From the moment he was hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in October 2015 as president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman has stressed the importance of pitching depth throughout the organization. That proved vital this season with the Dodgers’ rotation being ravaged by injuries.
Jose De Leon, Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias all made their Major League debut in 2016 and contributed with several starts. Stripling was named the fifth starter prior to Opening Day, beating out Carlos Frias after Mike Bolsinger suffered an oblique strain late in Spring Training.
“I think we’re getting to the point where we have a number of young guys that have put themselves in position to come in and compete for a job next year,” Friedman said this week.
“The only way to really have [depth] and with quality is to have really good young prospects that are at the Triple-A level and kind of knocking down the door to get up to the Major League level. We didn’t have that in ’15, we definitely had that this year, and we relied on quite a few of them. In ’15 and into this year, there was a bit of a transition.”
The Dodgers used 31 different pitchers in 2015 and 2016, setting, then tying a franchise record. Kenta Maeda also made his MLB debut this season, but he brought with him plenty of professional experience, having pitched in Japan for eight years.
While the Dodgers were in the thick of a pennant race, they trotted out De Leon, Maeda, Stripling and Stewart in four consecutive starts in early September. It marked the first time in franchise history that the Dodgers won four consecutive games with a rookie starting pitcher earning the win in each game.
Beyond De Leon and Urias, the Dodgers’ farm system boasts young pitchers Yadier Alvarez, Walker Buehler, Chase De Jong and Josh Sborz, among several others. The club has carefully ushered the pitchers along their respective professional careers.
Friedman said an innings limit will likely remain in place for Urias next season. That suggests De Leon, Stewart, Stripling and Urias may very well begin 2017 with Triple-A Oklahoma City.