Last year the Los Angeles Dodgers selected a pitcher with four of their first five picks in the Major League Baseball Draft. Their top selection, No. 24 overall, was used on Vanderbilt right-hander Walker Buehler.
He pitched brilliantly for the Commodores during the College World Series, but his professional career was grounded before taking off. Roughly two months after Buehler was drafted by the Dodgers, the right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery.
His recovery time was set at 12-18 months. Details of the injury and expected surgery came to light when Buehler only received a $1.78 million signing bonus, which fell under the $2,094,400 allotted slot value for the No. 24 pick in the 2015 Draft.
According to Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider, Dodgers scouting director Billy Gasparino said Buehler has advanced through his recovery well and will soon face live batters:
“Walker Buehler’s going to be ready to throw next year — he’s almost like a pick this year,” Gasparino said. “We feel good about his recovery, his rehab and where he’s at in the process.”
Buehler is following a 15-month plan, throwing light bullpen sessions, and is moving toward facing live hitters in instructional league, according to Gasparino.
“Everything’s looked good,” Gasparino said. “Velocity, arm action, delivery. We’re having to more slow him down than anything else.”
While the Dodgers farm system has earned itself the reputation as the best in baseball, their top tier of prospects have slowly transitioned to the Majors. Corey Seager is making his case for National League Rookie of the Year, and Julio Urias is playing a key role in the rotation.
Assuming all continues to go well for Buehler, he could play a key role in the Dodgers’ restocking the pitching rotations of their Minor League affiliates once Urias and the likes of Jharel Cotton and Jose De Leon have firmly moved on to the Majors.
The 21-year-old Buehler features a four-pitch arsenal. Prior to the Tommy John surgery, his fastball was one with late life and clocked around 93-96 mph, and his slider and curveball are described as having tight breaks.