The Dodgers have no shortage of options for their starting rotation. Even after trading Kenta Maeda to the Twins, Los Angeles has Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Alex Wood, Julio Urías, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Ross Stripling and Jimmy Nelson on the 40-man roster. So too is prospect Mitchell White, but he doesn’t figure to be in the mix out of the gate after posting a 6.50 ERA in 63.2 innings at Triple-A last year.
That’s plenty for manager Dave Roberts to work with, but he offered a bit of clarity on the situation today. Urías will open the season in the rotation, Roberts told reporters (including Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times). Gonsolin, it seems, will not be in that mix, Castillo adds. Roberts noted the 25-year-old has a chance to break camp with the club as a reliever, though.
A relief role is not in the cards for the club’s top pitching prospect. May is currently viewed as a starting pitcher only, Castillo relays. The 22-year-old thus seems likely to open the season in the rotation at Triple-A Oklahoma City, he adds.
None of this news is especially surprising, although it does shine some light on the situation. Gonsolin made six starts (and five relief appearances) for L.A. in 2019. The former ninth-rounder was effective in his 40 MLB innings, working to a 2.93 ERA with a 22.7% strikeout rate, 9.2% walk rate and 41.7% ground ball rate. Impressively, he compiled a 4.35 ERA/4.38 FIP in 41.1 innings in the hitter-friendly PCL. Baseball America’s #82 overall prospect, Gonsolin’s long-term future is presumably still as a starter. Given the Dodgers’ pitching depth, though, it seems his immediate path to big league innings is in relief.
That won’t be the case for Urías, who actually worked mostly out of the bullpen in 2019. His results (2.49 ERA, 26.1% strikeout rate, 8.3% walk rate, 38.7% ground ball rate) were even better than Gonsolin’s. That pen role was never expected to be permanent, though. Still just 23 and once the game’s consensus top pitching prospect, Urías’ 2019 innings were constrained a bit by health troubles. After logging nearly 80 innings last year, it seems he’s ready to shoulder a starter’s workload again.
May, too, served in a swing role in 2019 after making his MLB debut in August. BA’s #20 overall prospect, he showed well in his limited time in the show. He only made five starts at Triple-A before his promotion, though, and an early minor-league assignment, if indeed that comes to fruition, could help the club keep his innings in check as well.
If it weren’t clear already, Roberts has no problem deploying the pitching staff in a nontraditional manner. There’ll be ample innings to go around, and the club will surely rely on more than five of the names above to start games over the course of the year. If healthy, Buehler, Kershaw and Price seem like locks to take the ball every fifth day, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few different names penciled in behind them as the year progresses. That runoff should also aid a bullpen that is the closest thing the Dodgers have to a weakness. It’s an enviable situation for the NL West favorites.