by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Dodgers’ Walker Buehler may have seen his stock rise more than any player in baseball thus far. Our preseason #7 Dodgers’ prospect (B- grade) has seen his name included in many of the mid-year Top 50/Top 100 lists (and in many cases ranking inside the Top 20), and for good reason. Just look at the impressive numbers he’s posted:
That’s the full skill set that we look for, though it doesn’t mean that there aren’t questions facing the soon to be 23-year old.
The big thing that we’ll watch is his ability to work deep into games. Thus far he hasn’t gone more than 5.1 innings, as the Dodgers limit his workload after he missed most of ’16 due to Tommy John surgery (5.0 IP). It’s not a major red flag at this point, given the circumstances, but it’s also not something to ignore since there were already questions about his ability to handle a starters workload.
Listed at 6’2” and 175 lbs., it’s a fair concern. Obviously the stuff would play up in the bullpen, where he could be a lights out reliever, but for now he should be viewed as a starter. His arsenal can handle the role, as was described by MLB.com prior to the season:
“Buehler usually operated with a 90-96 mph fastball in college, and he opened eyes by throwing in the mid-90s during his brief pro debut and hitting 99 during instructional league. Though he’s unlikely to maintain that velocity while handling a starter’s workload, he has a definite plus fastball and an array of impressive secondary pitches. He can miss bats with both his curveball and slider (and morph the latter pitch into a harder cutter), and his changeup shows flashes of becoming an above-average offering.”
After watching what happened with Julio Urias, you have to wonder if the team will also be more open to including Buehler in a trade to acquire a top of the rotation starter to help this season. Given the hype you can argue that the value will never be higher, and therefore now is the time to capitalize on him. Obviously that’s not going to impact his outlook as a prospect, it’s just something to monitor in case he lands in a less favorable locale.
Buehler is clearly a prospect on the rise, but we have to remain at least a little bit reserved in our grading until he shows the ability to consistently work deep into games. That won’t come until ’18, so while his stock is headed up we’re not pushing him as high as most (aka we wouldn’t quite put him among the Top 20 in the game).
Preseason Grade – B-
Current Grade – B+
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs, MLB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: