Dodgers bringing up top prospect Buehler

No. 12 overall prospect will pitch in relief for NL West leaders

Walker Buehler averaged 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings across three levels this season. (Josh Gurnick/Oklahoma City Dodgers)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | September 4, 2017 7:21 PM

The team with Major League Baseball's best record by a mile is about to get one heck of a reinforcement.

The Dodgers plan to call up MLB.com's No. 12 overall prospect Walker Buehler from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday, manager Dave Roberts told the media Monday. Buehler will have to be added to the 40-man roster before the move can be made official.

Roberts added that the 23-year-old will pitch out of the bullpen for Los Angeles, which sports a 92-44 record and sits 13.5 games up in the National League West Division.

Southern California will mark Buehler's fourth stop in an impressive season.

Buehler underwent Tommy John surgery two months after the Dodgers took him 24th overall in 2015, making this campaign the Vanderbilt product's first fully healthy season as a professional.

He made five starts in the California League for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, posting a 1.10 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings before moving up to Double-A Tulsa on May 10. The Kentucky native held his own in a starting role in the Texas League with a 2-2 record, 3.49 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 64 punchouts in 49 frames and was promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City on July 16.

He made 12 appearances in the Pacific Coast League -- only three of which were starts -- and finished with a 1-1 record, 4.63 ERA, 34 whiffs and 11 walks in 23 1/3 innings. When working exclusively as a reliever, he had a 4.73 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, .250 average-against and 19 strikeouts in 13 1/3 frames.

He last pitched Sunday, giving up two earned runs on one hit and two walks with two strikeouts in one inning against Round Rock.

Video: Buehler gets his fifth strikeout over two innings

Across all three levels, Buehler went 3-3 with a 3.35 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, 125 punchouts and 31 walks in 88 2/3 frames. His 26.3 percent strikeout rate over that span ranked fourth among the 729 Minor League hurlers with at least 80 innings this season.

The right-hander didn't last longer than 5 1/3 frames in any outing this season as the Dodgers tried to limit him post-Tommy John. He showed capabilities of being a long man out of the bullpen, however, lasting longer than one inning in five of nine relief outings. Roberts did not elaborate on what type of relief role Buehler could serve upon his promotion.

Buehler thrived in 2017 because of a four-pitch mix that includes a plus-plus fastball that can reach the high-90s at times, a plus curveball and an above-average slider. That type of package normally translates to a dominant starter, but with the Dodgers trying to keep the 6-foot-2, 175-pound hurler's innings low, it's expected his stuff should continue to play up in shorter stints.

That's a worrisome thought for opposing Major League lineups who already had to deal with Kenley Jansen and Pedro Baez, among others, in a Los Angeles bullpen that ranks second in the Majors with a collective 2.98 ERA.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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