Height/Weight: 6‘2”, 175
Previously Drafted: 2012 – Rd 14 (436) by Pittsburgh Pirates
Touched 94 in high school and flashed both a plus curve and change, but was inconsistent and scouts questioned his durability. MLB.com said that Buehler could have been selected in the first two rounds in 2012 if he had been signable away from his Vanderbilt commitment.
Buehler’s size (listed between 6’1”-6’2” and 160-175 lbs) is less than ideal for a right-handed starter, though is not as bad as teammate Carson Fulmer. Baseball America describes Buehler as being athletic, but say, “He isn’t very physical.” He gets decent velocity on his fastball, throwing it “in the low to mid 90s”, and draws praise for his breaking balls “His curveball and slider both show promise and he has a good feel for spinning the baseball.”
Kiley McDaniel at FanGraphs gives cause for concern with Buehler’s “skinny 6’1/175 frame that likely never fills out, his arm action is for hitters to follow, he has little plane to his stuff and little life on his fastball.” Though he follows that up by saying, “he sits 92-95 mph, with a 55 or 60 hook and a changeup that’s at least a 50… there’s plenty of arm talent to work with.” Kiley also reiterates prior concerns about Buehler’s durability.
“Buehler has a deep repertoire featuring four potential solid-or-better big league pitches and the ability to throw all of them for strikes. His best offering is his 90-96 mph fastball, and while he sometimes gets caught in between his curveball and slider, both can be weapons. His changeup similarly varies from inconsistent to effective.” –MLB.com
“Walker Buehler is exactly what every team would be looking for in an arm if he was 3 inches taller and weighed 40 pounds more. He is a thin, athletic pitcher that has four good pitches. His change is his best off-speed pitch. He has good command and repeats his delivery well. I think he is likely a mid-rotation guy with a small chance that he is better than that but not much of a change he isn’t at least a good back of the rotation arm.”– Minor League Ball
Note: these grades are my summations based on all readily available scouting information from sources such as Baseball America, MLB.com and ESPN (Present/Future, 20-80 scale):
Prospect Overview and Future Outlook:
There haven’t been many rumors directly linking the White Sox to Walker Buehler, but he fits the mould as the type of player that the Sox would select, even if he doesn’t have the big frame that the Sox typically seek.
Walker Buehler has very good raw stuff and has been a consistently excellent starter for Vanderbilt. His fastball has good velocity, though it lacks movement, so his command of the pitch will need to be strong otherwise it may prove to be fairly hittable. A lack of movement and deception, as has been noted by both Kiley McDaniel and Baseball America, has not been a problem for Buehler in college, but it causes his raw stuff to play down and means he may be less likely to fool professional hitters. That is one of my main concerns with Buehler. Scouts have also consistently questioned Buehler’s durability, which is another concern, and he did miss time earlier in the year with shoulder soreness. Due to these issues I am hoping that the Sox are able to go in another direction at #8, with both Carson Fulmer and Tyler Jay being my preferred realistic targets. Buehler’s chance for four above average pitches with above average command give him the ceiling of a #2 starter, though I think his stuff will play more as a #3/4 type.
Buehler’s season has been a tad disappointing, and it has caused his draft stock to slide over the past few months. Performance-wise he has seen a slight decline in almost all categories this season, with his K/9 falling from 9.76 to 9.04 and BB/9 rising from 2.73 to 2.93. These numbers are still obviously very good, it’s just that one may have expected more from Buehler. Based on most pre-draft rankings and mock drafts, it would appear that Buehler should make it to the Sox at #8. At the start of the season that would have looked like a very good pick as Buehler was consistently rated as one of best 8-10 prospects in the class. More recently, however, Buehler has been slipping to the 12-15 range and lower, making him more of a back-up option at #8 rather than a primary target.
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