Dodgers’ top pitching prospect Walker Buehler may make his Dodger debut sooner rather than later. On Sunday night, Buehler made his first ever pitching appearance out of the bullpen for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers.
Buehler was scheduled to throw two innings in relief on Sunday’s game, but he ended up pitching 1 1/3 innings after allowing three earned runs on 36 pitches. The plan for Buehler to begin transitioning to the bullpen has been something in the front office’s mind for a few weeks now.
The front office envisions Buehler playing the same role that Adam Wainwright did for the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals and Frankie Rodriguez did for the Angels in 2002. What do both of those pitchers have in common? They were both key late additions to their respective championship team.
We’ve seen it time and time again where teams with deep farm systems use their top prospects to make an impact for the long stretch of October. We caught a glimpse of that last season with the Dodgers and Julio Urias, and it’s looking more and more likely that Buehler will make his debut this season out of the bullpen to further establish the Dodgers back end of the bullpen.
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Buehler is the consensus top pitching prospect for the Dodgers. At 23-years old, Buehler brings a live young right arm that could help shorten the ball game to get the ball to Kenley Jansen with fewer concerns. Adding Buehler to the bullpen that is leading the MLB in ERA, would make the Dodgers an even scarier opponent come October.
This season, through Advanced-A, Double-A and Triple-A, Behler has a 3-3 record with a 3.40 ERA in 76 2/3 innings. Buehler an impressive 12.7 K/9 innings and has held opposing hitters to a .203 batting average with an incredible 1.08 WHIP.
Buehler has been up and down since his call up to Oklahoma City, but his 6.35 ERA is largely inflated due to two pedestrian appearances. I think it’s important to view Buehler’s splits in Triple-A since his promotion.
Buehler is holding opposing left-handers to a .158 batting average and limited them to one lone home run in just over five innings accumulated at the Triple-A level. Through all three levels, he’s pitch at this season, Buehler is holding left-handers to a cumulated .173 batting average and limiting them to 21 hits.
With those splits, Buehler could be an asset to the Dodgers’ bullpen because of his ability to get both lefties and righties out. The question always arises if young pitchers should be trusted in high leverage situations at big time moments. But I find that bringing up a young, fresh arm that other MLB hitters aren’t familiar with is effective when it comes to getting one big out in a big game.
As another one of our contributors, Hector Ponce pointed out before, Buehler has that “bulldog” mentality that separates him from other 23 years old. I’m not concerned about his stuff translating to the majors because it’s only a matter of time before he and Urias take over atop the Dodgers’ rotation. But until that time, it’s a great idea to get him some exposure to the league and the postseason during a time when he won’t carry the entire pressure on his right arm.