That’s great. Now, if we can just convince Mattingly to hold back Kershaw — who was roughed up for a second consecutive spring start (no, it isn’t time to panic) — we’ll be sittin’ pretty.

Greinke’s injury is minor enough that it shouldn’t have a bearing on his regular season performance or readiness, especially since he’s staying in the past.

Mattingly said whichever starting pitchers the Dodgers take to Australia, they will be on strict pitch counts (90-100). If the Dodgers take Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren to pitch against Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill, I like their chances. Yes, their chances would improve dramatically if Kershaw were to pitch, but I’m more than confident in Ryu and Haren being able to take at least one game from the Corbin/Cahill duo.

Because of the strict pitch counts, the Dodgers are going to have to bring a long man or two just in case Ryu and/or Haren falter. That man could be Seth Rosin (pronounced Ro-ZEEN, as some have wonder in the comments section), whom Mike wrote about earlier. How good has he been in his first five innings? Eight strikeouts and no runs allowed — doesn’t get much better than that. Eric Stephen at True Blue LA laid out just how Rosin could join the Dodgers in Australia.

“The Dodgers have to submit a 28-man opening day roster to MLB by 7 p.m. PT on Friday, March 21, six hours before their opening game against the Diamondbacks in Australia. Three of the 28 names, which must be designated simultaneously with the roster submission, are ineligible to play in those two games. These will people likely left behind in Arizona to continue to work in minor league games but not on the disabled list, with candidates like Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett, to name two.

This potentially opens up a spot for an extra relief pitcher or two, at least for those two games in Australia. The Dodgers do have to cut down to a normal 25-man roster by March 30, the date of their first game in the U.S., against the Padres in San Diego.”

If only Brandon League weren’t a thing…

=====

And just for shiggles, since EephusBlue brought it up on Twitter today, here’s a video I shot last year that “features” the Camelback Ranch Lemonade Man in the background of a Yasiel Puig at-bat.

Really hope this guy is still there selling tons of limonada.