Ryan Pepiot made his first postseason roster in 2023, though you might have forgotten since he did not pitch in the National League Division Series. After all, what use would the Dodgers have for a pitcher who had the best ERA in the rotation since joining the team in August?
Things started badly for Pepiot this season. After winning the fifth-starter job in spring training, the right-hander landed on the injured list on opening day with an oblique strain. What was originally expected to be a short-term malady turned into over three months on the shelf, as further inspection the injury was a much more serious intercostal strain.
Pepiot got back on track in Triple-A Oklahoma City for about a month starting in mid-July, the first four of his starts on a rehab assignment and the last two after getting optioned. Pepiot’s final Triple-A start, on August 13 in Tacoma, set the tone for the excellent finish to his season.
Against the Rainiers, the Mariners Triple-A affiliate, Pepiot retired his first 18 batters faced and ended up with 11 strikeouts in 6⅔ scoreless innings. By the next weekend, he was in the majors.
Pepiot seems pretty happy go lucky in my interactions with him, and when he was asked before his first game in the majors in 2023, on August 19, if that final perfect game flirtation in Triple-A put any extra pep in his step — this pun on his name seemed unintentional — Pepiot smiled and interrupted mid-question, adding, “Good one.”
Pepiot in spring training won the fifth starter job that was vacated by Tony Gonsolin’s ankle sprain. In August, he took over for Gonsolin again, this time when Tommy John surgery ended Gonsolin’s season.
In his eight bulk outings with the Dodgers, Pepiot started four times, directly followed an opener twice, and pitched in long relief twice, the latter including a three-inning tuneup on the final day of the regular season. In those eight games, Pepiot allowed more than one run only once.
Pepiot’s biggest weapon is his changeup, and it’s what got him on top-100 prospect lists the last two offseasons. But in his first go-around with the Dodgers in 2022, Pepiot lacked command, both with the changeup itself and with the fastball to set up his other pitches, including a slider.
But in 2023, Pepiot pounded the strike zone, and found great success, including only five walks to go with his 38 strikeouts.
Ryan Pepiot’s improved control
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“Ryan’s been great,” said manager Dave Roberts. “Versus right, versus left, the head, the throwing, all that stuff, he’s really checked a lot of boxes and really grown.”
Among the 410 major league pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched in 2023, Pepiot’s 2.14 ERA ranked 18th, and the 17 pitchers above him were all relievers. Based on his batted-ball data, Pepiot was also effective with a 3.25 xERA, which on the team was bested by only Brusdar Graterol (3.09) and Evan Phillips (3.14).
Pepiot’s growth from last year to this year could serve as encouragement for similarly-profiled pitchers in the system, like Gavin Stone and Emmet Sheehan, the latter who already showed vast improvement this September. But for Pepiot himself, he’s pitched his way into a rotation spot for 2024, perhaps this time with minimal interruption.
Stats: 2-1, 2.14 ERA, 3.25 xERA, 42 IP, 38 K, 5 BB, 1.3 rWAR, 0.4 fWAR
Game of the year
Much like 25 days earlier in Tacoma, Ryan Pepiot took a perfect game into the seventh inning, only this time it was in the majors for the Dodgers against the Marlins in Miami.
Pepiot retired his first 20 batters on September 7 in Miami, his bid for a perfect game denied by a Josh Bell single. But that was all Pepiot allowed in his seven scoreless innings.
Pepiot has one year, five days of major league service time, and won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until the 2026 season at the earliest. In 2024, he’ll likely earn somewhere just north of the $740,000 minimum salary.