There is seemingly no end in sight to the talent the Dodgers bring into their system year after year. Whether they’re shoring up the MLB roster with big-league trades and signings or whether it’s through shrewd draft picks, the stream of talent is almost endless. In terms of player acquisitions, 2020 was a good year for the Dodgers because not only did they trade for and extend Mookie Betts, they also scouted and brought in top-grade talent in the year’s draft to ensure the gravy train keeps on rolling for another decade at least. One such pitcher that is sure to not only contribute wins to the Dodgers pitching staff but absolutely dominate once he arrives, is the 22-year-old RHP Gavin Stone. A 5th round draft pick in 2021 out of the University of Central Arkansas, Stone has already shown that he has what it takes to not only contribute to team wins but lead a team to wins.
Stone was fiercely dominant in his time with UCA Bears as a college pitcher, across 3 seasons Stone complied a 2.42 ERA over 100.1 IP with a 9.8 K/9. He saw himself working as the teams closer through his sophomore season while taking over as the Friday Night Starter in his junior season, two roles that showcased his ability to handle spotlight pressure while excelling in a leadership role. These are talents that will prove to be invaluable when it comes to solidifying a role on a team as elite as the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Stones strikeout ability was on display as soon as stepped onto the mound for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in what would be his professional debut on May 4th. Stone collected 6 Ks across 3 IP with 1 BB and no runs allowed en route to a no-decision. He cruised through his debut and definitely could have gone for more as he threw just 39 pitches on the night (27 for strikes), which shows the organization wants to take it slow with Stone in his first season. There is a long and rewarding career in the MLB ahead for Gavin Stone and at the age of 22, there is no rush in starting the journey.
Gavin Stone #44
Starting Pitcher for the RC Quakes (Los Angeles Dodgers)
D2080: How are you feeling after your debut on May 4th? It must feel great to start your career with 6 Ks in 3 innings.
Stone: I felt pretty good. We’ve been waiting a long time for baseball to come back so it was good to get back on the mound. Regardless of the outcome, it’s good to be back on the mound and feel what a game felt like again.
D2080: How are you enjoying the Dodgers organization so far? It must be something special being drafted by one of the premier franchises in all of sports.
Stone: It’s amazing, I couldn’t think of a better organization to play for. They do things right, I like everything about their program. I’m enjoying myself, I feel like it’s gonna be a great summer.
D2080: What are you feeling most comfortable with on the mound regarding your pitches? What do you see yourself needing to develop in 2021?
Stone: I feel comfortable with all my pitches for the most part. I’ve been working hard on my change-up, I’ve tinkered with my slider a little bit just to see different movements from it in different counts. I feel pretty good with my pitches, my change-up is definitely a developmental pitch at this point but it’s coming along nicely. Been getting a lot of swings and misses on it in Spring Training and stuff. I’m excited to use it in these games.
D2080: Speaking of those swings and misses, what’s your game plan on the mound that keeps you consistently striking these hitters out?
Stone: Just attack hitters, that’s what an appropriate mentality should be for pitchers, to just attack hitters. If they beat you they beat you, if they don’t, they don’t and you move on to the next hitter. Eventually, you string along enough outs to get the win. That’s my mentality, to attack hitters and the outcome will be what it will be.
Drafted in the 5th Round of the 2020 Draft
University of Central Arkansas (UCA Bears)
Gavin Stone’s mentality on the mound is relentless and fierce, something that is easy to note as you watch him take the mound. The aggressive mentality of his is something Stone finely developed during his time with the UCA Bears (2018-2020). During his time as the Friday Night Starter for the Bears, Stone accomplished one of the rarest and most exciting feats in baseball by throwing a no-hitter on what would be his final start of the season. Gavin Stone proved a lot during that 13 K no-hitter. He showed his innate ability to bulldog hitters into submission and lead a team to big wins in spotlight situations. That sounds like a Los Angeles Dodger if I’ve ever heard of one, and apparently, he sounded the same to the Dodgers because he’s now right on track to do the same for their organization.
Stone’s 2nd start of the 2021 season saw him throw 59 total pitches, with 33 going for strikes. The pacing with Stone on the mound has been nice so far, on the side of both Stone’s performances and the watchful eye of manager John Shoemaker. Stone eclipsed his first start’s pitch total of 39 in this 2nd start, all in all, going 3.2 innings with 3 hits allowed while striking 5 out. It’s good to see Stone stretching his arm out at this pace after his 2020 season with UCA Bears was cut short due to the lockdowns. You never know exactly where a guy’s physicality will be after missing out on a full season worth of reps, and this is something that can be said for every athlete after 2020. It is good to see Stone progressing the way he is, physically.
There has been some debate on whether Stones development will trend towards starting or relieving, though the general consensus is that he will be a starter. Unfortunately due to the 2020 college season being cut short Stone was only able to throw 27.2 innings that year, which means that overall Stone has seen only 75 innings of work dating back to 2019. Through no fault of his own Stone hasn’t had the opportunity to throw as many innings as a young developing starter should. To me, it seems the story of the 2020 season will be catching him up to speed while ensuring he stays healthy. The Dodgers are in no rush to develop these prospects so you’ll probably see Stone pitch with some kind of count of him for a good portion of the season.
2020: 27.2 IP, 31Ks, 1.30 ERA
2021: 6.2 IP, 11Ks, 2.70 ERA
D2080: I know there is a split opinion on whether you will be a starter or if you project as a reliever. Where do you see yourself trending towards?
Stone: I did both in college, my sophomore year I was the closer, and junior year I was the Friday Night Starter. I’m pretty comfortable in both roles, I have no preference. On the backend there’s a lot more hype, you feel more jittery and excited. Starting is fun, you get to pitch more but I like coming out of the backend too. It doesn’t matter to me.
D2080: Speaking of your college days, how did it feel throwing a no-hitter? What’s going through your mind during the last 1/3rd of a no-hitter?
Stone: It was fun, I didn’t even realize I had a no-hitter until about the 6th inning. We were only up 1-0 at the time so I was just trying to get the win. In the last inning, the anxiety crept in and I started to get excited. It was fun to enjoy that moment with a bunch of teammates and good friends I had back in college. We had a game the next day so we couldn’t celebrate much, we enjoyed it for a little and then moved on to the next game.
D2080: The 2020 hiatus must have made it hard to find consistent work regarding your development. What kind of routine did you develop to keep up your pace?
Stone: When college broke I just went back home. I started training with my high school trainer over the summer. When fall came I moved back to Conway, Arkansas, and trained at UCA again. I got pretty good work in, I was lucky enough to have the facilities that could give me what I needed to get the appropriate work in. I’m very thankful for that.
D2080: Was there anything specific you were working for in terms of development or was it just general work to keep yourself strong?
Stone: Generally just keeping myself strong and athletic. I worked hard on my change-up all offseason but other than that I focused on getting stronger. Getting athletic and staying mobile. We really didn’t even know that we were going to Spring Training until about two weeks before March 28th. It was a situation where you had to stay athletic cause you never knew when you were gonna leave.
D2080: Now that we’re getting settled into the Minor League season what are your immediate development goals for the 2021 season?
Stone: You know you can never work too much on throwing strikes. That’s what I pride myself on; low walks and a lot of strikes, a lot of pounding the zone. That’s the mentality I’ll have throughout the season. Developmentally it’s getting guys out with the change-up, showing them the slider, and getting them to bite on the slider. Mostly I just want to have fun, baseball is a game of fun. Just gotta have fun and the progress will come.
Gavin Stone #44
Starting Pitcher for the RC Quakes (Los Angeles Dodgers)
The Dodgers have high standards as an organization when it comes to drafting players. There is no shortage of boxes needed to be checked before the organization can start thinking of athletes as potential draftees. I know a lot of organizations like to pretend to be this way but the fact is that the Dodgers need to have high draft standards due to the natures of their success. This organization has an esteemed farm system loaded with enough talent to supply the whole MLB and because of this they can only bring in the best of the best, that’s what the kids who come in will be competing with for playing time. Other organizations can pretend they’re this way but there is no shortage of spaces for anyone to work out for a job throughout the vast majority of organizations. Because the Dodgers are as Tier 1 as it gets that means that every draftee that comes in has what it takes to be Tier 1 star.
Gavin Stone, by definition, is a star. He was a multi-sport star in high school with baseball, basketball, and tennis under his belt. In basketball he averaged 25.1 points per game across 30 games in his senior year of high school, showcasing a high level of athleticism. In college, he was the esteemed Friday Night Ace for the UCA Bears and lived up to the title with a no-hitter in his final game as a Bear. It seems that everywhere Gavin Stone goes he leaves stars in people’s eyes, whether it’s the hitters facing him in the box or the fans in the stands. Now that his professional career is taking off it’s only a matter of time until Stone grows into the MLB star that he’s shown himself to be time and time again.
MLB ETA: Late 2022-2023