The Dodgers will promote top pitching prospect Walker Buehler for his first taste of the majors on Wednesday, manager Dave Roberts told reporters including J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (Twitter link). Los Angeles will need to open a 40-man spot to make the addition.
Buehler, 23, starred at Vanderbilt before the Dodgers took him with the 24th overall pick of the 2015 draft. He underwent Tommy John surgery just after becoming a professional, but has steadily raised his stock since finally taking the hill late last year.
Prospect analysts were already excited by Buehler before the 2017 season, as he entered some top-100 lists despite a track record that went just five innings deep. Buehler has rewarded that and then some so far in his first full campaign as a pro.
Buehler opened the year at the High-A level, but quickly earned a promotion after overwhelming the competition there. He then turned in 11 quality starts at Double-A, recording a 3.49 ERA with 11.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.
By the time Buehler was nearing a move to the highest level of the minors, he was streaking up the mid-season prospect charts. Baseball America listed him 17th among all prospects leaguewide, with ESPN.com’s Keith Law tabbing him the 11th-best pre-MLB player.
Los Angeles has slowed things down a bit as Buehler nears one hundred frames on the season. He has moved to a relief role at Oklahoma City — where he hasn’t been quite as dominant — and will remain in the pen upon reaching the majors.
Whether or not this stint will be more than an opportunity for Buehler to dip his toes in the water remains to be seen, though it’s perhaps not inconceivable that the talented youngster could force his way into postseason roster consideration. Regardless, now that he’s taking up residence on the 40-man roster, it’s clear that he’ll factor into the team’s pitching plans for 2018 (and well beyond). Since he’ll only pick up about 25 days of service, Los Angeles will still be able to manage his accumulation of service time moving forward to the extent that the club wishes to delay his entry into arbitration and free agency.
By Jeff Todd