In conjunction with their renewed dedication in recent years to developing players from within the organization, the Los Angeles Dodgers have placed a focus on drafting pitchers. Their stockpile of young arms was needed last season when the club experienced a rash of injuries.
Jose De Leon, Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias all made their respective MLB debuts in 2016. Behind that wave is another crop of starters, including 2015 first-round pick Walker Buehler.
His professional career was delayed as Buehler underwent Tommy John surgery soon after being selected by the Dodgers. The No. 24 overall draft pick pitched in just five games last season after debuting with Low-A Great Lakes in July.
While the organization has cautiously ushered Buehler along, consideration is being given to having him pitch in the exhibition Freeway Series at the end of March, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
Dodgers fans might see latest pitching sensation Walker Buehler in Los Angeles much sooner than anyone expected. … like the Freeway Series.
Management is thinking about bringing Buehler to California for the traditional series against the Angels.
This spring, Buehler has been limited to throwing bullpen sessions and in Minor League games. There hasn’t been any indication from the Dodgers that the 22-year-old would appear in a Cactus League game.
Buehler threw a combined five hitless innings with six strikeouts last season during time spent with the Loons (two starts) and Arizona League Dodgers (one relief appearance). Buehler then turned in five shutout innings across two playoff starts for the Loons in their march to the 2016 Midwest League title.
Buehler was ranked among the Dodgers’ top-10 prospects for the 2017 season by Baseball Prospectus and ESPN. In addition to Yadier Alvarez, the Dodgers reportedly were unwilling to part with Buehler in a potential trade for Brian Dozier during the offseason.
The three-game Freeway Series begins at Angel Stadium on Friday, March 30. Dodger Stadium will play host to just one game, on April 1.