Righthander Gavin Stone rose from 2020 fifth-round pick to minor league ERA champion in 2022 to top prospect in 2023.
Major league hitters were not impressed.
“Oh yeah. I took my hits,” Stone said in reference to his 9.00 ERA in 31 big league innings. “It’s good for you. Everybody needs to get knocked down. It’s how you respond.”
How Stone responded was to expand his pitch mix at midseason.
After being sent back to Triple-A Oklahoma City in July, the 25-year-old started incorporating a two-seam fastball and cutter, adding them to a four-seam fastball that averaged 94 mph in MLB and an outstanding changeup that is his best pitch.
“I think that really helps get people off my other stuff,” said Stone, who also throws an occasional curveball.
“I threw a two-seam in college (at Central Arkansas), so I was very comfortable with that. And the cutter, I had never thrown, but it just helps.”
Stone’s willingness to adjust his repertoire speaks volumes, according to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Friedman compared it to the same process Ryan Pepiot went through between his MLB debut in 2022 and last year when he posted a 2.14 ERA in 42 innings for the Dodgers.
“I would say Gavin Stone kind of went through all of that in the middle of a season, which is pretty unusual and speaks to what a freak athlete he is,” Friedman said.
“After he’d experienced facing major league hitters, it was, ‘OK, I need something kind of going this way, like a two-seamer and a cutter, which will help expand the plate this way.’ “
The Dodgers’ offseason spending spree on the likes of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow and James Paxton has added depth to the rotation, with youngsters Emmet Sheehan and Stone now projected as depth options.
Stone is confident he will be better prepared when MLB opportunity comes this year.
“Last year at the end of the year, especially in Triple-A, those (new pitches) really helped a lot,” Stone said. “Being able to hone in on those, get command of those this year will be huge.”
— Righthander Nick Frasso had surgery to repair a labrum tear in his shoulder in November. Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes said the tear was minor enough that it was debated whether the 25-year-old needed surgery to repair it. Frasso could pitch before the end of the 2024 season if all goes well in his rehab. “There’s a chance that he comes back some time at the end of the season,” Gomes said. “But at the same time, he’s so young and talented, we’re not going to take any risks in stepping on him and pushing him along if he’s not ready.”
— The Dodgers extended non-roster invitations to big league spring training to 21 players, including 12 with MLB experience. That group includes righthanders Dinelson Lamet, Jesse Hahn, Nabil Crismatt, Daniel Hudson and Elieser Hernandez; lefthander T.J. McFarland and utility infielder Jonathan Arauz.