Dodgers News: ESPN’s Buster Olney Ranks Walker Buehler Among Top 10 Starting Pitchers For 2020 Season
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field
Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers witnessed a changing of the guard of sorts last season as Walker Buehler emerged as the staff’s ace, which was a title and role that belonged to Clayton Kershaw for more than a handful of years.

Now as Opening Day of the 2020 season is finally on the horizon, Buehler has been ranked by ESPN’s Buster Olney among the top 10 starting pitchers. Olney amasses his annual list by receiving input from evaluators and others around baseball.

The result has Buehler ranked No. 7, while Kershaw’s steady decline on Olney’s list has relegated him to “best of the rest.” Unsurprisingly, the New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole sits atop Olney’s list.

He’s coming off another strong season that earned him a record nine-year, $324 million contract. The Dodgers reportedly offered Cole an eight-year, $300 million deal that included deferrals.

Last year, Kershaw and Buehler placed among ESPN’s top 100 players, checking in at Nos. 41 and 42, respectively. While Buehler debuted on the list, Kershaw dropped from being ranked the No. 2 player heading into the 2018 season.

Buehler’s ascension to staff ace in 2019 was hardly a smooth transition as he had an abbreviated Spring Training and stumbled out of the gate. The young right-hander nevertheless refused to attribute his early struggles to a limited number of starts in Cactus League play.

Buehler eventually began to move past the arm trouble that affected him during the spring and the rust wore off. He sported a 5.22 ERA through April and had mixed results in his first May outing.

That was then followed by three consecutive starts and six of the next seven with one earned run or fewer allowed. Buehler went on to finish 14-4 with two complete games, a 3.26 ERA, 3.01 FIP and 1.04 WHIP. His ERA remained somewhat inflated due to modest showings on the road.

The Dodgers handed the ball to Buehler in their postseason opener, in large part so he could be available for a potential Game 5 of the National League Division Series as well. He had eight strikeouts over six shutout innings in a Game 1 victory and did his part in the winner-take-all elimination game but the Dodgers failed to back the effort.

Buehler set career highs in starts (30), innings pitched (182.1), was an All-Star for the first time and placed ninth in National League Cy Young Award voting.

Buehler makes Summer Camp debut

Having halted his throwing program during the MLB shutdown, Buehler fell behind other pitchers on the Dodgers’ staff. That in turn has limited him in Summer Camp and delayed Buehler’s debut until pitching in Friday’s intrasquad game.

He looked to be sharp, retiring all seven batters faced. Buehler was so efficient the Dodgers bent the rules to allow him to face a fourth batter in a clean second inning.

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