LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers starters led the Majors last season with a 3.39 ERA, and most of the rotation returns in 2018, led by three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. The anticipated rotation heading into Spring Training is filled out by Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers starters led the Majors last season with a 3.39 ERA, and most of the rotation returns in 2018, led by three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. The anticipated rotation heading into Spring Training is filled out by Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Walker Buehler, the club's No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is waiting in the wings, left-hander Julio Urias could return from shoulder surgery by midseason and a return of free agent Yu Darvish hasn't been ruled out.
STARTING ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Clayton Kershaw, LHP
Rich Hill, LHP
Alex Wood, LHP
Kenta Maeda, RHP
Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP
Los Angeles boasts quality depth that most other clubs don't have. Each of the Dodgers' top five made at least 24 starts for them in 2017. Kershaw and Wood were All-Stars. Ryu was coming off two years on the sidelines after shoulder and elbow operations and had a solid 3.77 ERA. Maeda, despite a stellar postseason relief role, is set to return to his preferred starting role. Buehler, who came out of the bullpen during a stint as a shaky September callup, also goes back to starting, likely in Triple-A to start the season.
Brock Stewart made four spot starts, while Thomas Stripling made two. Dennis Santana was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, but he's only 21 with half of a season at Double-A.
The Dodgers like to manipulate the 10-day disabled list to give starters a breather, essentially going in and out of a six-man rotation when the mood strikes. Their impressive starting depth gives them the luxury to do so.
As with any rotation, health is the unknown. Each of the top five had at least one stint on the disabled list in 2017. Kershaw sustained his second back injury in as many seasons, a trend the Dodgers hope to end. Wood was out twice with a rare inflammation of his sternum. Hill finally overcame first-half blister issues, but he'll be 38 in March and is rarely allowed past the fifth inning unless he's throwing a perfect game.
Urias blew out despite a quirky throwing program intended to prevent that from happening, and Buehler will require careful management, as he had already undergone Tommy John surgery and never thrown more than 97 innings in a professional season.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
As long as Darvish is still on the board, the Dodgers will be seen as a logical landing spot. They gave up three prospects to get him at last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline, and he helped get the club to the World Series, so there's no question he's a front-office favorite, even if fans will remember him for his World Series struggles. Darvish can probably find a club willing to pay him more for longer, but he said he enjoyed his time in L.A. with a pitching coach, Rick Honeycutt, who has experience working with Japanese starters like Maeda and Hiroki Kuroda.
Maybe Darvish is waiting for the Dodgers to trade away another contract to clear payroll so they can make a run at him. There have been no indications that the Dodgers are in play for Jacob Arrieta, the other free-agent frontline starter. If Darvish jilts them, they just might stand pat until the Trade Deadline.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.