The Los Angeles Dodgers are perhaps MLB’s premier organization when it comes to talent evaluation and player development.
They have virtually built their own stars: Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Chris Taylor, Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, Will Smith, Justin Turner, and many others have seen their destiny change after joining the Dodgers organization.
They have all improved dramatically while wearing Dodger blue and that’s not something that happens by chance.
The Dodgers currently have several pitchers who can be considered aces.
Walker Buehler, for example, is a bonafide ace.
Kershaw is still one, too, even though he is currently injured.
Max Scherzer is one of the best pitchers in the league, and Urias could be developing into an ace as we speak given his enormous success in 2021.
There is a pitcher, currently out of the 2021 picture, who is definitely a future ace with the Dodgers, and his name is Dustin May.
May The Force Be With You
Armed with a turbo sinker that checks in at 100 mph, and with an improving breaking ball, May was in the process of breaking out in 2021 after finding some success in 2020.
Last year, he had a 2.57 ERA in 56 innings, but people complained that he wasn’t taking advantage of his incredible stuff and wasn’t missing enough bats, something that put a cloud on his future ability to find success.
Those concerns were certainly valid: the most dominant pitchers in MLB are those who can consistently get strikeouts.
Batted balls often find their way to become hits or home runs, and strikeout-heavy pitchers will help their chances against this particular problem.
May’s ERA may have been good, but his 7.07 strikeouts per nine innings were very low.
He worked on command and breaking balls last offseason and looked much, much better in 2021.
Granted, he only logged 23 innings this year, but his strikeouts per nine frames surged all the way up to 13.70.
His ERA remained steady at 2.74, but his renewed ability to get swings and misses paints a much, much better picture for the future.
Unfortunately, May grabbed his arm after throwing a pitch on May 1, and was diagnosed with elbow damage a few days later.
Getting Healthy Is The Key
He had to undergo the dreaded Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
#Dodgers announce Dustin May will undergo right elbow UCL reconstruction surgery on May 11.
— Juan Toribio (@juanctoribio) May 3, 2021
The primary objective of this exercise if identifying one pitcher in the Dodgers organization capable of developing into an ace in the future, and if there is anybody who can do it, that’s May.
His stuff is simply unbelievable: his turbo sinker gets so much movement that can get hitters like Manny Machado to look like this:
Dustin May just straight bullies Manny Machado. (IG/pitchersnation) pic.twitter.com/qusgVaDMTU
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) August 11, 2020
He showed, albeit in a limited sample, that he has the ability to make adjustments and take the next step.
Now, he only needs health and starts.
The former should allow him to pitch again in the big leagues in late 2022, but if the Dodgers are feeling conservative (which they usually are), they could hold him out until 2023.
In fact, the 2023 season will be huge for him, as he will likely be healthy enough to have a regular spring training.
He needs to prove he can put it all together for a full season, but the ingredients are there.