Dodgers fans will soon see top prospect Walker Buehler make his much-anticipated season debut, as the team announced on Sunday that Buehler was placed on the club’s taxi squad and will start Monday’s matchup against the Marlins at Dodger Stadium.
The 23-year-old Buehler is baseball’s No. 12 prospect and the No. 4 right-handed prospect, per MLB Pipeline. Buehler struggled during his first cup of coffee with the Dodgers last summer, recording a 7.71 ERA over eight appearances, but he impressed by striking out seven batters and walking just one over four scoreless innings in Spring Training. Buehler, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015, has regained his velocity and possesses a high-spin fastball that reaches the upper-90s on the radar gun, while also mixing in a plus curveball and slider.
Buehler has made three starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, allowing three earned runs on 10 hits and four walks while striking out 16 batters over 13 innings.
Buehler reported to Spring Training with back soreness that limited his Cactus League action to two games. Management has plotted since then how to thread the needle between stretching out his innings (he threw only 98 innings last season) and keeping him fresh enough to be a rotation factor down the stretch in 2018.
The last-place Marlins would appear to be a soft spot for Buehler’s return to the Major Leagues. While in the Dodgers’ bullpen last September, Buehler showed glimpses of future greatness with his electric arm, but also the wildness that often plagues young, hard throwers (eight walks in 9 1/3 innings). Still, he struck out 12, finishing the 2017 season with 137 strikeouts in 98 innings between the Majors and Minors.
He was credited with his first Major League victory on Sept. 21 at Philadelphia, after he threw a scoreless inning of relief and recorded two strikeouts. He was selected as the Dodgers’ Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2017.
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