Dodgers: Walker Buehler’s September Expectations

(Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
(Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images) /

Despite their recent string of losses, the Dodgers are promoting their number one prospect as of yesterday. Buehler looks to slot into the bullpen, which has been taxed lately.

The Dodgers have deemed the time appropriate to call up their most highly touted pitching prospect. At the ripe age of 23, Walker Buehler will get called up to the big leagues today and make his debut at some point this week. For the moment, it looks as though Buehler will get his initial work from the bullpen, throwing one to two innings at a time.

Buehler was ranked as Baseball America’s midseason number 17 top prospect, after previously being ranked 77th on that list. Buehler is only 23 and came to the organization by way of a first round draft pick. He was the 24th overall pick in the 2015 Amateur draft after the Pirates initially drafted him out of high school in 2012.

In that short period between being drafted and being called up to the big leagues, Buehler has thrown in just 31 games. He spent one game in rookie ball, where he pitched two perfect innings and struck out three batters.

He would go on to pitch two games at Low-A ball, and five for at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga. Between those two, he threw 19 1/3 innings with a 0.98 earned run average.

Between AA and AAA ball, Buehler got knocked around more than he might be used to, with a 3.86 era over 72 2/3 innings. Buehler logged nine games out of the bullpen in AAA, the most he’s thrown in relief at any level.

Los Angeles is currently searching for late-season roster depth, as the front office understands the bullpen has been taxed recently.After Monday night’s hammering, the team has allowed 32 runs in the first games of September.

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That’s a combined earned run average of 8.50 in games not pitched by Clayton Kershaw in September. So to say they need someone to eat up innings would be an understatement at this point.

But further, than that, the team is also looking for a potential postseason arm in Buehler’s call-up. The team does not seem to have a formidable arm to hand off the ball to Kenley Jansen, particularly since Pedro Baez struggles continue. Buehler could ideally come in and alleviate some of that pressure with finding someone to bridge the gap from starters to the closer.

Buehler carriers a career earned run average of 3.27 through two minor league seasons, albeit at different levels. He started 20 of the 31 games played, so in the near future, Buehler will likely be a part of the starting rotation. He’s struck out 131, averaging almost 13 punch outs per nine innings. He has also walked 34, walking approximately one batter per three innings. So while his control does need some improvement (as is expected), his strikeout rate is too hard to ignore.

To give you a bit of comparison, Kershaw threw in 48 games at the minor league level before his debut. It was a bit different since Kershaw was drafted out of high school, but you get the idea. Kershaw pitched a combined era of 2.27 across 220 innings pitched. He averaged about 11 strikeouts per nine innings and walked a batter about as often as Buehler. Their WHIP’s are also incredibly close, with Buehler at 1.08 and Kershaw at 1.04. Just saying…

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Realistically, will he be the dominant set-up man come October? Probably not this year. But if he is anything like his scouting report has promised, Buehler looks to be a part of the team for the long haul.