Dodgers Top Prospects Entering 2016 Season: Walker Buehler Among Deep Crop Of Right-Handed Pitchers
Dodgers Top Prospects Entering 2016 Season: Walker Buehler Among Deep Crop Of Right-handed Pitchers
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

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In the earlier rankings of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top 35 prospects heading into the 2016 season, the organization’s pitching depth and newcomers — both via trade and the draft — were featured.

As progress is made toward the top of the list, the strengths of the Dodgers’ farm system — right-handed pitching and up-the-middle bats take center stage.

This is evidenced by a pair of 2015 first-round pitchers, a couple second basemen and one of the biggest international signings in Dodgers’ history.

15. Walker Buehler, RHP

It seemed like a coup when Buehler fell into the Dodgers’ lap at No. 24 last June; at times last year, the Vanderbilt junior seemed like a top-10 pick. However, elbow soreness in the beginning of spring dropped him on draft boards.

He pitched well for the Commodores, posting a 2.95 ERA in 88.1 innings with 92 strikeouts. However, when Vanderbilt reached the College World Series, he pitched sparingly.

Once the draft rolled around, he dropped out of the top 20 and the Dodgers seized their opportunity. Unfortunately, it was revealed shortly after that he’d require Tommy John surgery.

When healthy, Buehler would pitch in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, which featured a little arm side run. He threw a curveball and a slider, both flashing above average, as well as a changeup that was at least average.

Buehler has some effort in his delivery that may need to be toned down as he recovers. His command profiles as average. Buehler isn’t the biggest pitcher you’ll find, standing a slender 6’2 and 170 pounds.

It remains to be seen if he’ll regain the quality stuff he had prior to his injury. Since he underwent surgery last summer, Buehler may not pitch a competitive game this year and may get his first taste of pro ball in instructional league.

Fortunately, he’s younger than the average player selected after his junior year, and will only turn 22 years old this July. If Buehler stays healthy and returns to form, he could move relatively quickly through the system.

14. Willie Calhoun, 2B

After spending his freshman year in college at the University of Arizona, Calhoun moved to junior college powerhouse Yavapai College, where he dominated opposing pitchers. He slugged 31 home runs in 63 games, averaging a homer every 7.3 at-bats, all the while using a wood bat.

That led him to receiving serious attention in the 2015 draft and the Dodgers swooped Calhoun up with their fourth-round pick. Obviously, Calhoun’s calling card is his bat.

He offers great bat speed and pulls a ton of line drives to right field with his lefty swing, though he can use the opposite field as well. His plus raw power has shown up in games, as he clubbed 11 home runs in 73 games during his pro debut.

Calhoun displays advanced plate discipline, walking nearly as much as he struck out after signing. The other areas of Calhoun’s game need some improvement. He’s made strides defensively at second base but must continue to improve his range and hands in order to stay on the infield.

Speed isn’t part of his game and his arm would likely relegate him to left field if he requires a new defensive home. Calhoun reached High-A Rancho Cucamonga in his debut and could continue to move quickly if he keeps hitting.

He should return with the Quakes to begin 2016, but may see time in Double-A before season’s end. His timetable is dictated mainly by his defense. Howie Kendrick is signed through 2017, and a 2018 debut lines up nicely for Calhoun. He will give the Dodgers another potent bat up the middle if everything comes together.

CONTINUE READING: Chris Anderson, Micah Johnson and Yusniel Diaz sit outside top 10