The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted Vanderbilt pitcher Walker Buehler with the 24th overall pick in the first round of the 2015 MLB draft. The 21-year-old signed on July 17 for a $1.78 million signing bonus, which is below the roughly $2 million slot value for the pick.
That was tied to the discovery of Buehler’s ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow being damaged. He underwent Tommy John surgery Wednesday, with a recovery period set for 12-18 months.
Although the Dodgers are unlikely to be without the right-hander until the 2017 season, general manager Farhan Zaidi said there isn’t any regret with taking Buehler in the first round, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles Daily News:
As far as signing him, we still think he is one of the top pitching talents in the draft,” Zaidi said. “We have the luxury of being able to play the long game. Even if it puts him a year behind, we think when he comes back he’s going to justify where we selected him. Obviously we signed him for a reduced number that allowed us to do some other things in the draft.”
Zaidi added Buehler will likely be eased back into action next season:
Zaidi said it’s possible that Buehler could possibly return to pitch late next season at the minor-league level, but “more realistically he’ll pitch in instructs next fall and really be more of a factor in 2017.”
In 16 starts during his junior year at Vanderbilt, Buehler had a 5-2 record with a 2.95 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 88.1 innings. If the Dodgers can re-sign Zack Greinke in the offseason, their rotation would shape up favorably for the next couple of seasons with newly acquired Alex Wood under contract until 2020, Brandon McCarthy until 2019 and prospect Julio Urias closing in on being Major League ready.