Los Angeles Dodgers select Vanderbilt pitcher Walker Buehler with 2015 first round pick

June 9, 2015

The Los Angeles Dodgers apparently viewed the 2015 First-Year Player Draft as an opportunity to upgrade the arms within their farm system, as the team used three of its top four selections on pitchers, including its first pick (24th overall) on Vanderbilt University right-handed pitcher Walker Buehler.

“We’re really excited to be able to take Walker at 24,” said Dodger Director, Amateur Scouting Billy Gasparino. “He has a lean, athletic build, a power three-plus pitch mix and is a quality young man.”

The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder went 4-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 14 starts this season for Vanderbilt, which is heading to the College World Series. Buehler, 20, was rated by Baseball America as the third-best pitcher in the 2015 draft and struck out 81 against only 25 walks in 78.2 innings this year. He made his Dodger Stadium debut on March 8, starting the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic for the Commodores against TCU and allowing just one run on three hits with five strikeouts in 4.0 innings.

During the course of his three-year college career, Buehler, a junior, went 20-7 with a 2.88 ERA (78 ER/244.0 IP) in 49 games (39 starts), striking out 249 against only 83 walks.

Buehler was scouted by Dodger area scout Marty Lamb and originally selected by the Pirates in the 14th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Kentucky.

In addition to Buehler, the Dodgers also selected University of Louisville right-hander Kyle Funkhouser in Compensation Round A (No. 35 overall, compensation pick for Hanley Ramirez), Plano (Texas) Senior High School outfielder Mitchell Hansen in the second round (No. 67 overall), and University of Virginia right-hander Josh Sborz in Competitive Balance Round B (No. 74 overall, obtained in trade with Baltimore).

Funkhouser, 21, was rated by Baseball America as the fifth-best pitcher in the draft. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior went 8-5 with a 3.20 ERA in 17 starts for the Cardinals this year, limiting opponents to a .228 batting average with 104 strikeouts in 112.1 innings.  He was also scouted by Lamb.

“He’s an advanced college pitcher and was the ace on a really good team,” said Gasparino. “He’s big, physical and has got a really good arm action delivery. He throws up to 95 with a quality mix of secondary pitches.”

As a sophomore in 2014, Funkhouser earned First Team ABCA All-America, Second Team Louisville Slugger All-America and Third Team Baseball America All-America honors, setting a school record with 13 wins (13-3) and posting a 1.94 ERA in 18 starts.

Following the season, he was selected to the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team and went 1-2 with a 1.27 ERA (4 ER/28.1 IP) in six games (five starts) during the club’s summer tour. The Oak Forest, IL native opened his college career by being named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American after going 5-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 22 games (six starts).

Hansen, 19, is a left-handed hitter who was selected as a 2015 Perfect Game 1st Team All-American.  He batted .432 with two home runs and 18 RBI this season. The 6-foot-4, 197-pound Stanford commit was a member of the 2014 USA Baseball 18U squad and scouted by Dodger scout Josh Herzenberg.

“He’s five-tool corner outfielder and a smart kid from a good home,” said Gasparino.

With their fourth pick of the night, Los Angeles drafted University of Virginia right-hander Josh Sborz, a 2015 Second-Team All-ACC selection.

“He’s an accomplished right-hander, who started last year and transitioned to a closer role this year,” said Gasparino. “He has a plus fastball with a really good curveball and, this year, he added a slider to his mix.”

Sborz has gone 4-2 with an ACC-leading 14 saves (T-1st) and 1.95 ERA this season, while limiting opponents to a .164 batting average in 60.0 innings for Virginia, who advanced to the College World Series. In 187.0 career innings, the 21-year-old has allowed just 128 hits while striking out 171 and holding opponents to a .195 batting average. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior was scouted by Dodger scout Clair Rierson.

The Dodgers have selected a pitcher with their top pick in the draft 12 of the last 13 years.  Below are the Dodgers’ first-round selections since the start of the draft in 1965:

1965   John Wyatt (INF)
1966   Larry Hutton (RHP)
1967   Don Denbow (INF)
1968   Bobby Valentine (OF)
1969   Terry McDermott (C)
1970   Jim Haller (RHP)
1971   Rick Rhoden (RHP)
1972   John Harbin (INF)
1973   Ted Farr (C)
1974   Rick Sutcliffe (RHP)
1975   Mark Bradley (INF)
1976   Mike Scioscia (C)
1977   Bob Welch (RHP)
1978   None
1979   Steve Howe (LHP)
           Steve Perry (RHP)
1980   Ross Jones (INF)
1981   Dave Anderson (INF)
1982   Franklin Stubbs (1B)
1983   Erik Sonberg (LHP)
1984   Dennis Livingston (RHP)
1985   Chris Gwynn (OF)
1986   Mike White (OF)
1987   Dan Opperman (RHP)
1988   Bill Bene (RHP)
1989   Kiki Jones (RHP)
           Tom Goodwin (OF)
           Jamie McAndrew* (RHP)
1990   Ronnie Walden (LHP)
1991   None
1992   Ryan Luzinski* (C)
           Michael Moore* (OF)
1993   Darren Dreifort (RHP)
1994   Paul Konerko (C)
1995   David Yocum (LHP)
1996   Damian Rolls (INF)
1997   Glenn Davis (1B)
1998   Bubba Crosby (OF)
1999   Jason Repko* (INF)
2000   Ben Diggins (RHP)
2001   None
2002   James Loney (1B)
           Greg Miller* (LHP)
2003   Chad Billingsley (RHP)
2004   Scott Elbert (LHP)
           Blake DeWitt (3B)
           Justin Orenduff* (RHP)
2005   Luke Hochevar* (RHP)
2006   Clayton Kershaw (LHP)
           Bryan Morris* (RHP)
           Preston Mattingly* (INF)
2007   Chris Withrow (RHP)
           James Adkins* (LHP)
2008   Ethan Martin (RHP)
2009   Aaron Miller* (LHP)
2010   Zach Lee (RHP)
2011   Chris Reed (LHP)
2012   Corey Seager (SS)
           Jesmuel Valentin* (SS)
2013   Chris Anderson (RHP)
2014   Grant Holmes (RHP)
2015   Walker Buehler (RHP)
           Kyle Funkhouser* (RHP)

By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services

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