Walker Buehler is the top prospect in the Dodgers’ organization and fans got their first taste of the lanky right-hander last season. Although his call-up didn’t go exactly as planned, it in no way indicates how good of pitcher many people think this kid will be.
Heading into 2018, there are a lot of questions to as to what role he will have, or even if he’ll start the year in the big leagues for that matter. Luckily, the winter meetings have blessed us with many an answer.
Ken Gurnick, Dodgers beat writer for MLB.com, has the simple answer for us, but Dave Roberts when into a more detail about that here.
During the presser, he said he was glad that Buehler “got his feet wet’ last season and emphasized the importance of just being there for the ins and outs of the everyday life of a big leaguer.
Most importantly, he said that he was “part of the solution” going forward. Obviously, any No.1 prospect is going to receive that type of support form his manager and the front office, but it truly sounded like he had a shot to win a spot in the rotation coming out of spring training.
The most comparable player in the farm system, as far as their development goes, would be Julio Urias. The former top prospect was really limited in his innings the past few years, although a season-ending injury seems to have made all that for nothing.
Buehler is a few years old than Urias and has already gone through a major injury, he had Tommy John coming out of Vanderbilt in 2015.
With a more mature physique and better numbers in the minors, it seems like there is little holding Buehler back from winning a starting spot for 2018.
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His 7.71 ERA over eight appearances didn’t help to damper the murmurs about his control issues, but all of those appearances were in relief. Being strictly a starter will allow him to find that rhythm and routine that is critical in starting pitching success.
Being able to spend a full year alongside Clayton Kershaw, the master of preparation, should also help the 23-year-old in the long run.
2018 isn’t a make or break year for the Kentucky native, he will continue to get his shots, but it could be the year that he makes his first big mark in the show.
With the stuff he has, there is no reason he can’t be the next great Vanderbilt pitcher in the big league and enjoy the success that David Price and Sonny Gray have.
As long as the team picks up where they left off last year, they certainly will have opportunities to let him develop into the pitcher they expect him to be going forward.