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Dodgers MLB Draft first round history, from Rick Sutcliffe to Paul Konerko

Paul Konerko, seen here in spring training in 1998, his final spring as a Dodger.
Paul Konerko, seen here in spring training in 1998, his final spring as a Dodger.
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The 50th year of the MLB Draft is here. Here's a look back at a few memorable first rounds by the Dodgers in milestone anniversaries:


40 years ago the Dodgers drafted right-handed pitcher Rick Sutcliffe out of Van Horn High School in Independence, Missouri with the 21st pick. The tall redhead won 17 games and National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1979, the first of four consecutive Dodgers to claim the award. Sutcliffe fell out of favor by 1981 and after getting passed over for a September start had a heated confrontation with manager Tommy Lasorda.

"Sutcliffe later said he picked up Lasorda by the uniform collar," wrote Rick Monday in Tales From The Dugout. "Not surprisingly, Sutcliffe was left off the postseason roster and was traded to the Indians following the season."

Sutcliffe was traded to Cleveland after the 1981 season for, among other things, Jorge Orta and Jack Fimple, and would later win the National League Cy Young Award with the Cubs in 1984.


35 years ago the Dodgers drafted relief pitcher Steve Howe out of the University of Michigan with the 16th overall pick. He made the majors the next year, won Rookie of the Year, recorded the final out of the 1981 World Series at Yankee Stadium, and was a key part of the back end of the Dodgers bullpen for four years. His career was marred by cocaine use, several suspensions and eventually a lifetime banishment from the sport. He died in a car accident in 2006.

The Dodgers also picked Howe's Michigan teammate Steve Perry nine picks later, but the right-hander never journeyed past Triple-A.


25 years ago the Dodgers lost second baseman Steve Sax to the Yankees, and received two picks as compensation. Both were busts, including No. 15 pick Kiki Jones, a right-handed pitcher from Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida, the same school that produced Dwight Gooden. He never made the majors. The other pick was supplemental pick Jamie McAndrew, a pitcher taken No. 28 overall, who later made the majors in 1995 and 1997 with the Brewers. The best part of the story of the 1989 draft is from this recap by Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times:

Only the first-round selections were announced through the commissioner's office in New York, a practice baseball adopted several years ago in an attempt to thwart the use of the draft list by agents and college recruiters.

That is such a stark contrast to today, when just about anyone can follow the draft from the first pick through the 40th round.


20 years ago the Dodgers with the 13th pick took a high school catcher out of Scottsdale, Arizona named Paul Konerko. As a first baseman he was named Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year in 1997. Less than a year later he was traded for relief pitcher Jeff Shaw, interim general manager Tommy Lasorda committing one of the under-the-radar worst trades in franchise history.

Three years ago I wrote about the acquisition of Shaw:

To make matters worse for the Dodgers, Lasorda didn't know about a rule at the time which allowed anyone traded with a multi-year contract had the right to demand a trade in the next offseason. Shaw used that leverage to renegotiate his three-year, $8.4 million deal into a three-year, $16.5 million contract, the second richest pact the Dodgers have ever given a relief pitcher (no, Matt Guerrier is not first).

Konerko, now in his final season with the White Sox, has 437 career home runs, four hit as a Dodger.