Prospect Walker Buehler is ready to contribute to the Dodgers next season
A bevy of Dodgers veterans worked out at Dodger Stadium on Thursday afternoon. The group included Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Austin Barnes, Enrique Hernandez and even Matt Kemp, the recently reacquired outfielder the team is expected to trade or release before spring training.
A few prospects were sprinkled in the mix, including right-hander Walker Buehler, who is considered the most prized minor-league arm in the system. Buehler, 23, made his big-league debut in 2017 as a reliever, but he will return to starting in 2018 and could join the rotation later in the summer.
A first-round pick in 2015, Buehler completed his first full season recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2017. He posted a 3.49 earned-run average in 11 starts for double-A Tulsa. He had more mixed results as a reliever, including a 7.71 ERA in eight appearances for the Dodgers.
Buehler viewed his September cameo as an encouraging steppingstone. He felt capable of competing with big-league hitters but was betrayed by his own execution.
“That was maybe one of the more frustrating things about the way that month went for me, that I felt really good,” Buehler said. “I felt like I made some really, really good pitches, but I felt like I wasn’t consistent enough, or made a mistake in the wrong spot to the wrong guy. That’s the learning process.”
The Dodgers possess a wealth of starting pitching. Even after trading away Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Trevor Oaks, the organization still has Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart. Though the Dodgers have maintained dialogue with Yu Darvish, the organization wants there to be space available for either Buehler or Julio Urias to make starts during the season. Urias is expected to return from shoulder surgery at some point in 2018.
Buehler logged 88 2/3 innings in 2017. The Dodgers shy away from announcing innings limits, but he could likely add 40 to 50 additional innings to his total for this season. Buehler did not sound worried about the increased workload.
“I have a new ligament,” Buehler said. “I have a new arm. I have new kind of arsenal. It’s a different world now. But I’ve done it before. We’ll see how it goes.”