The depth in the Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation took a bit of a hit during the offseason with the losses of Yu Darvish, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir either via trade or free agency.
Because of that, young arms, namely Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling, Wilmer Font and top prospect Walker Buehler will be forced to step up and make an impact at the Major League level in 2018. But for Buehler in particular, that may not come at the beginning of the season.
Much like they did with Julio Urias, the Dodgers have a carefully crafted plan to limit his innings in what’s Buehler’s second full season removed from Tommy John surgery.
Buehler is still expected to contribute at some point though, and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he is confident the organization’s top pitching prospect will factor into wins this season, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“I think he’s in position to help us win games this year,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “When that is, I don’t think we know yet. But I think he’s in position to do that.”
Buehler got his first Major League experience as a reliever last September, although it did not go that well as he posted a 7.71 ERA and 2.04 WHIP in eight appearances (9.1 innings).
The 23-year-old is returning to his traditional starter’s role for this season, so it may be more appropriate to judge him on his Minor League statistics, in which Buehler he yielded a 3.35 ERA in 28 games (19 starts) across three levels.
Buehler has been slow-played a bit this spring due to a minor back injury that slowed down his throwing program at the beginning of camp. He recently made his first Cactus League appearance and looked dominant, striking out five in two scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
He was optioned back to Minor League camp two days later, but is joining the Dodgers for a start on Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.