Los Angeles Dodgers: What to do with Dustin May

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 16: Dustin May #85 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field on October 16, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 16: Dustin May #85 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field on October 16, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

By just looking at a video or the numbers of Dustin May you would think the young stud would have his place in any team’s rotation secured, but the 2021 Los Angeles Dodgers is a whole other ballgame. The arrival of Trevor Bauer plus the addition of David Price (who opted out for the 2020 season), has created an absurd amount of starting pitching talent in David Robert´s team, causing uncertainty in Mays role for the upcoming season.

Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Trevor Bauer, and David Price have their spot in the rotation secured. Those four guys can be aces in any team and despite some doubts about the age of the two left-handers they still provide electric and reliable stuff. That leaves Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May fighting for the number five spot in the rotation.

What should the Los Angeles Dodgers do with Dustin May?

By all accounts, the obvious choice is Julio Urias, one of the 2020 world series heroes. Since his rookie season, back in 2016 when he was only 20 years old, Urias has been great. The Mexican pitcher had to undergo Tommy John Surgery back in 2017 and was out for almost two seasons. He came back for the end of the 2019 season where he posted a 2.49 ERA in 79.2 innings.

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Last season, Urias was reliable every fifth day and started 10 games, posting a 130 ERA+. There is no denying that he was an impact player during the Dodgers title run, both in regular and the postseason. Dave Roberts‘ confidence in this young man is absolute and that was shown when he gave him the ball for the last 7 outs of the decisive championship game. Urias was perfect and did not allow a single base runner whilst punching out four. That performance was a big statement, and, before the arrival of Bauer, it seemed that nothing could move him from the starting rotation.

On the other side, there is Tony Gonsolin. The 25-year-old debuted in the last part of the 2019 season where he played in 11 games, starting 6 of them, and posting an amazing 2.93 ERA. His success continued last season and he improved his number, having a 2.31 ERA with a 0.836 WHIP. This earned him a fourth-place finish in the rookie of the year award, ahead of his teammate, May.

Gonsolin has a decent fastball, with a very high spin rate, but relies on his off-speed stuff to get swings and misses. Last season, he had a higher swinging strike rate than the likes of Aaron Nola and his new teammate Bauer. Nevertheless, in the postseason he had a mixed role between the bullpen and a starter, and he struggled, allowing nine earned runs in 9.1 innings pitched. His best stuff is display as a traditional starter, every five days, with proper rest.

May appears to be the third option for the ‘open’ spot in the rotation. There is no denying that his stuff is electric. He can throw 100 MPH and has an almost unhittable sinker. He made 10 starts last season with a decent ERA, but his FIP of 4.62 shows that he has a lot to improve. Like Gonsolin he struggled in the postseason as a reliever, especially in the World Series where he allowed three runs in three innings.

May and Gonsolin should be worried. Changing their role to the bullpen might affect their development as a starter, they would have to change their mechanics and learn how to throw with short rest and a different mindset. Being in the bullpen might not only affect their throwing capacity but also mess with their head, which is why the Los Angeles Dodgers might prefer to do this with Gonsolin who is older and has a bit more experience.

If Gonsolin goes to the pen as the long reliever or emergency starters, what options are available for May? In what would be a tough pill to swallow, May could start the year in the minors. He has his three minor league options available and placing him in AAA would allow him to continue his development as a pure starter.

Surely that move will make him unhappy, no player wants to go down, especially after a couple of seasons displaying good stuff in the majors, but it might be the only way for the Dodgers to keep him and do not mess his development.

The second option is a trade. His value in the market would be sky-high and if Justin Turner decides to sign elsewhere, the Dodgers need a third baseman or a backup infielder. Edwin Rios and Matt Beaty provide some depth, but they are not star players. With Kike Hernandez also leaving to the Red Sox’s, the options at third are slim at best, and getting a star to play the corner would probably make them one of the best teams ever.

The trade could also be a good option for May who can be part of a rotation without needing to worry about losing his role, going to the bullpen, or going down to the minors. Exploring the market should be something the Dodgers should pursue before the start of spring training.

Finally, the third option is for May to go to the bullpen as a middle reliever. If the Dodgers go down this road, they should avoid starting him in spring training and make him work closely with a pitching coach so he can adapt his mechanics and understand this new role. It will not be easy for a guy who has been a starter his whole baseball career and is regarded as one of the top starters of the future, to change his role for a complete season, but that might be the only way he has right now to stay in the majors.

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If the Los Angeles Dodgers go with this option, let us hope that it does not affect his game and he continues to be a delight on the mound.