Farhan Zaidi: Dodgers Will Be Conservative With Walker Buehler In Spring Training
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers are set to receive significant contributions from its Minor League pipeline this season, and leading the way is former first-round selection Walker Buehler, who enters the year as the organization’s consensus top prospect.

After ending last season in the bullpen, Buehler is expected to reprise his role as a starting pitcher. But his workload at the start of the year will understandably be light, considering he’s less than three years removed from a significant elbow operation.

“Probably be a little conservative early on,” general manager Farhan Zaidi said during Dodgers FanFast. “Kind of build him up, maybe a little more conservatively than the typical starting pitcher, just because of how much he pitched in ’17 and coming off the Tommy John surgery.

“We would certainly expect by the end of camp, or in the later stages of camp, he’ll be caught up with the other guys. We expect him to get stretched out as a starter.”

Given the Dodgers’ depth in the starting rotation, Buehler presumably will begin the season with Triple-A Oklahoma City. If that holds true, he’ll likely be eased into action to preserve some innings for a larger capacity with the Dodgers in the second half.

In 2017, his first full season removed Tommy John surgery, Buehler excelled across three Minor League affiliates. Over 28 games (19 starts), he posted a 3.35 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 88.2 innings with 125 strikeouts to 31 walks.

With that success, Buehler received a September call-up for his MLB debut. He worked exclusively as a reliever, and struggled some, albeit in a small sample size, yielding a 7.71 ERA over 9.1 innings.