Not landing Tanaka could test Dodgers mettle

We’ve been hearing it since Day-1 of the Guggenheim Dodgers and especially this past season – the Dodgers want to get younger. In fact, Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten even went so far as to declare that getting younger was a major part of the Dodgers’ master plan.

Last November, longtime Dodgers beat writer Ken Gurnick wrote: “And Kasten is still banging the drum on transitioning the franchise to internal development, a trademark of his two previous clubs, Atlanta and Washington. Gurnick quoted Kasten as saying: “We’re in the latter phase of Phase I and the beginning of Phase II, but we’re not fully into Phase II.”

It's time for Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten to show his mettle about getting younger. (Video capture courtesy of Dodgers.com)

There has never been a better time for Stan Kasten to help the Dodgers get younger than right  now. (Video capture courtesy of Dodgers.com)

With the Masahiro Tanaka soap opera now over and with pitchers and catchers due to report in just three short weeks, Dodger fans are going to see first hand if Kasten’s Phase II plan is for real or simply hyperbole.

As it stands, it appears that the top four in the Dodgers 2014 starting rotation will be Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu and Dan Haren – which is a very formidable top-4. Where things get ‘iffy’ is with the final spot in the rotation.

Although there is every indication that 33-year-old right-hander Josh Beckett will be fully recovered from his thoracic outlet syndrome surgery when pitchers and catchers report, it’s probably safe to say that there is some trepidation over this by Dodgers ownership. Why else would Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti come out publicly and say that they are still looking for a starting pitcher after the Yankees won the Tanaka sweepstakes – including looking seriously at 36-year-old free agent Bronson Arroyo?

Anyone who has even remotely followed the Dodgers minor league system over the past two or three years is well aware that their 2011 first round draft pick Zach Lee (22) and 2012 first round draft pick Chris Reed (23) had very good seasons with the Dodgers Double-A affiliate Chattanooga Lookouts in 2013 – especially Zach Lee. But what many Dodger fans may not realize is that 24-year-old right-hander Ross Stripling did even better than both Lee and Reed in 2013 when he split time between Advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga.

In his 25 starts with the Lookouts, Lee posted a 10-10 record with an impressive 3.22 ERA. But what absolutely jumps out at you about the right-handed McKinney, Texas native is that he struck out 131 while walking only 35 in 142.2 innings of work for a K/BB ratio of 3.74.

Although hard-throwing left-hander Chris Reed didn’t fair as well record-wise going 4-11, the London native still had a decent 3.86 ERA. And while he struck out 106 in his 137.2 innings of work, he also walked 63 for a rather dismal K/BB ratio of 1.68.

But here’s the kicker. Right-hander Ross Stripling went 2-0 in six starts at Rancho and 6-4 in 16 starts at Chattanooga (8-4 overall) with an outstanding combined ERA of 2.82. He struck out a total of 117 while walking only 30 in 127.2 total innings of work for an excellent K/BB ratio of 3.90. Even though Lee and Reed may be getting all of the attention and ink, Stripling appears to be the better of the three and appears to be closer to being MLB-ready than either Lee or Reed.

While most of the attention has been on first round draft picks Zach Lee (2011) and Chris Reed (2012), fifth round draft pick Ross Stripling (2012) has quietly been out-pitching both of them. (Photo credit - Tim Evearitt)

While most of the attention has been on first round draft picks Zach Lee (2011) and Chris Reed (2012), fifth round draft pick Ross Stripling (2012) has quietly been out-pitching both of them.
(Photo credit – Tim Evearitt)

If Stan Kasten, Ned Colletti and the entire Guggenheim Baseball Management group actually do want to get younger and truly do want to transition the franchise towards internal development, there is absolutely no better time to do so than right now.

 

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3 Responses to “Not landing Tanaka could test Dodgers mettle”

  1. Bluenose Dodger says:

    I agree that Ross may be at the front of the pack now. He seems to have a mound presence maturity somewhat like Paco. I sometimes think it is easier to move along, with fewer eyes watching, when not a first round pick.

    With Chad expected back, Josh ready for the start of the season, it does seems like the perfect time for a young pitcher to get in some work at the MLB level this year and another next year.

    I have claimed for years that a team does not become consistently competitive until at least three starters and a number of relievers are home grown.

    • Bluenose Dodger says:

      I expect we shouldn’t forget Matt Magill and Stephen Fife.

      • Ron Cervenka says:

        I’ve covered Magill and Fife rather extensively in a previous blog articles and will continue to do so during Spring training and beyond.

        I went in this direction because of all of the attention being given to Lee and Reed for the upcoming spring training camp, yet very little attention has been given to Stripling who, as I noted, out-pitched both of them last season.

        As much as I try to keep personal feelings out of this stuff, I am very fond of both Ross and Jarret Martin and hope that they are given the same attention and opportunities to succeed at ST14 that Zach and Chris will receive.

        I believe that Magill will do exceptionally well but I am concerned about Fife’s chronic shoulder bursitis issues.

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