Should The Dodgers Let The Kids Pitch?

Jose De Leon

The arthroscopic surgery required to repair the bulging disk in Brett Anderson’s back will keep the left hander out a minimum of 3-5 months. That opens a big hole in the Dodger’s rotation and the club is still deciding who is best to fill it. The Dodgers have fungible options like Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, and Brandon Beachy. You all know how I feel about Bolsinger, and the Dodgers are still not sure if Frias will be a starter or a reliever but they have made a vow to pick a role for him and stick with it.

Beachy is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery but has gotten off to a good start with two scoreless innings in Monday’s loss to the Indians. He made only two lackluster starts with the Dodgers in 2015 and his health is a huge question mark. He’s looked good in the early goings but the odds of coming back from multiple Tommy John surgeries are extremely difficult.

The other options are the kids. Top pitching prospects Jose De Leon, Zach Lee, and Julio Urias figure to get plenty of action this spring to earn themselves a spot in the big league rotation. Urias has been slowed by a sore groin, but is nearing a return soon. He threw two innings of live batting practice on Tuesday making 30 pitches. The Dodgers are hoping he can pitch as soon as Friday against the Angels.

De Leon made his spring debut on Saturday and was impressive tossing two scoreless innings and whiffing four. Zach Lee who has fallen considerably in the Dodger’s depth chart pitched two scoreless innings as well on Sunday against the Giants.

The Dodgers have to decide whether one of the kids is ready for big league action or if it’s not the right time in their development. If it’s the latter then they would have to choose between Bolsinger, Frias, or Beachy. None of those options are ideal.

A lot of people have theorized that the three prospects should start the season in the minors because they have never pitched a full season even in the minors. Maybe it would be a bad idea to have them transition to pitching in the majors every fifth day because they are too young to be putting all those innings on their arms. Some people believe that it would be better for their development if they built arm strength in the minors where there is less pressure and they can limit their pitch counts.

That might actually make some sense because Urias has never pitched more than 87 frames in a season and De Leon has never pitched more than 114 innings in a season as well. Urias is only 19-years old, De Leon is 23, and Zach Lee is 24. Lee may actually be a better choice because he’s spent more time in the minors, he’s older, and has more innings on his arm.

There’s another school of thought to consider. The kids may be more ready for big league action than you think. If you remember those incredible Atlanta Braves clubs from the 1990’s that dominated the National League with outstanding pitching, did so by letting their pitchers throw consistently.

Tom Glavine threw 168.1 innings in his second professional season for the South Atlantic League Sumter Braves. He then threw 186 innings in his third professional season. During his second season with the Braves in 1988 he threw 195.1 innings. John Smoltz pitched 146 innings in his second professional season and 130 innings the next year. In Smoltz’s second big league season he tossed 208.1 innings. Those guys ended up being just fine.

The point I’m trying to make is about how the Braves developed their pitchers. The Braves had a philosophy of letting their pitchers throw. Pitching Coach Leo Mazzone and manager Bobby Cox believed in multiple regimented bullpen sessions between starts and never relied heavily on pitch counts. Those guys were rarely ever hurt and went on to have hall of fame careers.

The point is the Braves didn’t baby their pitchers. They weren’t afraid of letting their pitchers pitch. I’m not saying that the Dodgers are babying their young prospects. Not at all. Of course you want to be careful with your prized young talented arms. I’m not saying that Urias and De Leon have to make 35 starts and pitch 200 innings. What I am saying is that in order to build arm strength, you have to pitch. In order to pitch, you have to ya know…..PITCH. There is only so long those guys can stay in the minors. These guys have to get used to pitching a full season at some point.

There is always risk involved when a young pitching stud is transitioning from the minor leagues to the majors, and there is always fear that they might blow out their arms. Most people believe that the Dodgers should keep the innings down to prevent injury. Of course you don’t want to overwork the kids, but we’ve seen in recent years that that isn’t always a fool proof method of preventing injuries. Think Jose Fernandez.

The Dodgers have a hole to fill in their starting rotation and multiple young pitchers knocking on the door. Remember Clayton Kershaw didn’t even pitch two full minor league seasons before he was called up to the majors. Perhaps it’s time to let the kids do what they are supposed to be doing for the next 15-20 years of their baseball lives, and that’s pitch.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Former Co-editor of Lasorda's Lair. Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic Cheap MLB Tickets

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75 thoughts on “Should The Dodgers Let The Kids Pitch?

  1. Each of those pitchers are different:

    Zach Lee is old enough but has never pitched more than 150 innings 5 minor league seasons. I always had serious doubts about his ability to pitch at the major league level. When I used to do Dodger Top 10 Prospect lists, he was never on it! His only hope is to develop a new pitch and none of his other pitches are that good. If he doesn’t do that, I can’t see him in the bullpen, much less starting. That said, the Dodgers will give him every opportunity. I can see him pulling a Brandon Weeden and going back to football.

    Julio Urias is really young, and like Scott says has only pitched 87 innings in a season. I don’t think there is any chance he breaks with the team, especially since he is behind the rest of the starters due to a groin strain. He will go to OKC and we will see what happens. I could see him pitching 100 innings at OKC and finishing the season in the Dodger’s bullpen.

    Jose De Leon is probably the closest to ready, but I also think he should go to OKC and see what happens. I think he can pitch 170-180 innings this year. He could be in the Dodger’s rotation before the season is over.

    The rotation will be Kershaw, Kazmir, Maeda, Wood and one of the following:

    Brandon Beachy, Ross Stripling or Mike Bolsinger. The job is Bolsinger’s to lose, but he has never even pitched 150 innings. However, he is showing improvement every year. In 2014 (his first in MLB) he pitched 52 innings with a 5.50 ERA. Last year, he pitched 109 innings with a 3.62 ERA. I think it’s likely that he will improve incrementally this year too. If he can just add an inning to his starts, that would be huge. He’s 28 and should be in his prime… whatever that is!

    Striping pitched 127 innings at age 23, before his Tommy John Surgery and is now two years from that procedure. He could very well win the #5 spot out of Spring Training as he has very good stuff and is an extremely smart guy. He is now 26, and the Dodgers could do a lot worse than Ross.

    Beachy is the oldest of the three at 29 and lest we forget, he was a pretty good pitcher for the Braves – after two Tommy Johns, no one has a clue what will happen with him. I can’t even speculate.

    Of course, Ryu is back throwing, but I still think the Dodgers will bring him along slowly… like in late-May! Alex Wood has the #4 spot for sure – don’t even worry about what he does in Spring Training. However, he had better “bring it” once the season starts. His leash will be short!

  2. I thought Lee would have gone back to football before now.

    Urias? Not this year.

    Beachy? I doubt it, but who knows.

    Jose De Leon? I’ve been clear about what I think. Yes. If he is throwing better than the others at the end of Spring Training, then absolutely yes. He’s 24 the first week of August so he’s not too young to pitch every 5th day. I look at our “depth” (rick summed that up perfectly) and I see Jose De Leon as the most likely to pitch 150 innings out of the 5 hole. I do realize the target year for him is ’17, and if they decide to stick with that schedule I’m ok with it as I still see this as a transition year.

  3. Good fun game to watch yesterday – lots of hits & runs and new faces.

    For what it’s worth, I think Maeda will be our #2 & Frias will start the season as our #5.

    Kazmir & Wood are big question marks for me.

    Also, my pen doesn’t have Baez in it.

    1. Baez does seem like he is being edged out by the additions of Blanton and maybe even Wright. For the last couple of years the Dodgers have had a bearpen and hopefully they will have a bullpen this year.

  4. Unless I missed it, Beachy is not on the 40 and I would think FAZ would like to stash him until they give up on Lee and Bolsinger. With Anderson on the 60 day there is an opening on the 40 but that doesn’t mean that Beachy would get that spot.
    .
    Lee pitched well enough in the hitting friendly AAA league and is most ready to jump to 200 innings. If he has a good spring, I definitely put him in the Dodger rotation.
    .
    I would put Urias and De Leon in OK and bring up De Leon in May if he does well in OK.
    .
    I would hold out Ryu long enough to make sure he had enough innings left in hi to pitch through a 7 game WS.
    .
    I would include Stripling as an alternative to either Wood or Lee should he out pitch them in spring training.
    .
    Could the Dodgers get Richard from the Angels in exchange for Kendrick, Wood, Stripling, and Ethier?

  5. Richards? Good idea, but I’m not sure why the Angels would do that. He’s in his prime, arb eligible until ’19 if I read it right, coming off 32 starts and 207 innings – though I would love to see those numbers out of anyone we got not named Kershaw (I got the “we won’t” on that one) those are the players you want more of not less. The Angels won’t let him go, unless there’s a rumor he’s sleeping with GM’s wife. Shall we start that here?

    This early I don’t know it matters who’s on the 40 man. What matters is who is pitching well. If Beachy continues to get people out he will find his way on to the protected list in due time.

    Though I remain less than confident in the pitchers we have for the rotation, I’m not concerned about how anyone is pitching yet. About 15 games into this ST schedule I’ll be paying closer attention. I still believe we have some great arms in the bullpen, but they need someting other than 96 mph center cut heat. I’m hoping Maddux is working with these guys on different grips and locations. Lots of time to get that work done.

    We have some unexpected sticks showing some ability. Culberson, Zarraga, Segedin, Hassan, Brown, Murphy – they all look capable. Hope they keep it going for a few more weeks. They could represent actual depth if they do.

    I wonder when Matt Jones will get some at bats. Soon I hope. Yesterday was his birthday. He’s 22. That’s old enough. Stick him in there.

    1. I think the Angels still would like to have Kendrick back at second base and could still use a left side hitting outfielder. They have the worst minor league system in baseball and could benefit from getting two pitchers for one pitcher.
      .
      I was okay with Kike’ and Utley platooning at second and Kendrick looks like he is going to have more and more leg issues. A cross town move for Ethier would be the friendliest trade other than to AZ for Ethier. I like Thompson and SVS in left field and if Crawford can play 120 games, he could replace Ethier as a platoon with those righty bats.

      1. Howie is to bulked up. I think he needs to get a little less bulked up, like the team wanted Puig, and Crawford to do, to prevent injuries. I think it would give Howie a little more speed, and give him better range, at second, if he did this.

  6. Well, right now I am not to sold on Kazmir. He has been rocked in both his starts, and not looked good at all. Hatcher has looked pretty bad too. Bolsinger had another solid outing yesterday. Cotton was rocked, but he is a year away at least. Stripling and Anderson looked good the other day. I take a wait and see outlook on Beachy. If he is healthy, I like the guy. IMHO by the way. Urias, wait till next year…..Deleon I would like to see a little more of. He showed a lot of poise in his first appearance. They will start paring down after next week, so chances at the MLB level of spring will slowly go away.

  7. Good call, Bum. A lot will be decided in the next few weeks, but I think at some point they have to give Lee a chance, if only to showcase him for a possible trade, or give up on him.

    Glavine and Smoltz both pitched at AAA before being called up, and both struggled in their first year in the majors. I know your point is not that we should rush guys to the show, but let them pitch more. But if you are going to let them pitch those innings in the majors, you have to be willing to see them struggle. It was easier for the Braves to do that in ’88 than it would be for the Dodgers this year, unless we tank.

  8. So many options, so much time (3 weeks) left…
    Badger, you got it with your short list of NRI’s and kids all battling for a piece of the action…
    Once again, Damn I love ST!!!

  9. With ’18 as the target year, ’17 may be when we see De Leon and Urias. I wonder what the plan for Holmes and Anderson might be. I didnt see either one down there. Didn’t see Buehler either. Oh, wait….. And where is Sborz? Is he still a Dodger? Didn’t see him either, but there were a few guys doing a towel drill on the minor league mounds I couldn’t get close to.

      1. Buehler’s in sick bay for a few more months. First round pick. Immediately under the knife. Not the way most organizations would do it, but it just might work out. Beachy, Buehler, Montas, McCarthy, Ryu, who am I leaving out? Anderson? 15.7 extra large down the crapper. High risks. They go for it with the surgically repaired but not at the dead……. never mind.

  10. The richest team in baseball history, who can’t even show live spring games on their own network, won’t even have a radio broadcast today either. Guess Charlie Steiner and the guys need a break

    However, No local TV or radio for Thursday’s game, but there will be a free audio webcast on Athletics.com.

  11. I don’t see why Lee can’t have some success in the 5 hole. He has spent 5 years getting in his innings, so arm strength should not be an issue. He is an athlete, which might overcome some of his shortcomings on the mound. I would give him 4-5 starts when the season begins and see how it goes. Why is it so hard to get through a lineup twice? That’s about all a 5 guy has to do.

    1. What if it only takes 3 innings to do it bobbie? But your point is well made. If he gets people out now, he might could do it then.

    2. Bolsinger gets hit hard the third time around. That’s why he is a #5 and not much more. I don’t see an issue sticking Lee in their and crossing our fingers.
      .
      But having both of them in the rotation???

  12. What’s going to go down is far outside of my couch viewing, but what I’d like coming into focus at this foggy moment would be De Leon showcasing more of what he’s made of but with him understanding he’s a fill in till Ryu’s return. That might have the contract effect with his performance and him focusing on the now opposed to innings count. But like I say, I don’t have the best seat in the house except with my house.

        1. We just had to put our 11 Year-old Rott down on Tuesday. His name was George Cooney and he was a baseball fan. If asked him who the greatest baseball player of all time was, he said RUTH. It took me a long time to train him to do that. He used to say Barry Bonds!

          1. Mark I am sorry about your dog. Dogs are part of our families. The only bad thing about Dogs, are that they don’t live a long life. But they sure do make the most of there life, as will as our life.

          1. Sorry to hear that Bum. I’m a dog person. I have a mini Schnauzer, and he is good company. I wish dogs lived longer. They live a short time, but they make the most out of life, and touch us humans, in a profound way.

    1. Heard in passing, on a trueblue la article about possible starters, that Frias is gonna be a BP pitcher this season. Guess we’ll see.

  13. Off topic but I’d love to see Trayce Thompson, Joc and a Puig outfield. excited by what we’re seeing from the farm right now. Of course hoping that Pederson and Puig solve the slumps they are in. The pitchers and young guys give me hope.

    1. Way to jump in there Dean. You are a smart guy. Well, at least you agree with me. I don’t know what that makes you.
      .
      I am ready for Bellinger at first base right now as well.

  14. The Dodgers are in a different situation this year, because they should be having, Ryu and MCCarthy coming back, just before the Allstar break, and right after the Allstar break. Usually teams, like to bring there young pitchers up, toward the end of the season. But the Dodgers could use a young pitcher, at the begining of the season this year, because of Anderson getting hurt. I think we all would love to see, one of our young pitchers, get a chance, to be the number five pitcher, in the rotation. But I really don’t think, that the Dodgers, are seriously thinking about doing this. I still think they rather wait, until the end of the year. I agree with Mark, that Wood is the lock for the fourth position in the rotation, because he has already been, a viable a major league pitcher, that has had some success. And Bolsinger will probably be the number five. I do think both of these pitchers, will have to pitch well enough, to stay in these positions, because there a lot of pitchers, that could take there places, in the rotation. And the Dodgers don’t want to get behind in there division early, and MCCarthy and Ryu, should be coming back. I really don’t think the Dodgers starting rotation, is the biggest question, because they have plenty of pitchers to fill these positions, in the rotation. I think that the bullpen, is the Dodgers biggest question. They need to make sure that the the bullpen, will be able to back up, this starting rotation, because the starters they have, don’t pitch deep into games. I hope the Dodgers have a better bullpen coach, this year, if they do play a big role, in the bullpen, and with the bullpen’s performance, because the bullpen will be vital this year.

    1. Agree about the bullpen, but I wouldn’t count on any contributions from McCarthy or Anderson. Ryu is the key; besides Kershaw, which of these other guys would you trust to start a playoff game?

      1. Snider fan I’m not big on those two either, especially MCCarthy. They should have looked how badly MCCarthy pitched in the national league west, before signing him. All of the players in this division, know him well. And I haven’t even mentioned his injury history.

    1. This was an interesting part of that article Mark–Zaidi cites the changing age curve in baseball, which in the post-PED era has players peaking closer to age 24 or 25 than 27 or 28.
      .
      In a couple of paragraphs later the author mentions that Harper at age 28 will be a free agent. Doesn’t sound like Zaidi will want to spent the $400M to sign him.

  15. Smoltz did end up having elbow surgery and had to move to the bullpen, I but I digress….

    I really think the best option is to start Deleon in the minors for a little while and then bring him up a short while into the season. He is ready to pitch 150 or so innings and that would enable him to keep to that limit while being able to pitch late into the season if he is doing well.

  16. From that article mover posted:

    “The consensus holds that the Dodgers have a worse chance of ending that World Series drought in 2016 than they did in 2015, when they bowed out in the NLDS.”

    Amen to that.

    What also is made clear is that even though the Dodgers payroll will be lower, they are not trying to skimp, dumping MILYUNS on the international market. No apparent issues with the tax on those deals. It’s good to be rich. The future looks bright. The now? I think the then looks better.

    Watching Heaney pitch at the moment. He looks kinda not too bad so far.

    1. How in the world did those baseball web sites predict this team would win over 90 games????
      .
      What are we not seeing that they are seeing?

    1. Bobby I couldn’t get the game like last time. Last time I just touched that info you gave us. I was on the Athletics. Com. and I pushed video, and I couldn’t get it. I tried all kinds of things.

        1. Bobby if that happens again, can you list the site, like you did last time, so I only have to touch, and I am there. I am very tech challanged.

  17. Houston could benefit from having a better first baseman and DH. I want to watch Bellinger play. How much? I would try to trade Agon, Johnson, Kendrick, lots of money, Crawford, did I mention lots of money? Wood for Altuve.
    .
    Then I would sit back and watch for better or worse this lineup:
    Altuve, Pederson, Puig, Turner, Seager, Grandal, Bellinger, Thompson.
    .
    That is the lineup that would entertain me the most. Not saying doable. Not saying that would be a good team. Just that I would be entertained watching those guys.

    1. That would be fun. It seems like a true youth movement going on the likes of which we haven’t seen in many years. The last one even close was when Kemp, Ethier came up. What was that 06,08? can’t remember off the top of my head. I’d love to see what Bellinger could do with some regular play, but must be careful what we wish for.

    2. Bums – floated the idea of trading for Altuve last season but was told he wasn’t all that!

      Is that a picture of you in your younger days at Princeton you posted earlier?

      1. I thought I had read that his defense wasn’t all that great. Now all I read is that he does everything well.
        .
        I would imagine that if that picture was of me that I would have had a wonderful life. I have been to Washington and spent a couple of nights. I checked in to the hotel with my real name and didn’t sign in as Mr. Smith.

          1. I know who it is – Errol Randolph Stewart, star of stage screen and WWII war hero. Went to Princeton too, just like Bum and Donald Rumsfeld.

  18. Certainly won’t hurt Jose and Julio to get some 3A experience. If they dominate 3A and we need pitching help bring em up later in the season. Anderson looks ready for the major leagues too.

  19. I wanted Jose Altuve 4 years ago, before he was Jose Altuve! I was ready to trade half the team for him.

    I think I traded Zach Lee, Andre Ethier, Dee Gordon, Ivan De Jesus and Jerry Sands for him.

    Houston didn’t bite!

    1. I am glad that Zach gets the start. It’s not that I think he has a better upside than Julio, but of the two, only Zach really has a shot at starting on the 25 man come April 4. He needs to feel as if he is a potential starter, warm up as a starter, and even showcase as a starter. While this is an audition for the Dodger rotation, it is also an audition for other teams that also may be looking for a #5. Hopefully he can continue what he started against the Giants, and stretch it out to three innings.

      I still think that the Dodgers believe that Bolsinger is the safe choice. Both Lee’s and Bolsinger’s ceiling is as a #5. But if Lee can impress, he will hopefully get a chance to be a starter for someone else if not for the Dodgers.

        1. MJ, that is my biggest concern, that Zach is looked at as a decent AAA pitcher. That may very well be his ceiling, but the Dodgers do not need any more organizational depth at AAA. He has been there, done that, and it helps nobody to have him return. Baltimore is in desperate need for pitching. Package Lee with CC and see what you get. The more the Dodgers pay, the higher the prospect. I would rather have a maybe in A ball, rather than organizational depth blocking prospects at AAA.

          It’s also time to push the others that FAZ does believe will be Dodger pitchers. OKC will have Urias, De Leon and Stripling as the top three (unless Stripling really surprises and gets the #5). Cotton, Chris Anderson, and Matt West will vie for the remaining two spots. Unless Beachy really shows that he will be capable of pitching for LAD, I would think that he would be released prior to April 4 to try to catch on with another team. But I do not see him taking a spot from Cotton, Anderson, or Montas (when he returns), and the Dodgers already have Matt West as their organizational depth at AAA.

          It’s time to fish or cut bait with Zach Lee.

  20. Yep, 20 y.o. Bellinger at first to start the season and he can room with Joc!!! Think of the invaluable info he could rain on Cody… But then who’s Trayce gonna room with???… Aw hell, MLB players don’t share rooms any more, it’s a union thing…
    Yep that guarantees a 75-80 W season and Mark has finally purged the team of the TRADE!!! Win-win??

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