Dodgers Add Yu Darvish, Look Absurdly Good Now

At their current winning percentage, the Dodgers are on pace to win 114 games. They haven’t lost since Clayton Kershaw went on the DL. They already look like a monster. But now, there’s this.

Faced with the uncertainty of Kershaw’s health and a bunch of other starters with their own medical question marks, the Dodgers apparently decided that their best path forward was to add yet another frontline starter. If Kershaw comes back for the postseason, this may be the best four-man rotation we’ve seen a postseason team run out there since the mid-1990s Braves.

The postseason is still a crapshoot, and no amount of talent does anything to guarantee playoff success. To get to the World Series, the Dodgers will likely have to go through either the Nationals or Cubs, both of whom boast some pretty absurd talents themselves.

But man, this team was already loaded, and now they have another one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. As I wrote last week, Darvish isn’t risk-free himself, but the upside is obvious, and there are reasons for optimism along with the potential red flags.

In the midst of the worst month of the worst year of his career, his stuff and his expected outcomes look fine. But his strikeout rate is down, and the last time he got hit like this, he was just about to get shut down with an arm problem that eventually required surgery. If you want to take the optimistic scenario that he’s probably fine, this might be an opportunity to buy low, and there’s data to support doing just that. If you want to take the pessimistic view and think this is a guy with too many red flags to support giving up a significant return for a rental, there’s data to support that position as well.

What the Dodgers had to give up to rent Darvish for the postseason hasn’t yet been announced. But you have to think the Nationals and Cubs aren’t particularly happy about this piece of news. A behemoth just got even better. Good luck everyone.

Update: The Rangers are sending Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy, and Brandon Davis to the Rangers for rent-a-Darvish. Eric’s pre-season write-ups on the trio can be found below.

Drafted: 4th Round, 2015 from Yavapai JC (AZ)
Age 22 Height 5’9 Weight 177 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 60/60 40/50 30/30 40/45 45/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 27 homers and only 11.6% strikeout rate at Double-A Tulsa in 2016.

Scouting Report
Calhoun transferred from Arizona to Yavapai as sophomore, where he posted preposterous numbers. In 63 games, he hit 31 home runs, drew 38 walks and struck out just 13 times. Those numbers were undoubtedly aided by Prescott’s elevation, their home park’s size and the fact that Yavapai played their home games at a local high-school field when it rained. Despite questions about the validity of the on-paper production, Calhoun could clearly hit, exhibiting advanced bat control, timing and plus bat speed.

Amateur scouts had difficulty deciphering where Calhoun would ultimately fit on the defensive spectrum and an answer to that question still eludes pro evaluators. The Dodgers are hoping he can pass at second base but scouts outside the org aren’t optimistic. The lateral range and quickness fall quite short of the norm there. The arm is light for third base and Calhoun, who is already a 30 runner, arguably already lacks the foot speed to play an average outfield corner and is only going to get bigger than his current 5-foot-6, 200-plus-pound frame.

Regardless of whether or not Calhoun has a defensive home, he’s almost certainly going to hit. His fantastic season at Double-A Tulsa this year came in just his first full pro season after seeing JUCO pitching for most of last year. He has plus raw power and had one of the better batting-practice performances at the Futures Game in July. Scouts think Calhoun may have swing-and-miss issues in the big leagues, but these concerns are more a product of questions about Calhoun’s approach than issues with his bat-to-ball skills. He’s aggressive and will swing ill-advisedly at balls he can’t reasonably punish, but he grinds out at-bats and spoils good pitches until he gets one he can do something with. Also, his strikeout rates aren’t that high. I think he’s an above-average hitter at maturity and, while the approach is certainly a mild concern, the hit/power combination will probably be good enough to profile even if it’s just as a DH.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 5.8 WAR

A.J. Alexy, RHP – Throws 88-92 with a curveball that flashes above average. Change is a 40 right now. Prep arm from northeast, has pitch projection.

Brendon Davis, 3B, 1.7 KATOH+ – Davis has always had smooth, if not explosive, defensive actions and a very projectable frame, and he’s already moved over to third base, where he could be an above-average defender. He has some bat control despite the effort in his swing and how much he hits is going to depend on how strong he becomes as he fills out.

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Teams going for it god dammit! I like it.