Five candidates who could be the next Walker Buehler Staff

February 15, 2019 at 2:05 pm.

Justus Sheffield (61) pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. The appearance was Sheffield's major league debut. Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Justus Sheffield (61) pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. The appearance was Sheffield’s major league debut. Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt Trueblood

Who is the next Walker Buehler?

After finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year balloting and turning in some stirring October performances last season, Buehler has emerged as the

Dodgers co-ace. Before 2018, however, he was merely a highly regarded pitching prospect with some warts, including Tommy John surgery that stole his first professional season and dampened his draft stock beforehand. Here are five pitchers who could make the same rise from relative notoriety to stardom this year.

Justus Sheffield, Mariners

Sheffield has a plus fastball, plus slider and above-average control of a solid changeup. For a left-handed starter, that’s enough to envision a solid mid-rotation future, perhaps better given the state of the Mariners rotation. He’s only 6-foot, which causes some concern about his durability and projectability, but other lefties that size have succeeded in MLB. Sheffield pitched well in the upper minors, made a cameo with the Yankees last season, and enters 2019 needing only an opportunity to step into a rotation. Small improvements will make big waves for him.

Mike Soroka, Braves

Injuries stunted Soroka’s 2018 rookie season, but couldn’t hide his potential. His fastball tops out in the mid-90s, but his style doesn’t demand that he pitch at maximum speed. He shows superb command of four pitches: a four-seam fastball, sinker, slider and changeup. The natural cut on Soroka’s heater allows his changeup to play off it well, and the sinker is heavy. With a healthy shoulder and the confidence to locate his slider against both lefties and righties, the right-handed Soroka could move toward the front of the Braves rotation.

Brent Honeywell, Rays

Initially regarded as a bit of a novelty, the screwball-slinging Honeywell proved himself a legitimate ace-in-the-making during the 2017 season, and held some claim to the honor of baseball’s top pitching prospect. However, Tommy John surgery ended Honeywell’s 2018 season before it began, resigning the Rays to wait another year before seeing a guy who might pair with Blake Snell and form one of MLB’s best 1-2 starter combinations. If he is healthy and makes 20 to 25 starts, Honeywell should have a significant impact this year. His screwball helps neutralize left-handed batters, and unless he left some velocity on the operating table, his heat still sits in the mid-90s.

Dakota Hudson, Cardinals

Walker Buehler’s MLB debut in 2017 came as a reliever. It was the same last season for Hudson with the Cardinals, and he wasn’t particularly impressive. Like Buehler, Hudson was a first-round draft pick who emerged from the Southeastern Conference — Buehler from Vanderbilt; Hudson from Mississippi State — with an unusual amount of polish and undeniably intriguing stuff. The Cardinals couldn’t squeeze Hudson into their rotation last year, but he could blossom quickly with his sinker/cutter combination and a curveball that keeps hitters off balance.

Corbin Burnes, Brewers

Though used exclusively as a reliever in 30 games last season, Burnes might have a bright future in the rotation. His fastball’s natural cut makes it tough to read the difference between the heater and his nasty, biting slider. Neither his changeup nor his curveball has advanced to the level where it truly can be called another weapon, but neither pitch is unusable. If one develops into an average offering, Burnes has more than enough to be a solid starter.

Our Pro Baseball Preview can be purchased in our online store (SHOP). It is also available digitally in our App.


ALL  |  NFL  |  College Football  |  MLB  |  NBA