Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Five reasons why Dodgers fans should get hyped for Walker Buehler's first MLB start

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Walker Buehler throws during a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally) (Mark Tenally /AP)

The 2018 season has already given us some must-see debuts, from Shohei Ohtani  to Tyler O'Neill  to Gleyber Torres . And the kids show no signs of slowing down: On Monday night, righty Walker Buehler -- the Dodgers' top prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 12 overall -- is set to make his first Major League start against the Marlins
L.A. got a brief glimpse of Buehler last year, when he pitched 9 1/3 innings over eight appearances as a September callup. Now, though, he takes his turn in the rotation for the first time. Here's why every Dodger fan should be excited for Buehler Day.
He's already overcome adversity
On June 8, 2015, Buehler celebrated being selected in the first round along with former Vanderbilt teammates Dansby Swanson and Carson Fulmer. On July 17, he officially signed with L.A. On Aug. 2 -- just two weeks into his professional career -- he learned that the elbow issue that had bothered him throughout his final year at Vandy would require Tommy John surgery.  
Buehler didn't crumble, though. He returned to the mound on Aug. 23, 2016, and he did so as a radically different pitcher. Like, for example ...
Velocity, velocity, velocity
In college, Buehler's fastball generally sat in the low-to-mid 90s -- a good pitch, but nothing eye-popping. After a year of rehab and a lot of work, though, it transformed into a triple-digits behemoth. Oh, and he can locate it, too:

That's D-backs leadoff man David Peralta, who could only watch as Buehler painted the inside corner with a 98-mph heater.
"Once I got into real games, I wasn't shocked by it," he told MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis last spring. "Everyone can say it was just the surgery, but they forget all the lifting that goes into coming back from the surgery. I was a year stronger, a year better mechanically. I simplified some stuff and gained 15 pounds."
Buehler's fastball now regularly sits in the high 90s, which is a bit unfair, because the rest of his arsenal is pretty impressive.
He's got the full repertoire
If you key too much on the high-90s fastball, you'll probably end up looking like this:

He pairs it with a slider that scouts already say is above-average. And if all that isn't enough, his changeup -- a pitch that used to be an afterthought for him -- isn't too far behind:

He's already owned the Minors
With stuff like that, it didn't take long for Buehler to fly through the Dodgers system. He dominated hitters in Class A, posted a 3.49 ERA in Double-A and struck out 34 hitters in 23 1/3 innings at Triple-A ... all in 2017. In just one year, the righty went from a question mark coming off of elbow surgery to one of the best pitching prospects in baseball:

He's not afraid of the big stage
Making your first Major League start -- at Dodger Stadium, no less -- is a pressure-packed moment. But if Buehler's track record is any indication, it won't be too big for him.
Buehler began his sophomore year at Vanderbilt as a back-end starter, but he finished it as a postseason ace. He threw eight strong innings against Tennessee in the first game of the SEC Tournament and spun a complete game in the Regional Final against Oregon. Then, after Tyler Beede (now a top prospect with the Giants) struggled in the College World Series, Buehler came out of the 'pen to deliver 5 1/3 no-hit innings of relief in his CWS debut.
He's a tremendous listener
Sure, all of that pitching success is impressive. But the most important thing to know about Buehler is this: He cares. Just look at how well he knew his freshman roommate, Swanson:

zimdog