The competition: Jose De Leon, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Julio Urias and Alex Wood
At the top of this group is Urias, the 20-year-old phenom who made 15 starts for the Dodgers this past season, posting a 3.39 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 77 innings.
The only reason Urias isn’t guaranteed a spot is if the Dodgers can’t get break up the logjam they have before Opening Day. Urias, unlike McCarthy, Kazmir and Ryu, can begin the year in the Minors — which might allow the front office to continue limiting his innings if they chose to.
That brings us to the aforementioned veteran group: McCarthy, Kazmir, Ryu and Wood. When healthy, all four are overqualified for the No. 5 spot in a rotation — the problem is, of course, the ‘healthy’ thing.
Kazmir, to be fair, was second on the team with 26 starts last season, while the other three combined for a grand total of 20 starts. There’s been speculation of the Dodgers shopping Kazmir and McCarthy, both of whom are on team-friendly contracts.
Kazmir is owed $32 million over the next two seasons, and McCarthy has two years and $20 million reaming on his deal. McCarthy’s contract also includes a club option for 2019.
Assuming they both remain with the Dodgers, who has the best chance at the final spot in the rotation? The best guess may be Wood. In 10 starts last season, he posted a 3.73 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 60 innings. Over his career, Wood has a 3.35 ERA in 77 starts.
Next up would be Kazmir, who was Jekyll and Hyde in his first season with the Dodgers. The southpaw generally enjoyed success in May and July, but struggled during April, June and August.
Prior to signing with the Dodgers, Kazmir posted three seasons of 29-plus starts with ERAs of 4.04, 3.55 and 3.10 (in the American League, no less). Point being, he’s a definite candidate for a strong bounce-back season.
Also involved is McCarthy, whose 4.95 ERA was hurt by his final appearance of the season: zero innings pitched, six runs allowed out of the bullpen against the San Francisco Giants. Prior to that, McCarthy sported a 3.60 ERA.
McCarthy’s disadvantage comes in his dependability, having made just 13 starts in two seasons with Los Angeles. When healthy last season, he was great. But when McCarthy is attempting to fight off the “injury-prone” label, it seemed like he tried pitching through more injuries than he should have.
Then there’s Ryu, the wild card. In his first two seasons, Ryu made 56 starts and posted an ERA of 3.16 with a 28-15 record. The last two seasons? He has made just one start.
Obviously, 2013-14 Ryu is a guaranteed starter, but 2015-16 Ryu isn’t even guaranteed a roster spot. He’s one to watch in Spring Training.
While rumored to be the centerpiece in a potential Brian Dozier trade, De Leon is still in the Dodgers organization as of this writing, and is a real threat to make the team as long as that’s the case.
Like Urias, De Leon can be sent back to the Minors this season, and it makes sense for that to be the case. In four Major-League starts, De Leon flashed the talent that makes him one of the best prospects in all of baseball, but ultimately posted a 6.35 ERA.
His time will come sooner than later, but the reality is it might not be early this season (or with the Dodgers).
Continue Reading: Evaluating Brock Stewart and Ross Stripling