Friday, June 9

What to expect from Ryan Pepiot

Another year, another Top 100 Prospect making his debut on the mound for the Dodgers.

Baseball’s most productive player development machine has another pitcher ready for the big leagues. Right-hander Ryan Pepiot, ranked No. 99 on the Top 100 list, will start against the Pirates this afternoon, following in the recent footsteps of Julio Urías, Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Josiah Gray (who was shipped to the Nationals in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner trade last summer).

Lightly regarded as a suburban Indianapolis high schooler, Pepiot stayed home to play collegiately at Butler and surpassed two-time All-Star Pat Neshek as the earliest Draft pick in school history. A weekend starter in all three of his seasons with the Bulldogs, he set program records for single-season (126) and career (306) strikeouts in 2019. He also ranked third in NCAA Division I in whiff rate (14.5 per nine innings) that spring before Los Angeles made him a third-round pick.

At the time, Pepiot was known for having the best changeup in his Draft class. While it’s still his biggest weapon, the Dodgers have helped him enhance the rest of his repertoire and turned him into a potential No. 2 or 3 starter.

In college, Pepiot operated with a 91-94 mph fastball that peaked at 96 and flashed a curveball and slider that both could be solid but lacked consistency. His stuff picked up a bit during a short pro debut in the summer of 2019 before blowing up the next year.

In his first full pro season in 2021, Pepiot fanned 127 in 101 1/3 innings while thriving in Double-A (2.87 ERA in 15 outings) but getting pounded in Triple-A (7.13 ERA in 11 games). He has had no difficulty at the latter level in 2022, ranking second in the Pacific Coast League in ERA (2.05), opponent average (.189) and strikeouts (36 in 26 1/3 innings) in six starts.

His changeup continues to baffle hitters, generating a 47 percent swing-and-miss rate in the PCL (according to Synergy Sports). He sells his low-80s cambio with fastball arm speed, and it fades before nosediving when it arrives at the plate. Some scouts put top-of-the-scale 80 grades on his changeup.

Pepiot also misses a lot of bats with a four-seam fastball that has sat at 93-95 mph and hit 97 this spring, down a tick from a year ago. It has explosive carry when located up in the strike zone. He’s doing a better job of executing his heater against left-handers, who tagged him for a .766 OPS in 2021 but have managed just a .322 mark this season.

The Dodgers have had Pepiot scrap his curveball and focus on his slider, which has added sweep and power since he turned pro. It now operates at 85-87 mph, reaches 89 and moves in the opposite direction from his changeup. He’ll occasionally turn his slider into a shorter, harder cutter to give batters a different look.

For now, Pepiot will make his first start in Pittsburgh with the opportunity for another May 17 as part of a home doubleheader against the D-backs. The Dodgers don’t really have an opening in a rotation that leads the Majors with a 1.82 ERA but wanted to lessen the load on their starters during a stretch of 31 games in 30 days. He may head back to Triple-A before the end of the month but has the stuff to resurface later in the year and play a prominent role as Los Angeles chases another World Series championship.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *