Dodgers right-hander Tony Gonsolin won’t be ready for the beginning of the season due to his current ankle injury, manager Dave Roberts announced Friday (Twitter link via Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times). He’s expected to open the season on the 15-day injured list. Righties Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove are the favorites to break camp as the Dodgers’ fifth starter with Gonsolin on the IL.
The Dodgers are hoping for a relatively minimal absence for the 28-year-old Gonsolin, who improbably injured his ankle walking off the field following pitchers’ fielding practice earlier in camp. He’s only just recently resumed a throwing program, and there’s simply not enough time for him to get built back up enough to break camp in the rotation 13 days from now.
[Related: The Dodgers’ Rotation Options if Tony Gonsolin Misses Time]
Gonsolin started a career-high 24 games during the 2022 regular-season, pitching to a sensational 2.14 ERA with a quality 23.9% strikeout rate against a strong 7.0% walk rate over the life of 130 1/3 innings. He undoubtedly benefited from a .207 batting average on balls in play that he won’t sustain over a larger sample, but even with some expected regression he’s still a well above-average big league pitcher. The 132 1/3 innings he pitched between Triple-A and the Majors last year was the highest total he’s reached in any pro season since being drafted in 2016, however, so there are some durability concerns with the talented righty.
Both Pepiot and Grove are well-regarded prospects, though the former has drawn more national fanfare than the latter. Pepiot, 25, ranked among Baseball America’s top-100 prospects both last offseason (No. 99) and this offseason (No. 55). He pitched to a 3.47 ERA in his first MLB cup of coffee last season and a 2.56 mark in Triple-A, combining for a total of 127 2/3 innings. Pepiot’s command has never been his strong point but was particularly troubling in his brief debut last year, when he walked 27 of 160 batters (16.9%). He’ll obviously need to improve upon that mark to have success over the long run.
As for the 26-year-old Grove, he also made his big league debut in 2022, tossing 29 1/3 innings of 4.60 ERA ball. Grove’s 18% strikeout rate was well below average, but he recorded a solid 7.5% walk rate in his first big league audition. He also logged a 3.79 ERA in 76 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, displaying strong strikeout and walk rates along the way as he rose to the Majors.
Either Pepiot or Grove seems capable of filling what’s likely to be a short-term absence for Gonsolin behind a projected top four of Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard and Dustin May. There’s plenty of injury concern amid that group, and May’s workload will likely be monitored in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, so it stands to reason that Pepiot and Grove could both be called upon multiple times over the course of the season. Further down the depth chart, top prospects Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone are joined by veterans Robbie Erlin and Dylan Covey. None are on the 40-man roster, but both Miller and Stone are top-100 prospects themselves and viewed as potential long-term options in the Los Angeles rotation.