2014 MLB Draft Preview: Examining Dodgers’ First Round Trends

[new_royalslider id=”158″] The 2014 MLB Draft is just a few days away. Held every June, the Rule 4 Draft or First Year Player Draft, gives teams the opportunity to fill their farm systems with the best young talent from the high school and collegiate ranks in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. The order is reversed from the previous year’s standings and is impacted by a free agent compensation system that awards teams who lost players with extra picks, while subtracting picks from the signing teams.

The Dodgers hold the No. 22 pick in the first round, which is the lowest they’ve picked since 2010 when they chose Zach Lee with the 28th selection. Recent history of the 22nd overall pick bodes well for the Dodgers; the three most recent players chosen at that spot are Kolten Wong, Marcus Stroman and Hunter Harvey. Harvey and Stroman made MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects list entering 2014, while Wong placed 50th a season earlier.

Going back further is also promising. The best pick at that slot was Rafael Palmeiro in 1985, who compiled a career bWAR of 71.6. Just behind him, Craig Biggio, was selected two years later and produced a 65.1 bWAR. Chet Lemon, Bruce Hurst and Jayson Werth all compiled career bWARs of more than 25 wins from that slot, and the average bWAR for the No. 22 overall pick is 11.3 for players who reached the major leagues.

The worst pick at No. 22 was Terry Francona in 1980, who posted a career bWAR of -2.8; though he’s made quite a career for himself as a manager. The Dodgers have had the 22nd pick twice, in 1981 and 1989. They selected Dave Anderson and Tom Goodwin, respectively. Neither put together much of a career, but they combined for 14.5 bWAR and played in more than 2,000 major league games.

This year’s draft class is exceptionally deep in prep pitching, with at least 26 high school arms having touched 95 MPH or better. The usual hotbeds are well represented, with potential No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken out of San Diego, top five pick Tyler Kolek as the Texas fireballer and Floridian Touki Toussaint likely to be chosen in the top half of the first round. There are plenty of promising arms to be had, not only in the first round, but throughout the first several rounds of the draft.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at some potential targets for the Dodgers in the first round of the draft.

The Usual Suspects

The Dodgers had been known as the one organization that bucked the trend of placing college players above high schoolers, as Logan White selected prep talent with his first pick every year from 2002-2008, minus the 2005 selection of Luke Hochevar, a pitcher White had drafted out of high school.

However, things have changed, as Los Angeles has drafted just two high schoolers with their top pick since 2009 (Zach Lee in 2010 and Corey Seager in 2012). In fact, in 2013, the Dodgers used 12 of their top 13 picks on collegiate players, with only fourth rounder and prep first baseman Cody Bellinger breaking the mold.

Still, there are many common denominators that go into Dodgers’ early selections — White loves pitchers. He’s taken a pitcher with his top pick in 10 of the 12 drafts he’s helmed (James Loney in 2002 and Seager in 2012 are the only exceptions). White did draft Blake DeWitt in the first round of the 2004 draft, but Scott Elbert was selected ahead of him as the Dodgers had two firsts and a supplemental first that year.

What kind of pitchers does White like? He likes guys with arm strength, who are good athletes and who can spin a good breaking ball. He takes power arms over command-oriented guys, opting for higher ceilings rather than higher floors. White also likes bigger guys, mainly around 6’3, though he did slide in Chad Billingsley and Scott Elbert in consecutive years, two pitchers listed closer to six feet.

The pitcher White takes must have a good breaking ball as well as White doesn’t care for one-pitch pitchers. He’s also not afraid to take conversion guys. In 2008, Ethan Martin was considered a first rounder as a third baseman until he had a showdown on the mound with the eventual 3rd overall pick, Eric Hosmer. The following year, White drafted outfielder-turned-pitcher Aaron Miller in the supplemental first round. In 2011, he selected Chris Reed and made the Stanford Cardinal closer a starter.

On the off chance the Dodgers take a hitter, he’ll likely fit the mold of White’s other first round selections. The three high school hitters the Dodgers have taken in the first round were high schoolers with sweet left-handed swings who played the infield. Loney was a first baseman out of Texas, while DeWitt and Seager were shortstops out of Missouri and North Carolina, respectively.

Loney and Seager were bigger guys, each listed at 6’3 and 6’4, while DeWitt was under 6’0. White didn’t worry about power, as it’s usually the last thing a young hitter develops, though Loney and DeWitt never really did develop much.

So, which players in this year’s draft class fit the mold? Find out in our next installment of the Dodgers’ 2014 Draft Preview!
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Staff Writer

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