Dodgers will wait until No. 36 in Draft
Scouting chief confident club will get quality in sandwich round
The last time the Dodgers forfeited their first-round pick was 2005 and it was well spent, going as compensation for the signing of Derek Lowe. They didn't draft until overall pick No. 40, used it on Luke Hochevar, and, well, we won't even rehash that mess.
This year they again have no first-round pick, having handed it over to Arizona as compensation for the astute signing of Orlando Hudson, who has given them All-Star-caliber play.
Celebrity selector Tom Lasorda won't take the Draft microphone until overall pick No. 36 this year and vice president of scouting Logan White promises there won't be anything like a replay of 2005.
In other words, signability is key.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11. MLB Network will broadcast the first round at 6 p.m. ET on June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com.
Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute, on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.
Once the first night is done, the Draft will continue with rounds 4-30, via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York, at noon on June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on June 11, starting at 11:30 a.m.
Here's a glance at what the Dodgers have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
One good thing about not drafting in the first round is that the Dodgers didn't waste any scouting time on Stephen Strasberg, the San Diego State consensus first pick. White said after that name is gone, the rest of the first round and beyond should be an unpredictable scramble. "There's a good chance you get the same guy at 36 as you would at 20," he said. Because of that, White is not discouraged at picking low, but rather considers it the kind of challenge that suits his scouting department. When you find a Jonathan Broxton in the second round, or a Russell Martin in the 17th, as White has done, you think like that.
White is a lot better talking about what he's done than what he's going to do, preferring to keep his targets under wraps. But he's always preferred high school players in general, pitchers in particular, and the more the better. Having been a pitcher whose arm blew out, White learned first-arm that you combat the inevitable attrition by accumulating inventory. In other words, you never have enough pitching, but he drafts like he's trying to.
The Dodgers will be like the rest of us in the first round -- watching.
As White points out, with a balanced Major League roster and a relatively deep Minor League system, the Dodgers aren't this year (nor at any time other than the Hochever pick) looking for a quick fix. It's always been White's philosophy to draft the best player available -- as long as he's a pitcher. In seven drafts by White, the first player he's taken in the last six has been a pitcher. The only position player he took first was James Loney in 2002.
White forecasts more teams taking his approach and raiding the high school ranks, mainly because of the generally accepted analysis that this Draft lacks college impact hitters. The way the Dodgers look at it, they got a quality player from this Draft in Hudson and they are confident they can grab a high-ceiling player with their sandwich pick.
Recent top picks
2008: Ethan Martin tore knee cartilage in a post-Draft workout and didn't appear in a game last year, but he's more than caught up this year. The word White uses to describe the way he feels about Martin this year is "ecstatic" and holds to his Draft-day prediction that Martin can be a front-line starter along the lines of Chad Billingsley. He was scouted and signed by Lon Joyce, who must know what he's doing, having also found Jonathan Broxton.
2007: Chris Withrow had everybody in the organization nervous last year when he couldn't throw a strike to save his life. But whatever he had last year is gone this year. He recently had a start with 10 strikeouts and no walks, something unthinkable a year ago. He's still got some catching up to do, having pitched only 13 innings in his first two professional seasons and a current ERA above 5.00. But he throws even harder than Martin, which is why White says he can be "special."
2006: Clayton Kershaw is only 21 and he already has 32 Major League starts. No matter what the organization says, yes, he's been rushed. But if he isn't a Doc Gooden or Fernando Valenzuela phenom, he's got the aptitude and toughness to gradually improve personally while making regular starts for the best team in baseball. That's pretty good. And imagine what he'll be when he's actually ready.
This award was going to Travis Schlichting, but he moved so fast he's already reached the Major Leagues after converting himself from a third baseman to a relief pitcher in independent ball. Maybe next is starting pitcher Steven Johnson, son of former big leaguer pitcher Dave Johnson, who has been flying under the radar in four previous Minor League seasons but is looking like he might be figuring things out.
Trayvon Robinson is starting to put it together at Single-A the way future Major League outfielders do. He was a 10th-round pick out of Crenshaw High School, the inner-city Los Angeles school that produced Darryl Strawberry, and he made strides after a solid 2008 season by going to Instructional League to work on defensive skills and better utilizing his running speed.
In The Show
Twelve active or disabled Dodgers are products of the June Draft -- Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, A.J. Ellis, Jamie Hoffmann, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Brent Leach, James Loney, Russell Martin, Eric Stults, Cory Wade and Xavier Paul -- all taken since White was hired.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.