Since Andrew Friedman was hired in October 2014 by the Los Angeles Dodgers as president of baseball operations, he’s made a concerted effort to stockpile pitching depth throughout the organization.
Along with selecting several pitchers in the 2015 and 2016 Drafts, the Dodgers have also gone to the international market to add to their depth of arms. This past season Los Angeles reaped the benefit of both approaches.
To accommodate for a pitching staff that was ravaged by injuries, the Dodgers called on Jose De Leon, Brock Stewart and Julio Urias, among others.
Each of the pitchers made his MLB debut in 2016. So too did Kenta Maeda, though he arrived in the Majors with eight years of experience pitching in Japan.
As the Dodgers look to fill their void at second base, De Leon’s name has often surfaced in trade speculation involving Brian Dozier and the Minnesota Twins. Although the clubs are believed to have agreed upon De Leon being included, they’re reportedly at odds over who else the Twins should receive.
Two options that likely won’t make their way to Minnesota are Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez and 2015 first-round selection Walker Buehler, as the Dodgers reportedly prefer the pair to De Leon, according to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball:
It is known that the Dodgers hold two other top pitching prospects — Walker Buehler and Yadier Alvarez — in extremely high regard, and it’s quite likely that L.A. wouldn’t be willing to deal either of those two prospects along with De Leon. In fact, some believe the Dodgers like Buehler and Alvarez even more than De Leon despite many publications ranking De Leon higher.
MLB Pipeline rated De Leon the No. 6 right-handed prospect entering the season. He went 7-1 with a 2.61 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 86.1 innings pitched in 16 starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
De Leon then was 2-0 in four starts with the Dodgers, but sported a 6.35 ERA, 6.97 FIP, 1.53 WHIP and averaged nearly four walks per nine innings. Although De Leon is viewed as a top prospect, there are questions surrounding his velocity and lack of a breaking ball.
Meanwhile, Alvarez was signed during the 2015-16 international signing period to a $16 million contract. He made his professional debut on June 20 with Arizona League Dodgers, throwing 3.2 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.
After four more starts with the AZL Dodgers, Alvarez joined Low-A Great Lakes, where he went 3-2 with a 2.29 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 39.1 innings pitched across five starts. Alvarez is lauded for his electric fastball and sharp slider.
Nearly two months after the 2015 Draft, Buehler underwent Tommy John surgery. The operation explained his previous signing to a $1.78 million bonus, which fell below the $2,094,400 allotted slot value for the No. 24 pick.
Buehler made his professional debut in July with the Loons, throwing two scoreless frames. He went on to throw three combined innings, pitching in relief for AZL and making another start with the Loons.
Buehler boasts a four-pitch arsenal, with a fastball that featured late life, and slider and curveball described as having tight breaks.