Although he will not be up in the big leagues this year, Walker Buehler has had an interesting road to becoming arguably the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect. After being rated higher than Vanderbilt teammate and future first overall pick Dansby Swanson, injuries and poor performance lowered his value before the 2016 draft. The difference was a fall from maybe the top overall pick to a late first rounder, but Buehler absolutely has a chance to meet the earliest expectations set for him.
After being drafted and having Tommy John surgery, he has been impressive in his little time back on the field. His five innings pitched in the minors aren’t enough for a fair evaluation, but they were still all scoreless. In his one inning during Spring Training with the big league club, he allowed three runs, also not a fair indicator.
What we do know about Buehler – besides his college career – mainly comes from the coaching staff and upper management, rather than what we have seen on the field.
Dodgers’ pitching coach Rick Honeycutt was recently quoted saying Buehler is one of the guys in the organization with “elite stuff” in regards to his pure pitching ability. And it is to be noted that whenever Buehler throws, there are usually members of Dodgers’ upper management on hand to watch and make sure things go smoothly.
Buehler was said to have touched 99 in a side session over the last year, but his velocity realistically projects to the mid-90s. He has two legit secondary pitches in his slider and curveball, with the latter being named the best of its kind in the Dodgers’ minor league system.
The Kentucky native will start out at Rancho Cucamonga with the Quakes in High-A. However, with his swing-and-miss ability and plus fastball, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him move up quickly this year. The biggest hurdle may just be how quickly the Dodgers let him work with his past injury history. Either way, a possible future rotation led by Julio Urias from the left side and Buehler from the right sounds pretty ideal.