Dodgers select Walker Buehler with first-round pick in MLB draft

Dodgers select Walker Buehler with first-round pick in MLB draft
Walker Buehler of Vanderbilt was the Dodgers' top draft pick in 2015. The 2016 draft opens Thursday. (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

With the 24th pick in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft Monday night, the Dodgers selected Walker Buehler, a right-handed pitcher from Vanderbilt.

Buehler, a junior, is relatively undersized for a pitching prospect at 6-foot-1, 160 pounds, but his fastball reaches the mid-90s with consistency and he has a decent slider and curveball, according to Baseball America. On occasion, he will also throw a changeup, but he has shown less consistency with that pitch.


With the Commodores, Buehler has put up strong numbers this season, throwing 78 2/3 innings, posting a 2.97 earned-run average and striking out 81. He has contributed four wins to Vanderbilt's 47-19 record.

Vanderbilt won the Champaign Super Regional on Monday with a 4-2 win over Illinois to clinch the best-of-three series, two games to one, and advance to the College World Series.

Buehler has struggled with elbow soreness in his collegiate career and missed time at the beginning of this year, but Billy Gasparino, the Dodgers' new scouting director, said before the draft that he felt he could take a bigger chance with Los Angeles' top pick.

"At times maybe it can make you take on a little more risk because you know there are other ways to acquire talent," he said. "Maybe it's made us a little more aggressive but we're not like changing course in a big way."

For the 15th time in the last two decades, the Dodgers have drafted a pitcher with their first pick. The last time they had the 24th overall pick, in 2003, they took Chad Billingsley, a right-hander who was named an all-star in 2009.

Buehler was the third Vanderbilt player to be drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft. Shortstop Dansby Swanson went first overall to the Arizona Diamondbacks (whom the Dodgers are hosting tonight), and the Chicago White Sox selected right-handed pitcher Carson Fulmer with the eighth pick.

With their second pick on the night and the second-to-last pick of the first round of the draft, the Dodgers took Kyle Funkhouser, a right-handed pitcher from Louisville, 35th overall.

A 6-foot-3, 225-pound college arm ranked as the 13th best pitcher in the draft by Baseball America, Funkhouser was a first-team All-American in 2014 while posting an 18-4 record with a 1.94 ERA, but he struggled some in 2015, going 8-5 with a 3.20 earned run average. At times, he lacked command, posting a 1.26 WHIP.

Prior to the 2015 season, he was projected as a high first-round draft pick by many experts. He can throw four pitches, with his four-seam fastball touching 95 mph.

Funkhouser, a junior with the Cardinals, is advised by agent Scott Boras. Unlike Buehler, he has not had any injury issues in his career thus far.

The Dodgers received the compensation pick after Hanley Ramirez turned down a qualifying offer and signed with the Red Sox this offseason.

With their first selection of the second round and third pick of the draft, the Dodgers took Mitchell Hansen, a high school outfielder from Plano, Texas, at 67th overall.

Hansen was the first prep player and non-pitcher Los Angeles took in this draft.

A two-sport star in high school, Hansen had committed to Stanford for college, but said before the draft he was planning on signing wherever he was signed, according to WFAA-ABC.


The Dodgers also had the second-to-last pick of the first day of the draft, and they used it to again bolster their pitching corps, taking Virginia right-hander Josh Sborz.

Unlike the pitchers picked earlier in the evening, Sborz primarily worked as a relief pitcher in his junior season, recording 14 saves and a 1.95 ERA. With a fastball that can reach the mid-90s and a hard slider, he is most likely to remain in the bullpen, according to Baseball America.

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