MLB Pitcher of the Future; Former Vanderbilt Star Walker Buehler in Discussion
A recent article by Sports Illustrated's MLB Staff, including Tom Verducci, Stephanie Apstein, Emma Baccellieri, Connor Grossman, Matt Martell, and Michael Shapiro, debated who might assume the mantle as Major League Baseball's best pitcher. A former Vanderbilt Commodore standout is one of two contenders.
The debate includes former Commodore and current Los Angeles Dodger Walker Buehler and current St. Louis Cardinal Jack Flaherty.
Of the six writers taking part in the discussion, the votes were split evenly with Verducci, Grossman, and Shapiro selecting Buehler while Apstein, Baccellieri, and Martell chose Flaherty.
Verducci is perhaps the most recognizable name in this group, and his reasoning for selecting Buehler is interesting.
"This is a great debate because Buehler and Flaherty are the successors to Verlander and Scherzer. Great starting pitching may be dying, but these two highly-competitive guys are the torchbearers for their generation. It's also a great debate because the difference is razor-thin."
"You may give Flaherty the 10-year edge because he has the bigger frame, has not had Tommy John surgery and, as a very good shortstop, did not pitch exclusively as an amateur. But I'll go with Buehler because he has been the slightly better pitcher, has slightly better command and has off-the-charts velocity and spin rates that give him multiple ways to beat hitters. He also may be the strongest player on the Dodgers pound-for-pound and burns to be great, not just good."
As for Grossman, his reasons were similar.
"Is any crystal ball more fun (read: dangerous) to look into than baseballs? Both Buehler and Flaherty have all the trappings of pitchers that will lead the sport through the 2020s. I'm siding with the Dodgers' righty because of his wide-ranging arsenal and velocity (which jumped across his pitches from 2018 to '19). Unrelated to the Buehler v. Flaherty debate, but the Dodgers' rich mine of talent will ensure Buehler continues to get reps on the sport's biggest stage for years to come. That can add to a player's legend as much, if not more, than talent."
"A year from now, though, the Buehler believers in this space could look foolish. Or brilliant. Long live the crystal ball."
Finally, Shapiro had this to say for his choice.
"It's hard to go wrong here with two of the game's top young arms, but I'll side with Buehler due to his dominance with his fastball. L.A.'s ace averaged 96.5 mph on his heater last year–good for fifth in the Majors among starters–pairing both a two-seam and four-seam fastball with a quality curveball and confounding slider. Buehler also proved his mettle on the biggest stage, tossing seven shutout innings in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series. Flaherty has the superior breaking ball, and his 0.97 WHIP last season is patently absurd. But in a game now built on power arms, give me the next great Dodgers starter."