The year was 2004. For some reason, that was the year I started to care about the draft. It must have had someone to do with my fascination of the minor leagues. The prospects have to come from somewhere, right?
This was back before people actually cared about the draft. It wasn't televised and there wasn't even much specific coverage. The draft was held over a conference call and you could listen to it over an internet radio feed. Good times, 8 years ago.
The Dodgers had two first round picks and another in the supplemental first. Their two first round picks, Scott Elbert and Blake DeWitt, were from Missouri high schools. This led me to believe that the Dodgers were lazy. However, as it turns out, both would reach the amjors with varying degrees of success.
The supplemental pick was a guy named Justin Orenduff. His obvious nickname was Duffman. A college pitcher out of Virginia Commonwealth, he quickly reached Double A but a shoulder injury in 2006 would derail his development and he'd eventually end up missing 2010 before posting an ERA of almost 9 last season.
8 years and hundreds of prospects later, I still honestly can't tell you which ones will pan out. While Clayton Kershaw was my favorite prospect, there have been many others that I've liked that haven't had success above A ball. Scouting is not a science, it's an art. Actually, it's a whole lot of luck mixed in with some observation and a pinch of projection. So with that in mind, let's talk about the 18-22 year old males who will save their respective franchises.
The Dodgers have been known as a team that will take high school pitchers early, which was rare in the early part of this century. It's become far more common in practice over the past few years, with 16 of the 60 picks in last year's first and supplemental first rounds being pitchers from the prep ranks.
Recently, however, the Dodgers have switched gears and popped college lefties with 2 of their last 3 top picks. The club took Baylor lefty Aaron Miller with the 36th pick in 2009 and selected Stanford southpaw Chris Reed with the 16th pick last year. Miller has struggled with injuries and has seen his stuff take a step back since signing, while the jury is still out on Reed, who's logged only 39 innings as a pro.
While the Dodgers have spent just two first round picks on hitters, the last of which being DeWitt in 2004, LA has shown a tendency to draft kids with major league bloodlines. Last year, the team selected Alex Santana, son of former major league Rafael. In 2010, it was James Baldwin III, who's father played for the team in the 90s. In 2008, it was Dee Gordon. 2006 produced Preston Mattingly. All of these legacies were drafted in the first 4 rounds.
This past Saturday, I took part in John Sickels' community mock draft at minorleagueball.com. It would last 4 rounds, including the supplemental first, though I could only make the first 3 as I had plans and it took three and a half hours to get through less than 100 picks.
With my first pick, the 18th overall, I had three names on my board: Richie Shaffer, Stryker Trahan and Zach Eflin. Allow me to explain my rankings.
Richie Shaffer is a third baseman at Clemson. 3 years ago, he was a high school kid who was drafted in the 25th round due to his strong college commitment. The team that drafted him? The Dodgers. Shaffer has grown into a 6'4 200 lbs frame and has developed some impressive power. His arm is strong enough for third but there's question of whether he'll stay there. He does swing and miss a bit, but should draw enough walks to compensate. Even if he doesn't stick on the infield, he could make it as a corner outfielder with a potential middle-of-the-order bat.
Trahan has a swing that has drawn at least one comparison to Jose Bautista. He generates great bat speed and lots of power. While he's playing catcher right now, the consensus is that he'll eventually have to move. However, much like Wil Myers and Bryce Harper, moving him to the outfield wouldn't hurt his stock much since he figures to hit pretty well. He's got good speed and a strong arm, so right field would suit him well.
Zach Eflin, not to be confused with Zac Efron, is a right-handed high school pitcher from Florida. He's got a great frame at 6'4 and 200 lbs. He's touched the high 90s but sits more comfortably in the low 90s. Both his breaking ball and change have potential. His stock was rising fast until he suffered a strained triceps in his pitching arm last month. That caused his stock to drop slightly but he's still a first round pick if he checks out medically.
Ideally, I would have liked Shaffer, but he was taken by Oakland at #11. I flirted with the idea of taking local prep pitcher Lucas Giolito, who suffered a strained UCL this spring, but he went the pick before me. So on my board, Trahan was the best player and I drafted him as a C/OF. I wouldn't hesitate to move him after his signing, possibly trying him at third. He'd give the system a potential top tier hitting prospect that they've been lacking since Matt Kemp.
Supplemental First Round
This pick was less realistic, as a top prep pitcher fell to me even though he's likely to go in the first round next week. My list consisted of prep pitchers J.O. Berrios and Hunter Virant, as well as University of Miami catcher Peter O'Brien and California prep infielder Daniel Robertson.
Berrios has an electric arm with present stuff, while Virant is more of a projection guy. I saw Virant earlier this spring and he still has some work to do with his consistency and velocity.
O'Brien and Robertson have promising bats but figure to move off their current positions. Peter is likely a first baseman as a pro and Robertson, who currently plays shortstop, is probably going to move to second or third after he signs.
Virant and Berrios went about 10 picks before I was up, so they were a no go. However, Nick Travieso, who is projected to go in the Top 30, was still on the board. He was the obvious pick, as I figured I could get a good hitter in the 2nd.
This was another pick where I sort of went off script. I had three players on my list again, with UCLA outfielder Jeff Gelalich, Arkansas high school outfielder D'Vone McClure and Cal second baseman Tony Renda.
Gelalich is a local guy who's broken out this past season. He's a classic right fielder whose favorite player is Andre Ethier, and there is some resemblance. McClure has projectable power but is very raw and lacks foot speed. Renda doesn't wow you with tools and is small at 5'8 173 lbs, but he can hit and run with just enough defense to stick in the middle infield.
I was going to take Gelalich here, but after taking Trahan in the first and projecting him to move to the outfield, along with the depth already in the system, I figured I'd take a middle infielder with some offensive upside. Renda, who was taken by the Dodgers 3 years ago out of high school, could move quickly through the system.
Both Keith Law from ESPN and Jim Callis from Baseball America gave the Dodgers the same player in their most recent mock drafts: Ty Hensley. A big, physical right-handed high school pitcher from Oklahoma, Hensley has a fastball-curve combo that will surely get him drafted in the first round. His delivery reminds me of Chad Billingsley's, though Ty is much bigger. Seems like a logical pick.
Callis has also projected the Dodgers to take Corey Seager, brother of Kyle, an infielder for the Mariners. Corey is a big kid at 6'3 and 200 lbs who profiles as a power-hitting third baseman. I'm not in love with his swing but he does project to play good defense and hit enough to stick at the hot corner.
While I understand that many people want a bat, I have never subscribed to drafting for need. The team will definitely value some pitchers highly and could end up selecting yet another pitcher in the first round. However, if a hitter like Richie Shaffer is sitting there for them to take, I don't see how LA can pass him up.
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