Walker Anthony Buehler is a rookie pitcher for the Dodgers, who are playing the Red Sox in the 2018 World Series. Buehler has long been a rising prospect in the MLB, having opted out of the 2012 draft in favor of attending college first.
Buehler will be the starting pitcher for the Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series. Here’s what you need to know about his college career.
1. Buehler Was Drafted to the MLB in 2012, But Opted Instead to Attend College at Vanderbilt University
In 2012, Buehler was drafted in the 14th round of the MLB for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he eventually decided to opt out of the draft in favor of completing an undergraduate degree first. At the time of the 2012 draft, Buehler was rated the best baseball recruit to come out of Kentucky and the number 50 overall recruit in the country.
2. Buehler Was a Star on the Pitcher’s Mound & in the Classroom During His Time at Vanderbilt
Buehler was a star at Vanderbilt in both academics and athletics. In high school he boasted a 4.3 GPA, a score of 30 on the ACT, and membership to the National Honor Society, all of which culminated (along with his baseball skills) to a scholarship to Vanderbilt.
Buehler said to Lexington Family when he signed to Vanderbilt as a junior in high school, “Vanderbilt just blew away all the other schools in terms of facilities, coaches and academics.”
He added, “I think I have a feel for how to deal with people, so maybe I will go into politics.”
While at Vanderbilt, Buehler majored in political science with a minor in sociology and corporate strategy. He was an SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll selection as a freshman, per Vanderbilt.
In his 2015 Baseball Roster page, Buehler’s coach, Tim Corbin, said of Buehler, “Walk has been a very consistent performer and winner on our pitching staff since his freshman year. He came to us with an advanced skill set for pitching and he has continually improved upon that. Walker has great aptitude for the game and his ability continues to move forward.”
In addition to playing for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, Buehler also joined Team USA in the summer of 2014. His addition to the Team USA squad marked the first time Vanderbilt had ever had four players on the roster at once.
3. Buehler Played in the Cape Cod League & Pitched for Team USA During His College Years
During his time at Vanderbilt, Buehler spent his summers playing on the famous Cape Cod Baseball League, specifically for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. Buehler was a standout during his time for the YD Red Sox, with one article from the summer of 2014 noting, “Walker Buehler held the Orleans Firebirds bats almost completely silent, allowing two hits and just a single walk, as the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox forced a decisive game three in the Eastern Division Semifinals with a 9-0 win Friday night at Red Wilson Field. It was Y-D’s first playoff victory since August 16, 2012—a 5-1 win over the Wareham Gatemen in game two of that summer’s Cape Cod Baseball League Championship.”
Buehler said to Ryan Gallant of the YD Red Sox, “You try and win every inning. The team played that way today, and we came out and were fortunate to get a win.”
4. Buehler’s Scouting Reports During His Junior Year at Vanderbilt Revealed Him to Be a Nearly Flawless Prospect
The MLB scouting report for Buehler during his junior year of college reveals him to be a stellar candidate for the pros. It reads,
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 55
One of three potential first-round picks from Vanderbilt, Buehler had an exceptional summer, sharing playoff MVP honors in the Cape Cod League and pitching well with the U.S. collegiate national team after helping the Commodores win the College World Series. He missed the first two weeks of the 2015 season with elbow soreness but bounced back after that.
Buehler has a deep repertoire featuring four potential solid-or-better big league pitches and the ability to throw all of them for strikes. His best offering is his 90–96 mph fastball, and while he sometimes gets caught in between his curveball and slider, both can be weapons. His changeup similarly varies from inconsistent to effective.
Buehler could have been a draft pick in the top two rounds out of a Kentucky high school in 2012 had he been signable away from Vanderbilt. The biggest knock on him is that he’s just 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, but he had been durable prior to this spring. His athleticism and sound delivery should allow him to remain a starter.
In Baseball America’s scouting report on Buehler, it notes that, at 6’2 and 170 pounds, Buehler “isn’t very physical and also lacks ideal size for a righthander.” However, it also notes that “Scouts have more confidence that Buehler will be able to remain in the rotation, however, thanks to his deep arsenal, athleticism and more polished delivery.”
5. Buehler’s Girlfriend, McKenzie Marcinek, Attended the University of Kentucky During the Same Years
Buehler’s longtime girlfriend McKenzie Marcinek has been with him long before he was signed to the Dodgers, and even before either of them attended college, she at the University of Kentucky and he at Vanderbilt. Marcinek and Buehler have been dating for just under a decade, and both attended Henry Clay High School in Kentucky.
Buehler has not spoken publicly about his relationship with Marcinek, but Marcinek is not shy about sharing their loving relationship via her Instagram account. When Buehler was called up to the Dodgers in 2017, Marcinek wrote on Instagram, “Congratulations babe, I am so happy that your dreams are finally coming true and getting called up!! I can’t wait to see you in LA!!”