LOD’s 2018 Prospects: Los Angeles Dodgers – Pitchers
During the 2017-2018 offseason, we here at LOD are putting together a different kind of prospect list than you’re used to seeing. As opposed to typical prospect rankings, we are going position by position to give you the names to look out for in each organization in the upcoming season. We will start with the National League, work our way from the top of the 2017 standings to the bottom, then move on to the American League.
First up, the defending NLCS champion Los Angeles Dodgers. We start our list with the men on the mound as we give you LOD’s top righty and lefty to watch in the 2018 season.
RHP – Walker Buehler – 2017 Teams: Rancho Cucamonga (Adv-A) Tulsa (Double-A) Oklahoma City (Triple-A)
2017 Statistics: 88.2 IP, 3-3, 3.35 ERA, 125 SO, 31 BB, 1.11 WHIP
The first guy on our list is a pretty obvious one and it is a name that you are more than likely familiar with. The Dodgers selected Walker Buehler in the first round of the 2015 draft after three seasons at Vanderbilt. He didn’t pitch in pro ball in 2015 as he underwent Tommy John surgery to resolve some elbow problems after the draft. He did get a very brief taste of facing professional hitters in 2016 as he managed to come back for five innings, two in rookie ball and three in Single-A.
Despite having a very minute amount of professional experience, the Dodgers were confident with the progress Buehler had shown after recovering from his surgery and they elected to start him at Advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2017.The righty blew through three levels of the system before eventually making his Dodgers debut after September call ups.
Buehler has very good stuff that is highlighted by his explosive fastball which lives around 97-98 mph and can occasionally touch triple digits. His next best pitch, in my opinion, is his hard breaking curveball. It has a true up to down break and virtually represents the definition of “falling off the table”. As of now, Buehler also showcases a hard cutter/slider as well as a changeup.
Buehler has a slim 6’2 frame with a quick and fluid delivery. After he comes set he moves so fast to the plate that it plays his already ridiculously hard fastball up a little bit more. While the delivery makes it seem like the ball gets to the hitters even quicker, the consistency of his overhand delivery is just as important. Regardless of what pitch is coming, he does a good job maintaining his arm slot.
The 23 year old Lexington, KY native barely has 100 professional innings under his belt and with their depth, the Dodgers really have no reason to rush him to the show. Buehler will more than likely spend the majority of the season at Triple-A, barring injury on the big league club, and make another late season call up to the Dodgers bullpen.
LHP – Caleb Ferguson – 2017 Team: Rancho Cucamonga (Adv-A)
2017 Statistics: 122.1 IP, 9-4, 2.87 ERA, 140 SO, 55 BB, 1.37 WHIP
When we take a look at the southpaws in the Dodgers farm, one of the standout arms is virtually the exact opposite of Buehler. Caleb Ferguson was taken by the Dodgers in the 38th round of the 2014 draft out of his Ohio high school. Ferguson had the potential to be selected much higher, but few teams were willing to take a chance on him given he had undergone Tommy John surgery just before the draft.
The Dodgers did decide to take a late round flier on Ferguson and right now it looks like that move is going to pay off. After rehabbing through 2014, Ferguson tossed an unimpressive 14 innings in the 2015 Arizona League season. He began 2016 with a second attempt at rookie ball, but was quickly called up to the Single-A club.
The majority of Ferguson’s stint as a pro up until 2017 was spent rehabbing and working his way back to game shape. The Dodgers were impressed with the progression and elected to start the then 20 year old in Advanced-A ball for his first full season. Ferguson was outstanding in his 24 starts and while he appeared to have a short leash at the beginning of the season, he was consistently giving Rancho Cucamonga at least five innings each time he took the mound as the season progressed.
Ferguson’s fastball sits in the low 90’s and he has a good changeup, especially for a 21 year old that has spent a lot of time rehabbing. The real gem of his repertoire is the devastating curveball that he can place pretty much anywhere he wants. Ferguson has sort of a slow windup and reaches way back in his delivery before exploding to the plate. While he will walk a batter here and there, a lot of scouts praise his ability to place his pitches.
Other Notable Pitchers:
Stay tuned as we move through the Dodgers system and talk about some of their top prospects at each position. Next up: Catchers