L.A.'s Drafts Provide Strong Pitching

When it comes to the draft of amateur players, the Dodgers have been noted for, among other things, a penchant for pitching. When asked why the concentration in that area, scouting director Logan White answers, "I operate on the four for two theory." That, he explains, is the idea that for every four taken, two will fall by the wayside, either because of injury or quite possibly, simply not living up to the original assessment of his abilities.

A look at the four drafts that White has supervised seems to bear out his belief.

In 2004, after going for James Loney with its first choice, L.A. then selected Greg Miller as a supplemental first rounder followed by Zach Hammes and Jonathan Broxton in the second. Miller and Hammes were acquired with picks forfeited by the Rangers for signing Chan Ho Park.

The choices of Miller and Broxton certainly look shrewd. Of course, Greg has yet to prove conclusively that he's back from the shoulder problems that put him out for over a year but he did flash enough of his earlier promise in the innings he got in this past season to indicate that he could be a candidate for the Dodger bullpen as a situational lefthander.

Broxton made it up to the top after being converted to short relief which would seem to be the role he fits the best. Hammes has had his problems throwing strikes in low A. He has the stuff, just not the range.

Other pitchers taken among the first 10 rounds that year were Mike Megrew (5), Marshall Looney (6), Jamaal Hamilton (8) and Ryan Williams (10). Both Megrew and Looney are others seeking a comeback from arm operations while Hamilton and Williams were both released.

In 2003, Chad Billingsley was the number one choice and he's emerged as one of the prime prospects in all the minors. Chuck Tiffany was selected in the second round and he's a strong prospect as well.

The third round selection Cory Van Allen failed to sign, attending Baylor instead. However, the Dodgers used the money that would have gone to him as a large part of the signing bonus to get Andy LaRoche to forgo going to Rice, so they're hardly despondent about that.

The next pitcher taken was Jordan Pratt in round 5. After a couple of beleaguered seasons, he turned it around in 2005. Next came Wesley Wright in the seventh round and he's generally performed well. Phil Sobkow, taken in round 10, was released.

In 2004, the first choice was once more a pitcher, Scott Elbert, who enhanced his stock considerably this season with some strong outings for Columbus. With a supplemental pick gained because of the Yankees signing Paul Quantrill, the Dodgers grabbed Justin Orenduff and he, too, performed very well in 2005, advancing to Double A.

Second-rounder Blake Johnson joined Elbert in pitching strongly for Columbus so the first three taken in this draft all are all outstanding prospects. The next pitcher chosen was Javy Guerra in round 4. He did well in his initial season but he's another who had surgery and is currently rehabbing with a 2006 return scheduled.

The only other pitcher taken in the first 10 rounds last year was Cory Wade (10), who had an uneven season at Ogden, showing a good arm but erratic command.

The selections last June started with Luke Hochevar who 's still out there with the outcome of that decision in doubt although at this juncture it looks unlikely that he'll sign with L.A. after the flip-flop he did with agents, finally winding up back with Scott Boras L.A. rescinded its best offer while Boras and Hochevar continue to demand top dollar

Those pitchers that did sign were second-rounder Josh Wall, Jonathan Meloan (5), Brent Leach (6), Chris Hobdy (7) and David Horlacher (8). Wall and Hobdy both went out early with arm problems, which in the case of Hobdy, required surgery. Wall showed excellent stuff before being backed off and is expected to be fully recovered in the spring.

Meloan and Leach both were impressive with Ogden, Leach (who had Tommy John surgery while in college) led the Pioneer League in ERA. Horlacher reported with back problems but worked through those and had some good innings, also with Ogden.

Michael Davitt was chosen in the ninth round with the idea that he'd become a draft-and-follow, something he assured the Dodgers he'd be willing to do. Instead, he changed his mind and accepted a scholarship to South Alabama so is no longer in the mix.

In the meantime though, the Dodgers were able to persuade Steve Johnson, who'd fallen to the 13th round because of a commitment to Boston College, to forgo that and join the fold and he looks like another strong candidate.

As White suggests it's always a case of a Darwinian survival of the strong. And the Dodgers have enough of those to feel relatively confident about the future.

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