The starting rotation was a weakness for the Los Angeles Dodgers throughout the 2023 season due to a rash of injuries and also matters out of their control.
L.A. entered the season with a group of starters that included Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Noah Syndergaard, Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove. However, once they reached the postseason, the starting rotation was an injured Kershaw, Bobby Miller and Lance Lynn, a group that combined to pitch just 4.2 innings in the National League Division Series.
It’s fair to say the Dodgers rotation would have been better if not for the injury to Kershaw, along with the season-ending injuries for Gonsolin and May, and they could not have predicted Urías would be arrested. But it was still a clear weakness for the team with Lynn and Ryan Yarbrough the only acquisitions at the trade deadline.
Lynn provided much-needed innings, but he was arguably the worst starting pitcher in baseball in 2023. Outside of Lynn, Dodgers starters generally did not go deep into games, with the exception a few outings from Miller and Pepiot down the stretch.
It calls to question how much emphasis the Dodgers have on finding pitchers who can go deep into games and eat innings while also being effective, but president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman suggested that is becoming a rare trait in baseball as a whole.
“I think the question is, how many are there on planet Earth? I think that’s the first question,” Friedman said. “You can get to a more global question of player development in the industry.
“This probably isn’t the right setting for it, but youth baseball and what people are training for and velocity readings instead of how to take down more innings. It’s a much larger question and philosophical discussion.
“But we too would like guys to go seven innings, pitch really well, and be able to go to our two best guys in the bullpen. That’s a much more comfortable recipe. The question is, how many of them are there? And then, why?”
The Dodgers have been excelled at developing pitchers recently, which includes Walker Buehler, May, Gonsolin, Miller, Pepiot, Gavin Stone, and Josiah Gray, who was traded to the Washington Nationals, among their most notable names. However, figuring out how to develop pitchers better and keep them healthy is still something on their minds.
“I just think training is different than what it was, I think preparation going in,” Friedman added. “Again, this is a topic for another time. Right now we’re talking about the 2023 Dodgers and anything 2024 related. It’s a much larger global question.
“Pitcher injury and pitcher development, I think is a very important question for the entire industry. I care less about it for the other 29 teams and care about it for us. It’s something that’s very front of mind for us.”
The Dodgers have a lot of questions to answer in their rotation for 2024 as they need at least one frontline starter, if not two, and some depth pieces, which sets up a busy offseason.
Dodgers starting pitchers under contract
Among the Dodgers starters under contract for the 2024 season are Buehler, May, Gonsolin, Miller, Pepiot, Stone, Yarbrough and Emmet Sheehan. However, May and Gonsolin are going to miss most or all of the season, Buehler is returning from a second Tommy John surgery and Yarbrough is more suited for a relief role.
As for Kershaw, the Dodgers are not expecting a quick decision from the Future Hall of Famer, who underwent left shoulder surgery.
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