Walker Buehler … Boom

Among the last things anyone ever wants to hear is “I told you so,” but the simple fact is … I told you so.

Those who follow this site with any regularity are well aware that in addition to covering the Dodgers, we also cover their minor league affiliates. As such, we generally have our finger on the pulse of the franchise’s top prospects from the time that they are drafted (or acquired via trades, etc.) until they hopefully one day make it to the Show.

One such player is, of course, 23-year-old Lexington, Kentucky native Walker Buehler, who was selected by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Vanderbilt University, and on July 17, 2017, I told you that Buehler would, in all likelihood, make it to the big leagues without ever having attended even one Dodgers major league spring training camp.

Boom.

As Dodger fans may recall, at least those who closely follow the annual MLB draft and those who follow this site with regularity, Buehler underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after being selected by the Dodgers as the 24th overall pick. In fact, it was knowledge of his pending Tommy John surgery that prevented him from going much sooner in the first round in 2015.

There is no disputing that using their first round draft pick on a known damaged pitcher was an enormous risk for Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, general manager Farhan Zaidi and director of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino. In fact, many called the move ludicrous. But as they say, whose laughing now?

After his carefully monitored recovery and rehabilitation, Buehler skyrocketed through the Dodgers minor league system, spending the 2016 season in the Arizona Rookie League and with the Low Single-A Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League, having completely bypassed the Ogden Raptors of the short-season Pioneer Rookie League.

But it was his 2017 minor league season that proved that the gamble taken by Friedman, Zaidi and Gasparino had paid full dividends … and then some. Buehler began the season with the Advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the hitter-friendly California League. Even though the hard-throwing right-hander started five games with the Quakes, he was on a very strict innings and pitch-count limit, thus he did not collect any wins or losses. He did, however, post an exceptional ERA of 1.10 while striking out 27 and walking only five in his 16.1 innings pitched with the Dodgers High-A affiliate.

While at Advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga earlier this season, Buehler consistently hovered around the century mark with his fastball. By then, some were already calling him ‘the right-handed Clayton Kershaw.’
(Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

Buehler was promoted to the Double-A Tulsa Drillers on May 10, 2017, where he continued his meteoric climb, but not without some issues. He spent some time on the disabled list for an undisclosed injury but, upon his return, posted a 2-2 record with a 3.49 ERA while striking out 64 and walking only 15 in his 49.0 innings of work, leading to his July 16 promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

At baseball’s highest minor league level, Buehler posted a 1-1 record with a 4.63 ERA in the 12 games in which he appeared, three as a starter. His 34 strikeouts and 11 walks in his combined 23.1 innings pitched earned Buehler the organization’s 2017 Pitcher of the Year honors.

Lo and behold, Walker Buehler received his call-up to the Dodgers this past Wednesday and made his major league debut on Thursday night against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. And even though the Dodgers were down 9-1 when Buehler entered the game in the top of the eighth inning, the 6′-2″ / 175-pound right-hander – who Dodgers manager Dave Roberts likens to Tim Lincecum – pitched two scoreless innings in relief, during which he allowed only a harmless single while striking out two and walking none. Along the way, Buehler hit 100-MPH on the Dodger Stadium radar gun.

By the time Buehler entered Thursday night’s game against the Rockies, it was already a blowout and many of the reported 51,495 in attendance had already left. But for those who stayed, they got a look into the future of the Dodgers starting rotation when Buehler made his MLB debut after having begun the 2017 season at Advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

There is every indication that Buehler will be included on Dodgers postseason roster, albeit as a reliever (for now). Should this happen, and there is every reason to believe that it will, he will have done so without ever having attended even one major league spring training camp.

Whose laughing now?

Oh … and I told you so.

 

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2 Responses to “Walker Buehler … Boom”

  1. CruzinBlue says:

    Buehler came in the game and I knew immediately who you’d be writing about today. Not certain what his longest outing of the year has been or even if he has the arm strength to do so at this point of his season, but it would be fun to see Walker get a spot-start or two before the season ends.

  2. Evan Bladh says:

    Sorry I missed Buehler’s debut. I actually turned off the game and went for a long run.

    This Dodger slump has done wonders for my evening exercise program.

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