A Golden Opportunity
There has to be an office in Dodger Stadium for the director of amateur scouting. You wouldn't have been able to find him there in the last couple of weeks before the annual draft.
No, if you want to talk to Logan White, you'd have found him at a ball park, sizing up the select of the players that his area scouts and regional supervisors have been eyeing. So, any conversation with him is punctuated by the "ping" sound of metal bats meeting balls.
The is the fourth draft that White has supervised for Los Angeles. Asked his feelings about those gathered in so far and he declares, "I'm excited about them. I know I'm supposed to say that but I am, more so or, at least, as much as I was when they first signed." No less an authority than Baseball America certainly backs him up in this assessment.
They rated his first effort in 2002 as the fourth-best overall† among major league teams, the 2003 crop as best of all and 2004 as the best in the National League and second-best overall. No other team has been ranked in the top five for all three years and only Toronto has made it twice. And remember, please that the Dodgers have been picking toward the end of the line every one of those years.
Looking backwards for the moment, White enthuses, "I'm particularly pleased that (Chad) Billingsley, (Jonathan) Broxton, (James) Loney and (Russell) Martin, all good prospects, are at Jacksonville now where Eric Stults seems to be coming back strong after his arm operation. And I like what (Andy) LaRoche, (Cory) Dunlap and (Justin)Orenduff are doing at Vero Beach.
"Of course, there are disappointments- players you thought would do better than they have. And you don't have any control over the normal attrition rate.
But, even though Columbus is not doing well, remember those kids' average age is 19 and they're in their against teams that average 23-24. I think you'll see some of them go by some people that are outdoing them now. In five years, see who's in the big leagues."
There's already one product of the White era who made his major league debut and it may seem incongruous that he was not a draft choice at all, but, rather, a free agent. Don't think it was a lucky chance that he arrived, though, for Steve Schmoll was a fifth-year senior at the University of Maryland and, as such, could sign before the draft. From the start, area scout Clair Rierson had advised Logan that this was a player to go after strongly so he reserved the money and the Dodgers wound up beating out several other teams for his signature.
Back to the present, White has always felt that four solid drafts were needed to give necessary depth to the farm system. Number four, however, starts with a handicap for L.A. doesn't have its first-round pick this year, having forfeited it to the Red Sox for signing Derrick Lowe. They did pick up some consolation for losing Adrian Beltré with a supplemental slot at No. 40 becoming their initial choice.
Since Seattle, a loser of 99 games last season, ranks well down in the lower echelon of the overall standings, they don't have to yield a first-rounder for Beltré.
The last-minute signings of Jared Weaver by the Angels and Stephen Drew by
the Diamondbacks means that every team gets a chance to move forward a couple of
spaces in the selection process starting with the second round.
Both the Anaheim version of Los Angeles and Arizona had been assigned
supplemental picks at the end of the first round if the players hadn't signed.
With the 2004 first-rounders agreeing to terms, however, those slots were taken
away. That means the Dodgers' initial pick the second round, forfeited to them
by Seattle in compensation for the signing of Adrian Beltre, is now the 51st
slot rather than the 53rd as it was formerly.
Their own second-round slot moves forward from 76 to 74 . Their third-round
slot is now 106 instead of 108 and so on through the rest of the draft which
lasts 50 rounds in all.
As to the group out there, White feels, "It's rather typical in all. I don't think the top end players separate themselves as much as those in the past did.
I do feel there's a lot of talent in the middle group, though. So, all things considered if you ever have to go without a first-rounder, I guess this is as good a year as any to have that situation."
The group, he says, "Is a good mix of high schoolers and college players -- more so, than in years past. There's a lot of outfielders although I think some of the high schoolers in this area have been overhyped and will fool some people. The pitchers are a good mix, though there's not as many good lefthanders as there has been."
One of the things you needn't bother to ask Logan is whom he's narrowed L.A.'s liklelies down to. "Call it superstition but I wouldn't tell my mother
that." Nonetheless, Baseball America has fearlessly forecast that there's going to be some solid high school pitchers still around when they finally call for the Dodger choice.
They're betting righthander Bryan Morris of Tullahoma, Tenn. will be named. They also mention righthanders Ryan Tucker, a Southern Californian; Tyler Herron from Florida and Josh Wall from Louisiana as possibilities along with lefthander Sean West, another Louisianan.
Realistically, when a team has to wait until 39 other slots have been filled before it gets a shot, any idea of who† will be chosen is more guesswork than anything else. Remember, also, that in the three years previously, BA has been wrong about whom the Dodgers would take every time.
Still, given White's track record, predicting a high school pitcher is not a bad way to go.
Logan insists that, as always, "We'll take the best available athlete." He adds some caveats, though. "I think signability will play into teams' choices.
It always has but, maybe, more so than usual this time particularity among the high schoolers. "There's another one that 's heard, really for the first time.
"Since this is my fourth year with the Dodgers, I'm well aware of our needs so we'll be looking at that as well."
What's he looking for? "Guys who are offensive players and power arms."
Among those who could be out there when the Dodgers make their choices are first basemen Ike Davis from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Justin Smock from Goose Creek, S.C. Maybe, even Henry Sanchez from San Diego, who oozes power, could fall down far enough and, once again, there's Jeff Larish from Arizona State, chosen in the 13th round a year ago but who wanted far too much, collapsing negotiations.
Middle infielders who might be around are Cliff Penington of Texas A & M, Steve Tolleson of the University of South Carolina, Brent Lillibridge from the University of Washington and high schooler P. J. Phillips, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Third base possibles are Ryan Mount, Chino Hills, Cal.; and Josh Bell, Lantana, Fla. (although this is a position where the Dodgers are particularly well-fortified.)
Travis Buck of Arizona State is an outfielder who possibly could still be had with catchers Matt Liuza of LSU, Brandon Snyder from Centreville, Va.; Jonathan Egan from Hepzibah, Ga.; and Preston Parrimore from Allen, Tex. others of note.
Lefthanded pitchers who may be available down the line are collegians Brayn Mullins, Vanderbilt; Garrett Olson from California Poly, and Matt Maloney from Ole Miss as well as Aaron Thompson from a high school in Houston.
So, while it's true that L.A. will wait awhile before selecting, remember a White draft has always concentrated just as hard on the rounds that follow. When you consider that Greg Miller and Orenduff were supplemental choices; that Chuck Tiffany, Broxton and Blake Johnson were acquired in the second round and Dunlap was a third-rounder, there's every reason to suspect the Dodgers can come up with some keepers.
In the meantime, there's the matter of the draft-and-follows -- those were chosen last June, then attended junior college to remain under control until one week before this year's picks are made. Logan thinks that probably three of those possibles will be added to the mix.
Then, there's the matter of signing the desirables. Here, too, the record for the past three years has been sparkling for White and his team know well who could possibly balk and have usually managed to avoid them. And, if draft No. 4 is anything like the first three, which rescued the Dodger system from the doldrums, then it should prove very interesting, indeed.