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Interview with ESPN's Keith Law: review of Dodgers 2014 draft


Recently, I had the opportunity to interview senior baseball writer Keith Law.  Law had recently covered the 2014 MLB draft and also writes extensively about minor league prospects.  Law is also a regular guest on Buster Olney's podcast.

This interview will be in two parts, in today's part one, Law and I reviewed a few of the Dodger draft picks.  Part two will be posted tomorrow and that part of the interview will feature Law's thoughts about top Dodger prospects.

Grant Holmes was the Dodgers first pick in 2014 draft and he already had a solid debut. Law placed Holmes as his No. 14 pick in his mock draft.

"[Holmes] has a premium fastball and breaking ball, Law said.  "He throws a ton of strikes, his delivery is pretty good - if he was six foot four he might have gone 10 picks earlier."

Although Law had Holmes ranked higher than where he was picked, Law thinks that is just the normal differences of opinion you find when it comes to the draft.

"You can't look at my rankings and think they are industry rankings, Law said.  "I liked Holmes more than the industry.  I liked Derek Hill more than the industry. It is just how it goes, we all disagree."

Law said that there were two areas of concern with outfielder Alex Verdugo whom the Dodgers drafted in the second round.  The first was determining his position and the second was Verdugo's makeup.

"[Verdugo] is a two-way guy, he was a prospect both ways," Law said.  "He came out as a position player first and we will see what happens.  It is easier to take a guy who doesn't hit and put him on the mound than it is to take a guy who hasn't had regular at bats for two or three years and put him back in the batter's box."

Makeup is one of those terms used in baseball that encompasses the things you can't see on tape or on a stat sheet.  One of the most important jobs of the area scout is to assess a prospect's makeup before the team decides to sign a player.

Law thinks Verdugo could have been drafted higher if not for some makeup concerns.  Law didn't think any team had Verdugo in their first 30 or 40 picks and makeup was the big reason.

"There was an on the field incident where [Verdugo's] father was yelling at coach," Law said as well as a "threat of suspension that was eventually lifted."  "There were a lot of area scouts that questioned [Verdugo's] motivation, he seem disinterested, did not want to play."

"For the Dodgers it was a value play, [Verdugo] has first round ability but not first round makeup," Law said.  "You can only take one or two guys like that and you just hope they grow up - at 18 you're an idiot and at 22, you are totally different person."

Law said that the Dodgers 11th round pick, right-handed pitcher A.J. Vanegas has had a history of back problems and according to Law, Vanegas had very inconsistent stuff this past collegiate season.

From the Dodgers' perspective, [Vanegas] has to be a reliever," Law said, "there is no chance they can send him out as a starter given all the back problems he's had, he has had trouble staying on the field period."

"You want [Vanegas] as a reliever but you can't fast track it unless his health allows it, you can't push him too hard because of the chronic back problems he's had."

Vanegas is also an example of what Law brings up to high school players and their parents when they ask him about signing out of high school or going to college.

"Vanegas could have had well over 2 million dollars out of high school," Law said, "and he walked away from it.  "He went to Stanford and got his degree, that's nice but that is 2 million dollars he may never see again."

Like many teams, the Dodgers gave lower bonuses to some of their top ten picks in order to give out higher bonuses to players like Holmes.  Law thinks that this was inevitable and something that MLB should have thought about before they changed the draft rules.

"To me it is another great example of Major League Baseball failing to foresee consequences of their own policies," Law said.  "[MLB] put these rules and then they act surprised when people adjust their strategies or their behavior to suit the rules."  "This isn't helping anybody, all this is doing is steering more high school kids to college who under the old system might have been overpaid in the later rounds."