It Takes Two on MLB Draft Day: Stroke of Luck and Brush of Genius
The 2016 Major League Baseball Draft begins this Thursday, June 9, 2016, and ends on Saturday the 11th. The Dodgers have four of the first sixty-five picks, and three of the first thirty-six picks in the 2016 Draft. You can review the Los Angeles Dodgers draft order here.
You can also review the 2016 Prospect Watch list here.
In this article, we are not going to make fools of ourselves by guessing which players the Dodgers will draft as that depends on who they like, who is available, and who is likely to sign. Each of those questions are mutually exclusive and interconnected at the same time, which complicates any guesswork one might attempt. We will save you and ourselves the time in that exercise of futility. At this point, let us sit back and enjoy the show and see who the Dodgers select. The Dodgers certainly have the experience and staffing to make the tough decisions. If interested, you can read about possible early selections and the decision-makers for the Dodgers here.
If the Dodgers had the number one pick in the draft, things might be different. Fortunately and unfortunately, the Dodgers have finished at the top or near the top of the standings for some time. Therefore, the Dodgers almost never receive the top pick in the Draft.
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The Dodgers current Front Office (specifically the Baseball Operations department), e.g., Andrew Friedman and company, have the task of finding value at lower slots in the draft. Judging by history, the Dodgers have been praised for their ability to find talent regardless of their pick number. There is some cause for pause, however.
First, after the 2014 season and the 2014 Major League Draft in June of that year, former long-time Dodgers Scouting Director Logan White left for the San Diego Padres Front Office. White left the Dodgers after being passed over for the General Manager job that eventually went to Andrew Friedman and his team, which included former Oakland A’s Billy Beane protégé Farhan Zaidi. White established continued success while at the helm and often followed a “Bloodlines” strategy, which we wrote about previously. Here is a snippet from that article:
“Time will tell if the Dodgers keep drafting from family lines where new boss, President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, and his staff, make their mark in the scouting and development department. In some sense, the Dodgers are following what horse racing experts have done for years . . .
What is certain is that family ties and family bloodlines have led to both failures and successes, but utilizing the best tools you have is one way to predict outcomes when drafting [and trading for] baseball players.”
Logan White, now the San Diego Padres Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Director, Pro Scouting, with a focus on amateur and international scouting, has quite the track record according to Baseball America. Let us look at some of his career highlights in drafting and scouting:
“The Dodgers have been lauded for their drafts over the years, especially since they never pick high. White leaves [October 2014] at a time the Dodgers have three of the best prospects in baseball — shortstop Corey Seager, outfielder Joc Pederson and lefty pitcher Julio Urias. He drafted Russell Martin, James Loney and Dee Gordon in addition to [Clayton] Kershaw and [Matt] Kemp and was also instrumental in the signings of Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jim Ryu and Hiroki Kuroda.” (You can read the full article here via CBSSports.com).
Do any of the above names sound familiar to you? They should ring a bell. Seager, Pederson, and Urias are the foundation of the Dodgers Roster and Youth Movement that we discussed in The Dodgers Doctrine article.
Here is a full list of the draft picks that Logan White and his scouting team chose between 2002 and 2014, when he was in charge. Note that power-hitting first baseman and center fielder Cody Bellinger (2013), who was mentioned in Bloodlines article, hard-throwing Jose De Leon (2013) and Grant Holmes (2014), and stud Alex Verdugo (2014), were drafted under Logan White’s scouting leadership. The aforementioned players are included in the top six prospects in the Dodgers organization. Here is a list of the Dodgers Top 30 prospects for reference.
What you may not know is that White is credited with drafting and converting players to/from different positions. White does this by looking at skill sets and character, i.e., the make-up of a player, what he is made of, or what makes him tick. The list includes current Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen (catcher to pitcher), reliever Pedro Baez (third base to pitcher), former Dodgers catcher Russell Martin (third base to catcher), minor leaguer Alex Verdugo (pitcher to outfielder), and possibly many more.
White’s full profile of accolades can be read here. White’s departure will be interesting to follow in terms of farm system strength for both the Dodgers and the Padres.
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The second cause for concern is that in Andrew Friedman’s first draft with the Dodgers, the team’s 2015 Draft was rated lower than usual because Vanderbilt right-handed pitcher Walker Buehler (the Dodgers first pick of the draft) immediately required Tommy John surgery. However, the Dodgers did sign Buehler for a significantly lower amount because of the injury and Friedman and Zaidi are known for developing project arms (e.g., Brett Anderson). In addition, their second pick, Louisville right-handed pitcher Kyle Funkhouser, decided not to sign and go back to school after being drafted by the Dodgers. You can read more about that here via CBSSports.com. However, the Dodgers did receive the 36th pick in the 2016 Draft as compensation for losing out on Funkhouser and the 65th pick for not signing Zach Greinke (with credit to Andrew Friedman and Co.).
On the other hand, Friedman is not chopped liver. Like White, Friedman comes with experience and success as the former general manager of a very successful small market franchise, the Tampa Bay Rays. It is also going to take time to develop a farm system that shows more of his picks as his career with the Dodgers continues. Or will it?
Friedman can boast that fifteen of the Dodgers top thirty prospects as of 6/5/2016, were drafted, signed, or acquired via trade under his leadership. In addition, as of 6/5/2016, Friedman can also lay claim to having five of his picks from his first Draft in 2015 already listed on the Dodgers top thirty prospects list, see here and here to compare. Friedman has turned a good farm system into a great farm system deep in talent, top to bottom, through the draft, trades, and international signings. However, do not take our word for it, read here, here, here, and here about the quality of the Dodgers farm system. Sam Dykstra of MiLB.com wrote in March 2016 “It’s rare that an organization with such a potent Major League club can have an equally strong farm system, but the Dodgers have built a winner.”
One such example is Friedman signing Japanese righty Kenta Maeda to a favorable contract, which we wrote about previously here.
The above highlights do not touch on what Friedman has done with the Dodgers twenty-five and forty man roster. As we wrote about last week in The Dodger Doctrine: The Youth Movement:
“When we look at the Dodgers 2011 roster compared to 2016, we also notice two very important changes. (Note: 2011 is a significant year because it the last season of former owner Frank McCourt and the old guard; it was before the Stan Kasten, Mark Walter, and Andrew Friedman era, which began in 2012 (Friedman was hired in 2014)).
First, the roster is younger, becoming less costly, and more controllable in terms of years.
Second, it is becoming more and more developed from within through the farm system, trades (e.g., Trayce Thompson), or in signing international talent. For example, in 2011, the Dodgers had two players (Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen) on the twenty-five man roster at or under the age of twenty-five (25) who played the entire season at the big league level. In 2016, the list is well over ten (10) players and growing. Not a math major, but that is an eight-hundred percent increase in seeing younger talent on the Dodgers roster in less than four year’s time.”
According to SB Nation D Rays Bay writer Chris Moran, while in Tampa Bay, Friedman has had successful drafts and his farm systems were known to produce deep talent, but not top talent. On the other hand, Evan Longoria and David Price are examples of Friedman-drafted top talent. Too bad the man known for drafting and developing top talent (Logan White), could not stick around to work with the man known for producing a lot of talent (Andrew Friedman). Anyway, what might have been.
One thing is certain, in drafts and life, you win some and you lose some. The key is to win more than you lose, to win big on one or a few prospects, and/or to learn from your mistakes. The sheer amount of players being drafted and those whose names who have now been forgotten in time because they are no long playing is staggering. This time of the year reminds us of how hard it is to make it and how truly great and mysterious the game can be when drafting and developing talent. As a scout once said, you are either a prospect or a suspect: it takes five years to prove you are bad as a prospect, and five years to prove you are good if suspect.
Interestingly, after this week’s Major League Baseball Draft, we may be looking at new draft formats and rules all together. You can read about that here and here. We will be back next week to look at the Dodgers 2016 Draft picks post-Andrew Friedman’s second time around.
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