LOS ANGELES -- Walker Buehler opened the 2017 season at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, but by September he was a Major Leaguer, a meteoric rise that has resulted in Buehler being ranked as the No. 5 right-handed pitching prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline.But in 2017, Buehler's progression
LOS ANGELES -- Walker Buehler opened the 2017 season at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, but by September he was a Major Leaguer, a meteoric rise that has resulted in Buehler being ranked as the No. 5 right-handed pitching prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline.
But in 2017, Buehler's progression was astounding. He had a 1.10 ERA in five starts at Class A, made 11 starts at Double-A, then three starts and nine relief appearances at Triple-A in preparation for a September callup to the big club, where he got his feet wet with eight bullpen appearances.
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While with the Dodgers, Buehler showed glimpses of future greatness with his electric arm, but also the wildness that often plagues young, hard throwers (eight walks in 9 1/3 innings). Still, he struck out 12, finishing the year with 137 strikeouts in 98 innings.
For 2018, the 23-year-old Buehler will go back to starting, according to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
"I can certainly expect to see him as a starter," said Roberts. "How things shake out in Spring Training will kind of determine where he starts, but [our goal is] for him to continue to develop as a starting pitcher. Got his feet wet last year, and I think that it was encouraging in a lot of ways for Walker -- the quality of hitters faced, the speed of the game, the preparation, being in big league ballparks, I think, all very good for him. But just continuing to develop. Again, we'll see how it all shakes out, but he's definitely a part of the solution."
The former Vanderbilt star has been working out in Nashville, Tenn., eager to resume his career as a starter.
"Getting back into starting, I'll get settled in better maybe, have a full routine and hopefully it brings more success," Buehler said.
On the MLB Pipeline list of the game's top right-handed pitching prospects, Buehler ranks behind Angels Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani, Houston's Forrest Whitley, Michael Kopech of the White Sox and Tampa Bay's Brent Honeywell.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.