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Dodgers have the pitching depth to afford losing Ryan Pepiot

There’s quite a bit of depth when it comes to young pitching for the Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers v Colorado Rockies - Game One Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Dodgers added to their rotation by trading for Tyler Glasnow last weekend. That solidification is somewhat capped by the fact they subtracted from the same rotation to get the deal done, in sending Ryan Pepiot to Tampa Bay.

Losing Pepiot is damaging no matter how you rate him, but we must not overreact to the impact of his absence, and instead focus on why it made sense to have him as the headliner in a trade. But also, the Dodgers are not done acquiring pitchers this offseason.

“Obviously it was a one-for-one swap [on the pitching side of the four-player trade with the Rays], so we’re still looking to add talent and continuing to examine all avenues on the starting pitching front,” Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes said Monday. “Ultimately it’s just about continuing to add as much pitching talent and depth as we possibly can.”

The Dodgers have many young arms on the farm, some with MLB experience thanks in part to an injury-riddled campaign in 2023. Outside of Bobby Miller, few flashed as exciting numbers as Pepiot did, but there are caveats and notes to be made about his success in 2023.

Pepiot will join the Rays with under 80 innings of work in the big leagues. The right-hander struggled to control his changeup in 2022, which led to an obscene 16.9-percent walk rate.

Despite that, Pepiot still managed a very respectable 3.47 ERA, holding opponents to a .200 AVG, and also a 86.2-percent LOB rate. Ultimately, though, it was clear those numbers were bound for regression, given a higher sample than the 36⅓ innings he had.

This season, improvements were shown. Pepiot completely revamped his outlook from a pitcher with one of the highest walk rates in the sport, to an arm with one of the lowest. In 42 innings, Pepiot had a 3.2-percent walk rate, locating his changeup with much more consistency (zone rate on the pitch went from 20.7 to 33.0 percent, and strike rate went up from 43.6 to 67.9 percent).

Working often as the bulk guy, usually following an opener, Pepiot looked the part with a 2.14 ERA, but that number is rather unrealistic. If you look at the LOB rate, Pepiot stood at 99.2 percent. Anything even near that is impossible over a full season.

The changeup was always the bread and butter for Pepiot, and the fact he struggled so much with it in his first year raised some flags. The evolution in year two is indicative of sustainability as a solid arm much more than anything else.

The top prize of the Glasnow trade, if you analyze his prospect profile and the still limited work he had in the big leagues, Pepiot showed the potential to be a stable arm. However, the Dodgers have other names like that coming up, and if Pepiot was the requirement to get the deal done, it made plenty of sense, especially in getting more than just one year of Glasnow.

Emmett Sheehan had an ERA (4.92) over twice as high as Pepiot (2.14), but if you look at FIP, they were much closer, Sheehan at 4.85 and Pepiot at 4.12. With the caveat, this was Pepiot’s second go around, and Sheehan’s first taste in the majors.

Minor leaguers such as NIck Frasso and Landon Knack have both experienced success in the high minors and are for the most part prospects in the same tier as Pepiot was, if not a little higher. Both moved one step closer to a major league opportunity when they were added to the 40-man roster in November.

The big point to be made here is that, while ideally, you’d like to keep Pepiot, he’s not Bobby Miller. Not in terms of having established himself outside this long tier of arms the Dodgers have, and if he’s the price to get Glasnow, it’s a swallowable move.

You can’t acquire high-end without making some sacrifices. This was a smaller one than it may seem at first glance.