One area of strength for the Los Angeles Dodgers is their starting pitching depth, and that was evident when the club felt comfortable enough to trade veteran arms Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy to the Atlanta Braves last month.
Even with the potential departure of Yu Darvish in free agency, the Dodgers will return the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda next season, with other candidates such as Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias on the periphery.
Another option that could emerge for the Dodgers down the road is pitching prospect Trevor Oaks, who saw his 2017 campaign cut short because an oblique injury. That came after a promising stint with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Oaks, a September call-up candidate, has specifically focused on maintaining his health this offseason, via Jim Alexander of the Southern California News Group:
“(I’m) just trying to get my body in the best shape that I can and be as flexible as I can so we can prevent the injuries moving forward, just trying to stay on top of it,” he said. “So the Dodgers know that, hey, I’m doing my part (in) this, too. Injuries are things that you can’t really control sometimes, but if you can prepare as best you can … they’re going to be happy about that.”
After a breakout campaign with Oklahoma City in 2016, Oaks looked primed for further success last season. Across three different Minor League levels, he pitched to a 3.83 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 91.2 innings with 81 strikeouts to 19 walks.
Given the Dodgers’ loaded depth chart for starting pitchers, the 24-year-old could conceivably crack the roster sooner as a middle reliever — similar to the roles of Brock Stewart and Ross Stripling.
He has 14 appearances out of the bullpen under his belt since making his professional debut in 2014. Unforeseeable injuries could also play a role in Oaks receiving an opportunity sooner rather than later.
The Dodgers are well-equipped for that possibility, given that they started 10 different starting pitchers last season, and 15 in the year before. Los Angeles added Oaks to their 40-man roster to protect against potentially losing him in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft.