GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we will be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Dodgers camp, it was No. 5 prospect Walker Buehler. Buehler was part of Vanderbilt teams that won the College World
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we will be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Dodgers camp, it was No. 5 prospect Walker Buehler.
Buehler was part of Vanderbilt teams that won the College World Series in 2014 and finished runner-up in 2015. He injured his elbow before the latter season and was rarely at his best, but the Dodgers still drafted him 24th overall that June. He had Tommy John surgery a month after signing for a below-slot $1.78 million, then returned to the mound last summer and looked better than ever in short stints.
• Pipeline report: Dodgers' camp
MLBPipeline.com: How do you look back at 2015? Fondly or is it bittersweet? You went to the College World Series finals and went in the first round of the Draft, but at the same time, Vanderbilt lost in the finals, you didn't go as high as initially projected and you needed to have your elbow reconstructed.
Buehler: I have absolutely nothing but positive memories about 2015. I would have loved to win another championship, but going to the finals in 2015 was a highlight for a lot of careers. The Draft day we had as a team, with Dansby Swanson going No. 1 and Carson Fulmer going in the top 10, was special.
• Dodgers' Top 30 Prospects list
MLBPipeline.com: You missed the first two weeks of that season with a sore elbow, then came back and made 16 starts for the Commodores. When did you find out you'd need Tommy John surgery? How much of a surprise was that diagnosis?
Buehler: I knew my elbow wasn't happy with me but I didn't find out until we did my physical before I signed. I had had elbow issues for a few years back to high school, so I wasn't shocked. But it wasn't news you ever want to get.
:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::
MLBPipeline.com: After working with mostly a 90-96 mph fastball in college, you came back last summer throwing in the mid-90s in short stints and hit 99 during instructional league. What was your reaction when you found out how hard you were throwing?
Buehler: The best bolt I ever threw in college was one 98, a few 97s. In my first live session when I came back, I was in that ballpark. Once I got into real games, I wasn't shocked by it. 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. Those things helped.
MLBPipeline.com: The scouting report on you in college was that you had solid secondary stuff across the board: curveball, slider, changeup. What do you think is your best secondary pitch?
Buehler: I've always been a curveball-early-in-the-count guy. Honestly now, my stuff since the surgery is so different that I don't have enough reps to say what my best pitch is. I only have 19 innings, instructional league included, so I don't know that I can say yet. My curveball is in the mid-80s, my slider is in the upper 80s and my changeup is in the upper 80s. At Vanderbilt, I didn't throw many curves over 80. Things are just different.
MLBPipeline.com: Do you have any goals this season in terms of how many innings you'd like to pitch and how far you'd like to advance?
Buehler: The organization has some thoughts on how to go about it. They know how to handle young guys. Look at how they handled Julio Urias -- I'm not putting myself in the same breath with him -- but it shows they know how to handle young guys and they're disciplined enough to keep limits on guys. The season should be good. I hope to prove people right. It's time to go out and do so.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.