Not Ferris Bueller, either…
I am not sure how much you may know about Walker Buhler. Most fans know that he was a pitcher at Vanderbilt University. As a Freshman he was 4-3 with a 3.14 ERA. As a sophomore he was 12-2 with a 2.64 ERA as Vanderbilt won a College World Series. He was drafted by the Dodgers as the 24th pick in Andrew Friedman’s first Dodger Draft and then promptly underwent Tommy John Surgery. What a crazy move. Yeah, crazy like a fox. Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi said this:
“We still think he is one of the top pitching talents in the draft. We have the luxury of being able to play the long game. Even if it puts him a year behind, we think when he comes back he’s going to justify where we selected him.”
How highly was he regarded when they selected him? MLB ranked him as the 11th best prospect in the draft. Some said he was Top 10 talent. Here was his College Scouting Report:
“One of three potential first-round picks from Vanderbilt, Buehler had an exceptional summer, sharing playoff MVP honors in the Cape Cod League and pitching well with the U.S. collegiate national team after helping the Commodores win the College World Series. Those wanting to see that carry over to this spring had to wait, as Buehler was slowed early with elbow soreness, but was getting back to full strength as his junior season unfolded. Buehler has a deep repertoire featuring four potential solid-or-better big league pitches and the ability to throw all of them for strikes. His best offering is his 90-96 mph fastball, and while he sometimes gets caught in between his curveball and slider, both can be weapons. His changeup similarly varies from inconsistent to effective. Buehler could have been a Draft pick in the top two rounds out of a Kentucky high school in 2012 had he been signable away from Vanderbilt. The biggest knock on him is that he’s just 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, but he had been durable prior to this spring. His athleticism and sound delivery should allow him to remain a starter.”
They then compared him to Roy Oswalt!
When he came back from his TJ surgery at the end of 2016, he had more velocity in this debut than he did when he was in college. He actually threw his fastball at 98 MPH and has also developed a cut fastball. He was mostly a fastball-curveball pitcher in college, but if he can develop that cutter and improve his changeup, he might very well be a #2 or #3 starter.
Some say Buehler is slight, but he’s about the same size as Zack Greinke. Here’s another scouting report on him:
“Buehler is another solid starting pitcher coming out of Vanderbilt University. The righty features above average offspeed stuff with a great fastball that induces a lot of ground balls. He throws a lot of strikes and has the ability to work quickly. Buehler has a smooth consistent delivery that generates plenty of velocity with his long arms. He knows how to use his slider effectively and gets a lot of swing and misses. His curveball has the potential to be his most effective pitch in his repertoire. Buehler has the smarts, command and makeup to be a very good big league pitcher.”
Many scouts think he was the most MLB-Ready pitcher taken in the 2015 draft. So, what can we really expect? I would think he starts the season at AA or AAA and then the rest is up to him. We could see him in 2017… or not. I think he could even pitch out of the pen to limit his innings. One thing is for sure: This is no ordinary prospect. He’s BIG TIME!
He could be a key cog in the Dodger rotation for years to come.
P.S. The New Dodger Dash Board is now up! Enjoy…
Buehler Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey / Associated Press