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Dodgers

Dodgers, disarmed by draft failures, will have to buy pitching again this winter

Dodgers, disarmed by draft failures, will have to buy pitching again this winter

Dodgers General Manager Farhan Zaidi speaks at a news conference Oct. 22 announcing the team’s mutual seperation from manager Don Mattingly.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

On Tuesday, Terry Collins will go where no Dodgers manager has gone in 27 years. Collins will manage in the World Series.

The New York Mets hired him as their manager in 2010. He spent the previous decade on a journey through the baseball wilderness, at one point running the Dodgers’ minor league system. He likes to tell a story from 2006, when a pitching coach stopped him on one field and asked if he had seen the phenom throwing on the other field.

“Not yet,” Collins said.

“Oh, wow,” the pitching coach said, then turned and walked away.

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The phenom was an 18-year-old left-hander named Clayton Kershaw, and the Dodgers had just selected him in the first round.

Kershaw developed into the best pitcher in baseball. He has yet to pitch in the World Series. Whether he does might well depend on how successful the Dodgers’ new front office can be in developing the team’s first home-grown starting pitcher since . . . well, since Kershaw himself.

“We expect to have a younger team going forward,” General Manager Farhan Zaidi said last week.

That is not necessarily a step backward.

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Kershaw is 27. The ages of the four starters used by the Mets in their run to the World Series — and in eliminating the Dodgers along the way — are 27 (Jacob deGrom), 26 (Matt Harvey), 24 (Steven Matz) and 23 (Noah Syndergaard).

Zack Wheeler, 25, is expected to rejoin the rotation next season, after rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery. That would give the Mets five home-grown starters — three from the draft, two acquired in trades when they were in Class A.

Kershaw made his major league debut in 2008. The only other home-grown pitcher to start at least 20 games in a season for the Dodgers since then: Chad Billingsley, who was drafted in 2003 and made his debut in 2006.

Of the four pitchers to start at least 20 games for the Dodgers this season, Kershaw was the youngest. Kershaw might have 114 career victories and Mike Bolsinger seven, but Bolsinger is two months older than Kershaw.

The draft has been a disaster on the pitching front, at least so far. Of the 12 players the Dodgers have selected in the first round since Kershaw, 10 were pitchers.

Of those 12 players, the one with the highest WAR (wins above replacement, which accumulates over the course of a career): Corey Seager, a shortstop with one month in the major leagues.

The Dodgers took pitchers with their first two picks this year, polished college pitchers who could have arrived at Dodger Stadium in a hurry. The Dodgers failed to sign one; the other had Tommy John surgery and is not expected to return until 2017.

Help is on the way, but probably not in time for the start of the 2016 season. Left-hander Julio Urias and right-handers Jose De Leon and Grant Holmes were among the top 50 prospects in Baseball Prospectus’ midseason rankings.

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Urias, 19, finished this year at triple A and figures to start there next year. De Leon, 20, finished this year at double A and could start there next year. Holmes, 19, played all season at Class A.

Zaidi and President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman already took the first step toward a younger starting rotation, getting 24-year-old Alex Wood in the 13-player trade that pretty much blew up on the Dodgers otherwise. (Wood did not start in the playoffs; Mat Latos and Jim Johnson were gone by then; Jose Peraza blew out a hamstring before he could be the designated runner in the postseason.)

So the Dodgers quite likely will have to buy pitchers this winter, like it or not, whether they shop in the fancy aisle stocked with the likes of Zack Greinke, David Price, Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann, or in the replacement aisle stocked with the likes of Marco Estrada, Yovani Gallardo, Doug Fister and Scott Kazmir.

Free agency starts on the day after the World Series ends. For now, the Dodgers can admire the Mets, and the four home-grown starters making a collective $2 million this season.

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin.

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