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Walker Buehler named NL Rookie of the Year finalist

Walker Buehler named NL Rookie of the Year finalist
Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler throws a pitch against the Rockies in the NLDS at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 1. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler was selected Monday as one of the three finalists for National League rookie of the year, joining Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto and Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr.

Buehler would be the third consecutive Dodger to be selected rookie of the year after Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, and the 18th Dodger overall.

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The Dodgers’ top prospect entering the season, Buehler battled a rib injury in the first half before tapping into his potential after the All-Star break. The slender 24-year-old had a 2.03 earned-run average in 80 innings in the second half, which culminated with 62/3 scoreless innings in Game 163, against the Colorado Rockies for the NL West title.

At that point, Buehler had logged 1371/3 innings. He was lingering close to the 140- to 150-inning range manager Dave Roberts had projected during spring training, two years after Buehler had elbow ligament-replacement surgery. But Buehler wasn’t limited in the postseason and didn’t appear fatigued while pitching in four postseason starts, in which he had a 3.80 ERA.

After giving up nine runs in his first two playoff starts, Buehler delivered his best postseason work in his final two outings. In Game 7 of the NL Championship Series, Buehler held the Milwaukee Brewers to one run in 42/3 innings. In his only World Series outing, he tossed seven scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 18-inning victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 3. It was the only game the Dodgers won in the Series.

Acuna’s time in the postseason was shorter — the Dodgers eliminated the Braves in an NL Division Series — but he shined at Buehler’s expense when he hit a grand slam in Game 3. Widely regarded as baseball’s top prospect before making his major league debut in late April, the 20-year-old batted .293 with 26 home runs, 16 stolen bases, and a .917 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 111 games.

Soto, who played the season as a 19-year-old, was the youngest player to appear in a major league game this season after beginning the year with Hagerstown, the Nationals’ low Class-A affiliate. He hit .292 with 22 home runs and a .923 OPS in 116 games.

Kikuchi coming to U.S.

Yusei Kikuchi has hired agent Scott Boras to represent him in negotiations with major league clubs this offseason, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to comment publicly.

Kikuchi, a left-hander with the Seibu Lions, has been one of the best pitchers in Nippon Professional Baseball in recent years. The Lions are expected to make him available to major league teams through the posting system.

The 27-year-old had a 3.08 ERA with 153 strikeouts in 1632/3 innings in 23 starts for Seibu in 2018. He owns a 2.77 career ERA in his seven-plus seasons with the Lions.

Kikuchi and Shohei Ohtani, the Angels’ two-way sensation, hail from the same area and attended the same high school on the northeast coast of Japan’s mainland. Ohtani, who is three years younger than Kikuchi, was posted by the Nippon-Ham Fighters last winter.

Kikcuhi nearly decided to sign with a major league club out of high school, in 2009, and the Dodgers were thought to be the favorites to land him. But he decided to stay in Japan and became an admirer of Clayton Kershaw, watching the Dodgers left-hander pitch whenever he could get the chance.

Hershiser is among Hall candidates

Former Dodgers right-hander Orel Hershiser is one of 10 candidates in contention for induction into the Hall of Fame.

Hershiser is joined by fellow players Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Joe Carter and Will Clark. Former Dodgers manager Davey Johnson is one of three managers under consideration, along with Charlie Manuel and Lou Piniella. Former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is on the ballot.

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A 16-member committee will vote Dec. 9. Any candidate who receives at least 75% of the vote will be inducted into the Hall next summer.

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