Five Major Questions for the 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers

Source: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images North America

Source: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images North America

What will the rotation look like?

After missing out on Greinke and Iwakuma as well as other free-agent options such as Johnny Cueto, the Dodgers pulled a one-two punch by signing veteran lefty Scott Kazmir and Japanese ace Kenta Maeda in the last week of 2015. Kazmir and Maeda will be entrenched in the opening-day rotation, as will Brett Anderson, who returned on a one-year deal after accepting the Dodgers’ qualifying offer. Oh, that Clayton Kershaw guy is still around, too.

After those four names, however, question marks are everywhere:

Huyn-Jin Ryu was one of the best #3 starters in baseball in 2013 and 2014, but a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and subsequent surgery sidelined him for the entire 2015 season. If Ryu can somehow return to his pre-surgery self, he’ll be a fine second starter behind Kershaw and provide a major boost to the Dodgers’ rotation. That’s a pretty big if, however. Freidman himself has publicly acknowledged how much of a “wild card” Ryu is, and it’s possible that the Korean southpaw won’t be ready for Opening Day.

Brandon McCarthy was signed to a four-year deal in December 2014 in order to shore up the #4 spot in the Dodgers’ rotation. He only lasted four starts before needing Tommy John surgery, which he’s expected to return from around the 2016 all star break. Although Tommy John victims have a much better track record of recovery than those who have undergone a shoulder surgery like Ryu’s, the lengthy rehab time means the Dodgers won’t be able to rely on McCarthy for the entire first half of the 2016 season.

Alex Wood is another candidate for rotation time. The 25-year-old lefty will enter his first full season as a Dodger in 2016 after being acquired in a three-team, thirteen-player deal at the 2015 trade deadline. So far as a Dodger he’s been a mixed bag, registering a 4.35 ERA and 4.10 FIP in 12 starts. Compared to his career numbers (3.30 ERA, 3.34 FIP), there’s reason to hope that Wood can improve and become a solid mid-rotation option. Due to his recent struggles and odd delivery, however, many analysts have Wood pegged for a Tim Lincecum-like regression and believe his best bet is in the Dodger bullpen, where he could certainly end up once Ryu and McCarthy are healthy.

Then there’s the uber-talented rotation in AAA Oklahoma City, anchored by a one-two punch of Julio Urias (MLB.com’s #1 left-handed pitching prospect and consensus top five overall prospect) and Jose De Leon (MLB.com’s #5 right-handed pitching prospect and consensus top thirty overall prospect). Both Urias and De Leon will likely see time with the big league club in 2016, as will Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas, Oklahoma City’s projected #3 and #4 starters. Cotton and Montas, however, seem more likely headed to the bullpen like Wood. And speaking of the bullpen…

3 Responses

  1. Michael N. Norris

    Lets put it this way…….fans HAD high expectations. If Greinke was still a Dodger and they had that lock down 1-2 punch they had last year with the new additions, then yeah. BUT, this is a flawed roster filled with more holes than Swiss cheese.

    Reply
  2. bandrewv

    Basically none of the hitters in last year’s lineups had spectacular years. Bright spots, there were a few, but we won 92 games despite the fact, as was mentioned in the article, we had the 3rd lowest run production in the second half of the season. I think it is fair to count on most of this lineup regressing and showing improvement back to more typical production (maybe not for Crawford, he seems to be done…). All over the diamond, I think you can say, “odds are that guy will be better than he was last year.” I feel OK about the starting lineup and feel perfectly comfortable in Friedman’s judgement of what it takes to get this team back into the playoffs. Lucky for him, he has the resources to make in-season moves. Better to be in a decent position with plenty of options to start the season, than a marginally better position with much fewer options. As we’ve seen time and time again, it’s all about getting into the playoffs. Once there, it’s anyone’s guess who will take the crown! So, in my humble opinion, Friedman, if you can get us to the playoffs year-in and year-out, that’s the #1 most important thing. I’ll take the opportunity to coin flip over the “guarantee” of a championship any day.

    Reply
  3. Carlos Rendo

    Great article! Unfortunately, I injured my hamstring reading it.

    Reply

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