Breaking down Donnie Dewees with Smoke

North Florida head coach Smoke Laval provides some insight on Cubs second-round pick Donnie Dewees.

Name: Donnie Dewees, OF
Drafted: 2nd Round, 47 overall
Age: 21
DOB 9/29/1993
School: University of North Florida
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 180 pounds
Slot Value: $1,292,100
Signed: 6/25/15 for a reported $1.7 million

“Lucky” that’s how North Florida head baseball coach Smoke Laval describes how he got the 47th player selected in the 2015 MLB draft to come to his school.

“I think we were the only one that gave him a scholarship,” Laval said of the smooth swinging outfielder from Florida.

Laval is no stranger to talented baseball players serving as LSU’s head coach for five years that included two trips to the College World Series. He was the top assistant coach for the Tigers for ten years with Skip Bertman that won two NCAA crowns, and the head coach at Louisiana-Monroe for eight seasons.

But the baseball coach only needed one look at Dewees to realize he could hit.

“I only got to see him play once when his high school team scrimmaged a junior college squad but I knew he could hit. I didn’t think he would have the power he developed but I liked him the first time I saw him.”

A summer overseas playing for an all-star team and no appearances in the showcase circuit landed the two-way Crystal River prep at North Florida. It didn’t take the rest of the nation long to realize they let a good one get away.

Dewees earned Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honors after hitting .347/.429/.535 in 56 games with five homers and 47 RBI. Dewees got his first taste of summer ball, heading to the Northwoods League, batting .321 with 12 homers, 53 RBI and 26 stolen bases in 57 games with Wisconsin Rapids. He was named to the all-star team and earned a spot on the post-season all-star squad.

His sophomore season at North Florida was cut short when he broke his wrist, only playing in 12 games but that didn’t stop Dewees from improving his skills.

“He probably could have played the final 10-12 games but would have lost his redshirt,” Laval said. “After the doctors cleared him, he was anxious. He took batting practice with us and went on the road, preparing himself for the Cape Cod League.”

It was during the Cape Cod League that Dewees put himself on the map as one of the top college hitters in the game. Playing for Hyannis, he hit .340/.410/.473 in the top summer league, with three homers, 20 RBI and 19 stolen bases. He earned all-star honors and helped the Harbor Hawks into the playoffs.

Returning to North Florida, Dewees took the Atlantic Sun Conference by storm as he was named player of the week four times and eventually earned Player of the Year honors. He led the nation in runs, runs per game, hits, slugging, and total bases and had more homers (19) that strikeouts (16). A first-team all-american, Dewees was a semi-finalist for Dick Howser Trophy and the Golden Spikes Award.

All of this came as no surprise to Coach Laval.

“You can watch and talk until your blue in the face about baseball but what he needed was innings to learn the game on his own, that was his biggest area of growth. He has all the tools and I knew with enough repetitions, this guy had a chance.”

“He does things that you can’t teach,” the former LSU head coach said. “Knowing where your hands are and controlling the fat end of the bat. I’ve had some pretty good hitters in my 35 years of coaching but he may be the best at in-game adjustments. He can make adjustments in between pitches, where most guys make adjustments in between at-bats. His swing is effortless and he controls the bat.”

About the only downside with Dewees is his arm and Laval doesn’t really see that as a problem.

“When I scouted him, he pitched and was throwing in the mid-80 which translate to an average arm. When he’s in sync and everything works right he can throw. The Cubs will likely get him on a throwing program and he should be just fine.”

According to Laval, Dewees didn’t let the pressure of being scouted get to him.

“If it got to him, he never showed it,” Laval told Northsiders Report. “He was more worried about winning, first and foremost, and then hopefully contributing.”

Laval said his kids are accostumed to scouts being around as the former Blue Jay scout opens up his practices to the professional evaluators and lets them interact with the players. Laval said he has a good relationship with Cubs area scout Tom Clark.

He knows the Cubs got themselves a good player but a better person.

“He’s a great kid,” said Laval. “He’s not a verbal leader but leads by example, on the field and in the weight room. After the draft he was out here the next day getting in his swings. I’ve got kids that are staying the summer that weren’t out here. Donnie’s a great kid.”

Laval was surprised the outfielder lasted until the 47th pick, especially with his offensive ability and work ethic.

“I really am,” Laval said when asked if he was surprised by him falling to the Cubs in the second round. “I thought he would go somewhere in 20-30 range for sure.”

Seems the University of North Florida and the Cubs have something in common, both lucky to have Donnie Dewees.

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