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.”
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.
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.