2009 Draft Review Prospects No. 1-3

Concluding our series on the Dodgers Class of 2009, we take a look at the top three players selected, including LHP Aaron Miller, OF Blake Smith and RHP Garrett Gold. We will kick off our thumbnails of the Dodgers top 40 minor league players early in December. Readers are invited to send their top 10 picks to tot4@mac.com.

Following the 2009 free agent draft, Dodgers' General Manager-Scouting Logan White was delighted with the players selected. "When you can get kids like Miller and Smith and Gould -- you know, they were all potential first-round picks, and we're exited about them, as well as the Wallach kid who can flat-out pitch." He said.

"And along with Songo and Wise, we're going to put some power back in the system. The thinking might be that the talent level is down in this year's draft but I think we got a great bunch of kids."

1. LHP Aaron Miller is a 6-3, 200 pounder from Baylor who bats and throws left-handed, he is a two-way player, much like a reverse James Loney, who can both pitch hit well but the Dodgers wanted him on the mound.

"He hits 90-94 on the gun and has a curve and a slider in the 83 mph range. We're very happy he was still around when we got to our selection. He's a fresh arm having not pitched since high school." White said. "When we look back, we're going to say 'what a great deal we got with that sandwich pick.' "

When the top three pitchers on the Baylor staff struggled early, Miller jumped in to more than pick up the slack. Although he hadn't pitched regularly since high school, he came armed with a 91-94 mph fastball and a nasty 82-83 mph slider.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has the athleticism to improve with more experience, starting for the Bears ranked second on the club in all three triple-crown stats at .354-11-43.

But White saw his future was be on the mound and his performance bore that out. "He's an athlete and I've got a propensity to taking guys that are athletes," White said. "Miller is certainly a big league prospect as a hitter and a player. He hasn't been able to focus on pitching all the time, though, and in our professional judgment we think he's certainly got the best future to be a left-handed pitcher."

"Our belief is he's going to shoot to the top of the charts."

And shoot up is just what he did.

Opening his first professional season with the Arizona Rookie League Dodgers, he made three starts, working 5.2 innings and striking out 10. With his sea legs under him, he was quickly shipped to the Great Lakes Loons.

And there he blossomed, starting seven times and crafting a 3-1 record with a 2.08 earned run average he allowed 22 hits in 30.1 innings, struck out 38 and allowed a .229 average.

In the Midwest League playoffs, he drew the opening start and blanked West Michigan on two hits over six innings while striking out nine to win the first playoff victory in Loons' history.

In the Division Championship round, Miller again drew the opening start and allowed only one hit over six innings while fanning four. He finished the post season by allowing three hits in 12 innings, striking out 13 and posting an 0.75 earned run average.

He earned a spot in the Arizona Fall League roster with the Peoria Javelinos and started three times against the top AAA and AA players in the league and allowed a single run in 4.1 innings and a 2.08 ERA before he was shut down for the season.

AARON MILLER   6-32  200  bl  tl
Born- September 18, 1987 in Channelview, Texas
School- Baylor University

 Team		w-l  era   gm  gs   in    h  bb  so  ave
AZ Rook		0-0  6.35   3   3   5.2   8   2  10  .320
GLakes		3-1  2.08   7   7  30.1  22  10  38  .229
 Totals		3-1  2.75  10  10  36.0  30  12  48  .229
2. OF Blake Smith. Reversing the order, White drafted Smith as a power hitting outfielder despite the fact that he hits 97 mph on the speed gun. "He was highly touted as a hitter and a pitcher. Just like Loney, he has a really nice left-handed swing and he's a power guy with incredible raw power. When he worked out, he almost hit one out of Dodger Stadium -- way up in the seats. Obviously he can throw and if we can work with him to utilize that raw power, he'll be a front-line corner outfielder."

At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he caught everyone's eye with USA Baseball's college national team, when he hit .327 with three homers (second on the team) plus throwing nine scoreless innings, striking out 11.

After walking 20 in 20 innings, he was cut back to a DH role by a lat muscle strain later in the season. As an outfielder, Smith has a long, sweeping lefthanded swing with remarkable home run power.

He played briefly in the Arizona Rookie League, where he hit .227 with five hits in 22 at-bats, then was moved to Ogden where injuries kept him out of the lineup from August 17 to September 5 and held him to only 30 games.

With the Raptors he hit .212 with a single home run and a dozen runs batted in, however, he finished the season with a five-game hitting streak.

BLAKE SMITH   6-2  220  bl  tr
Born- December 9, 1987 in Modesto, CA
School- University of California

 Team		 ave  obp   gm   ab   r   h 2b 3b hr  bi  sb
AZ Rook		.227  .346   6   22   3   5  1  0  0   1   0
Ogden		.212  .311  30	  104  14  22  7  0  1  12   0
 Totals		.214  .317  36  126  17  27  8  0  1  14   0
3. RHP Garrett Gould, the Kansas 6-A pitcher of the year in 2008, has a full ride to Wichita State in his pocket and was thought to be a tough sign. "He was projected to go in the first round but I think many were scared away because he was going to Wichita State," White said.

"We just rolled the dice with he hope we could sign him. He was projected as a first rounder and there is no question he has that sort of talent. He's a big kid, physical, athletic, throws 90-94 with sink and in my opinion he has the best breaking ball in the draft. It's a power curve, 79 to 82, it's a downer and it's tough on any hitter to get a bat on.

"We thought we had a chance to sign him because he knows of all the young pitchers -- Billingsley, Kershaw, McDonald, Broxton and all the other kids who have come through the system -- and it is an easy thing for me to go into his house and talk to his parents and tell them 'If you want your son to be a big leaguer, it was a blessing to you that he was drafted by the Dodgers and that he has a better chance with us than anyplace else.' "

In high school he broke big leaguer Nate Robertson's Maize High record with 95 strikeouts in 57 innings. He won MVP honors at the World Wood Bat Association championship, allowing just one hit and one walk while fanning 18 in eight shutout innings.

After adding strength in the offseason, Gould moved his fastball from 88-91 mph in 2008 to 91-94 mph in the spring -— and it's not his best pitch. He has one of the best curves among this draft's high schoolers from a three-quarters arm slot.

Gould is a strong, 6-foot-4, 200-pound athlete who starred as a quarterback in football and as a forward in basketball before focusing on baseball as a senior.

He saw limited action in 2009, breaking into the games three times in September and finishing with a 0-1, 10.12 ERA.  

GARRETT GOLD   6-4  190  BR  TR
Born- July 19, 1991 in Wichita, Kansas
School- Maize High School, Kansas

 Team	 w-l  era  gm  gs  in   h  bb  so  ave
Ogden	0-1  10.12  3   3  2.2  4   2   4  .333

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