The Los Angeles Dodgers wasted no time in announcing their Opening Day starter for the 2022 campaign.
And no, it’s not Clayton Kershaw, who has recently re-signed after spending months in free agency.
It’s right-hander Walker Buehler, and he is a very deserving candidate.
“Walker Buehler will be the #Dodgers’ Opening Day starter,” Juan Toribio of MLB.com announced on Thursday.
Walker Buehler will be the #Dodgers’ Opening Day starter
— Juan Toribio (@juanctoribio) March 24, 2022
Buehler is the definition of a homegrown Dodgers player, much like Kershaw.
He has only known the Dodgers organization in his MLB career: he was selected in the first round (24th overall pick) in the 2015 Amateur draft.
Just three years of development were needed for him to establish himself as a legitimate MLB starter.
One Of The Very Best Starters In The Major Leagues
Yes, he made a brief debut in 2017, but he pitched just 9.2 innings then.
From 2018 on, however, he has been a fixture in the Dodgers’ rotation.
He finished with a rock-solid 2.62 ERA in 137.1 innings that year, and the number was 3.26 in 2019.
The 2020 pandemic season saw him post a 3.44 ERA in limited action, and he followed that up with an excellent 2.47 mark in 207.2 frames.
He has plenty of strikeout power, too: in 573.2 career innings, he has punched out 632 hitters, comfortably more than one per inning.
Buehler will take the ball against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, so it won’t be an easy date, but he is more than good enough to deliver a quality start for the 2020 World Series champions.
He is eager to start a new year on the right foot, after finishing fourth in the National League Cy Young award voting last season.
Perhaps he can finally earn the hardware this time around.