What happened in 2016: Had a very eventful MLB debut, then spent the 2016 season alternating between Oklahoma City and Los Angeles, making spot starts and relief appearances as needed.
Ross Stripling likely wasn’t too far off from the majors when a torn UCL in Spring Training of 2014 derailed those plans. He spent the next year and a half recovering from Tommy John surgery before returning to minor league action in June of 2015. As Spring Training 2016 drew to a close, it wasn’t clear who the Dodgers would use as their fifth starter. Stripling, who had a strong showing in the preseason, ended up earning that honor.
On April 8, Stripling took the mound against the Giants in San Francisco to make his major league debut. He proceeded to deliver seven and a third hitless innings. Then came the bottom of the eighth. From my recap of that game:
(Stripling) started the 8th inning with a fly ball out, then issued a walk to Angel Pagan. With Stripling at a predetermined limit of 100 pitches, Dave Roberts found himself in the unenviable position of deciding whether or not to pull his pitcher. Stripling, a mere two years off of Tommy John surgery, appeared to be losing some of his sharpness. Had Roberts left him in and he’d blown it, we never would’ve heard the end of it. If Roberts removed Stripling and the bullpen blew it … well, that’s exactly what happened.
That ended up being one of the more painful games of the year, as the Dodgers lost, 3-2, in extra innings.
Stripling remained with the big club for about two months, making seven starts and a long relief appearance before being optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City towards the end of May. He made five appearances for OKC (as well as one start with the AZL Dodgers, supposedly recovering from an injury that he may or may not have had) before being recalled in July. He made three appearances (two in relief, one start) before briefly being optioned back to Triple-A, then he was called back up, then optioned back again. Once he was back with the Dodgers for good, he made three more starts before shifting to the bullpen for the remainder of the season.
In total, Stripling made 14 starts, in which he posted a 4.52 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP while allowing an OPS of .741 in 75.2 IP. In eight relief appearances, Stripling had a 2.22 ERA and a 1.068 WHIP while allowing an OPS of .598 in 24.1 IP.
Stripling made the Dodgers’ postseason roster, ostensibly as a long reliever. He appeared in two games in the NLDS, facing five batters and retiring all of them. The NLCS didn’t go quite as well. He had two strong appearances, and one truly awful one, in which he allowed five runs (four earned) while only retiring one batter.
Given the amount of inconsistency Stripling had to deal with, it wasn’t a bad rookie campaign for the right hander. His ability to eat innings in relief proved to be valuable for a Dodgers team that relied so heavily on its bullpen.
2017 status: Pre-arb. He could be in the mix for next year’s starting rotation, although it is certainly a possibility that we’ll see more from him in spot starts and relief.