For the second year in a row, I’ve given myself the imaginary keys to the Los Angeles Dodgers Draft War Room in a 10-round mock draft exercise. To simulate the picks of the other 29 teams, I’ve allowed the first round to play out identical to this most recent Jim Callis mock draft from MLB Pipeline. For the remaining rounds, players were select for other teams by ranking from Baseball America’s Top 500. For my picks, I prioritized my selections using my Top 200 Draft Board posted Monday here.
As I mentioned Monday, the draft this year is not especially strong, but has plenty of talent in it’s high school infield class. If we’re looking at the current state of the organization, more depth and talent could be used on the left side of the infield on the farm, so it would be shrewd to take advantage of this particular draft strength. Additionally, my goal in this draft as in any draft is to balance projection with polish, combining high ceiling lottery tickets with closer to ready role players. However, in an organization like the Dodgers, where the expectation is to win the World Series each season and the professional payroll will likely remain among the highest figures in the league, the bar for system talent to reach the majors is exceptionally high. A focus will have to be made on identifying players that are likely to contribute to a championship roster, not just find players with a likely big league career.
Thanks to two additional selections in the 30s, the bonus pool allotment should allow me to select a player or two with a high price tag that may otherwise be unaffordable to teams picking around the Dodgers on day one. I’ve targeted a few such players and hope that one will be there when the Dodgers select at pick twenty.
Round 1, Pick 20
LHP Joey Wentz
Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kansas
The board played right into my hands. With teams supposedly scared off by a high price tag and a rumored decline in stuff, I take him with confidence that for the right price, Wentz is signable. As for the stuff issue, here’s the word I received from a source who took in Wentz’s final high school outing:
"Smooth delivery with repeatable arm action… Fastball has some life at 89-93 but can be a little straight at times… Plus action on the curveball 1/7 action and has a good feel for the change… On the high end he’s John Lester with a similar build… you don’t see many left handed breaking balls as good as his out of high school… You throw in plus command and clean delivery there’s not much not to like… Does have some injury history but it sounded like it was more precautionary than anything else… He’s been pretty protected."
It doesn’t sound like there’s been that significant a drop off, and it’s obvious the potential is there. I’m a big fan of the delivery and athleticism in Wentz’s mechanics, and see a quick moving high school arm. He may not have outright elite potential, but his ceiling of a top two or three starter is enough to pull the trigger on Wentz. The more Wentz matures physically and pitches on the farm, the more likely I see Wentz raising his average velocity to the 92-95 mph range to couple with a plus breaking ball and developing change up.
Wentz won’t be cheap, he’s committed to Virginia and would be a two-way player with plus raw power at first base, and for this exercise I’ve earmarked him for top-10 pick money, so for the next few rounds, I will need to find players to take below slot to fit Wentz into our allotment.
Had Wentz been off the board, I likely would have moved on to prep shortstops Nolan Jones or Gavin Lux. Additionally, I would have taken prep arm Matt Manning or Mississippi State ace Dakota Hudson if they had slid to here. However, Wentz was eighth on my big board and represents tremendous value at twenty.
Round 1, Pick 32
RHP Corbin Burnes
Saint Mary’s College
This might look like an overdraft if you read many media rankings, but Burnes was twenty-fourth on my big board and we hope to save just a little on slot by taking him here ahead of consensus. Burnes checks off several boxes that I look for in a pitcher; he’s athletic, repeats his delivery, has three pitches that are at least average, and has a high compete level on the mound.
Burnes aggressively attacks the zone with an above average fastball that could become plus. His tight slider can be a swing and miss pitch and the change-up is also a potential weapon. Burnes has a very quick arm and exhibits full control over his atypical delivery (a modified version of the stretch). All of his stuff could play up in relief, but he should be given every chance to develop into a strike throwing number three starter with solid K potential.
Kevin Gowdy and Kyle Muller both outranked Burnes on my big board, but as prep arms with higher price tags, I had to pass. Additionally, I’m a big fan of the physical specimen that is Rice starter Jon Duplantier, but given his extra eligibility from a redshirt, I also didn’t want to risk a tougher sign. Burnes struggled some down the stretch and may have been fatigued in helping lead St. Mary’s to the NCAA tournament, so he’ll need to take it slow after signing. However, he should be ready for High Class A Rancho Cucamonga to start the 2017 season.
1B Jameson Fisher
Southeastern Louisiana University
If an over-slot talent was available at pick twenty, as it was in Wentz, Jameson Fisher was the targeted pick for this compensation selection. Potentially a slight overdraft, as Fisher ranked 42nd on my board, and considerably lower on media lists, he’s a fourth year junior, twenty two years old, and should be considerable savings on slot.
Acknowledging the budget aspect of this pick, Fisher has plenty of talent to eventually justify his selection. He’s been near the top of the NCAA leaderboard in hitting, finishing the year hitting .424/.598/.692 with fifty-four walks against thirty-one strikeouts. It’s not just this year, as prior to a shoulder injury wiping out his 2015, he hit .300 as a junior to be with wood bats in the Cape Cod league. While Fisher may not have huge raw power, he has plenty of present game power to hit twenty home runs at the major league level.
Beyond being a statistical darling, Fisher’s tools should translate. He has plenty of bat speed and a line drive stroke from the left side, and soft hands around the first base bag. He was a catcher before injury and could be re-tried at the position, but his offense could hold it’s own at first base.
Worst case on Fisher is that he has John Jaso upside, which still gives him solid major league utility. He’s likely able to jump short season ball and could head to Great Lakes upon signing.
Had we not need to save money on slot at this pick, I would have considered prep shortstop Carter Kieboom, who has one of the better feels for hitting in the prep class.
Second Round, Pick 65
LHP Nick Lodolo
Damien High School, Laverne, Calif.
Jumping back on upside with one of my favorite arms in this draft, Lodolo gives you plenty to dream on. Long and lean at 6’6 and a listed 180 lbs., Lodolo exhibits surprising body control and athleticism, capable of repeating his delivery and throwing strikes with two pitches that could develop into plus weapons. Lodolo’s fastball might just sit in the upper 80s/low 90s now, he should be able to improve the velocity with more added strength, and the pitch now has plenty of sink.
Lodolo’s curveball has the chance to develop into a plus pitch. He will lose his release point from time to time, but when right, the pitch is very deep with 1-7 break and can outclass high school hitters. Lodolo has not needed the change up much, but should be able to develop a solid one from his ¾ slot that should generate fade.
Lodolo takes full advantage of his 6’6 frame, extending out from his ¾ slot to bring the ball in at an uncomfortable angle for left handed hitters. He might be physically underdeveloped for the pro game, but the Dodgers can afford extra time to let him mature. He has the upside of a number three starter with strikeout potential, but could grow to be even more if his fastball makes a big jump as he fills out.
I’m considering Lodolo to be a slightly overslot signee, and there’s a chance he could be a tough sign in reality with a commitment to Texas Christian. Looking at the big board, I opted not to draft either Tyler Baum or Adam Laskey due to greater signability concerns, and passed on Daulton Jefferies and Matt Krook because of the associated risks of those picks. The pick came down to Lodolo and prep shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald, a plus runner with offensive upside, and he would probably need to be selected near this pick to buy him out of his Louisville commitment. Ultimately, I wanted to take the chance on the upside in the left hander.
Third Round, Pick 101
RHP Chad Hockin
Cal State Fullerton
This selection serves a few objectives in the third round: stay true to the board, balance risk and upside, try to save on slot. Hockin has the chance to move quickly as a relief prospect that exhibits solid control over two plus pitches, but comes with a few health concerns, struggling to stay on the mound in college.
I took Hockin with no anticipation of trying to convert him to starting, as Hockin has not handled a significant college workload. While he hasn’t posted gaudy strikeout numbers you might expect from a player with his stuff, he’s able to dial the fastball up to 97 mph and pairs it with a sharp upper 80’s slider. His fastball has riding life in the mid 90’s and might be better suited for the pro game (wood bats) over college.
Based on the two pitches he has now, he has late inning upside in the majors even if he hasn’t struck out batters at a rate greater than nine per nine. As a reliever, Hockin should be able to move quickly through the system and helps mitigate the draft class risk of taking two high school left handers.
Looking at other names still on the big board, Tyler Fitzgerald was still available but might not be signable this far down. Arizona two way player Bobby Dalbec is also rated higher as a pitcher, but I passed on him over concerns he may prefer to hit at the next level, and the contact issues have only worsened this year.
Fourth Round, Pick 131
3B Chad McClanahan
Brophy College Preparatory School, Phoenix, Ariz.
As I said at the start of this exercise, I wanted to take a chance on a high upside prep hitter that can handle the left side of the infield. Depending on your opinion of McClanahan’s athleticism, you may question the latter, but the upside here is undeniable. Baseball America suggests McClanahan could be signable in the first five rounds, so going at the end of the fourth round likely makes him a full slot or shade above selection.
On video, I was surprised at how well McClanahan moved at third despite his 6’5 200 lbs. frame. He has the arm strength and hands to handle the position, but he will need to be continually evaluated as he fills out. His hands also work well at the plate, where McClanahan has the wrist strength, bat speed, and leverage to demonstrate plus raw power. His length does cause contact issues and a large strike zone, but the trade off for power might be worth it.
McClanahan isn’t the athlete of other considered infielders Gavin Lux, Nolan Jones, Josh Lowe, Tyler Fitzgerald, or Nonie Williams, but by round four, he was one of the better upside plays left on the board. Like Lodolo, he might require more time to mature physically, but I believe the bat is a worthy gamble at this pick. Arizona State shortstop Colby Woodmansee was also given consideration here, but ultimately I didn’t want to stray that far down the big board.
Fifth Round, Pick 161
RHP Thomas Hackimer
St. John’s University
Needing to save bonus money to not only afford the three prep players taken above this pitch but also potentially target a few guys on day three, the fifth round felt like the right time to take a senior sign that also might be able to contribute quickly to the big league team. Hackimer’s upside is not significant as a side arming reliever that might end up as a specialist, but like Fisher, I’m betting on his college numbers translating to the pro game.
If you’re going to take a college sidearmer, one that’s exhibited solid command and above average velocity for the slot makes sense. Hackimer’s posted huge strikeout numbers in college and he should be tough for pro right handed hitters to square at the plate. He’s not overly tall or physical, and I don’t see him reaching even Brad Ziegler upside, but Hackimer brings matchup potential and significant slot savings to add more talent.
I’ve now taken two college relievers that might be ready to contribute to the big league bullpen within two years, so the organization might expect some quick returns on this class while we wait for the prep players to develop.
Sixth Round, Pick 191
RHP Tyson Miller
California Baptist University
California Baptist has been pretty good to the Dodgers, with pitchers Trevor Oaks and Caleb Dirks among the top arms on a loaded Tulsa Drillers staff. It just so happens that the school also offers an intriguing high pitchability prospect in this year’s draft that represents good value in the sixth round (ranked 130 on my big board).
Miller is brings a three-pitch mix and some physical projection to the organization. He’s a good athlete at 6’5 and 200 lbs. with room to add more strength. He can throw strikes with all of his pitches, though the change-up might be the only pitch with an above average grade. His fastball has sink at 91-93 mph and he has good feel for a low 80’s breaking ball.
Miller will be given the chance to start at the next level. Though his present ceiling is that of a back end starter or middle reliever, he might be able to outgrow that projection if he gains strength and adds a tick or two to the fastball. I considered Miller a slot to slightly below slot pick, which is what I’m looking for at this stage of the draft.
Seventh Round, Pick 221
LHP Devin Smeltzer
San Jacinto Junior College, Texas
Taking another chance on a pitchability player that should be signable, Smeltzer makes up for a lack of premium velocity by throwing nothing straight. Similar to Miller with solid command of a three pitch mix, Smelter has put up impressive strikeout numbers leading his team to the Junior College World Series.
Smeltzer’s stuff hasn’t taken much of a step forward since being a Perfect Game All American two years ago, and still throws in the upper 80’s. His best pitch is a change-up that dives away from right handers. His slider will pop out of hand, but should be a problem for left handers from his arm angle.
Smeltzer will likely start his career in the rotation, but may at some point move to the bullpen in an attempt to get the most out of his stuff. He’s not likely to be challenged until facing better hitters at High-A, with Double-A determining whether he has a future starting. At worst, his stuff gives him potential as a lefty specialist.
Eighth Round, Pick 251
C Jason Goldstein
University of Illinois
I suspect that the latter part of day two will be spent selecting seniors to save on bonus allocation money. Following the trend, I decided on a re-draft in taking Goldstein, who was selected by the Dodgers in the 17th round in 2015. The scouting report on Goldstein remains largely unchanged a year later. He has a high baseball acumen and has handled a pitching staff that will likely have back to back first round selections. Goldstein isn’t overly toolsy, but has enough bat to profile as a potential backup at the next level, and he receives solid marks for his defense.
Ninth Round, Pick 281
SS Donnie Walton
Oklahoma State University
Another senior sign, Walton is the son of Cowboys pitching coach Rob Walton and has the aptitude you would expect from a coach’s son. Walton, like Goldstein, isn’t toolsy, but can handle the bat and has been a productive hitter throughout his college career. He won’t be a plus defender at short, but he’s capable of handling the position for a spell, with a likely future around the infield in the pro ranks. Walton is a switch hitter with a decent hit tool and plate approach from both sides, but limited power.
10th Round, Pick 311
LHP Ben Brecht
New Trier Township High School, Winnetka, Ill.
More than likely, this pick would be another cost savings senior sign, but this exercise isn’t extending into day three, so I intend to use my bonus savings here in taking a run at Brecht. Brecht is a promising prep arm that is still growing into his tall frame and can reach the low 90’s at times with his fastball. Overall, his game is a little raw for the pro level, but you can see the upside in his size and feel for spinning a breaking ball.
Brecht attacks hitters from a higher slot than Lodolo, giving him good plane on his fastball. Like Lodolo, he gets excellent depth on his curveball when his release point is right. Brecht will need to continue adding strength and improve the consistency and command of his pitches, but the potential is there for a solid starter at the middle or back of the rotation. By my estimates, I can offer him third to fourth round money to entice him to forego his commitment to UC Santa Barbara.
While the plan wasn’t necessarily to go heavy in pitching, the board just didn’t break for many hitter selections, as the best options in the middle rounds were prep hitters that had the potential to be tougher signs. However, I was able to grab the eighth-ranked player on my board at pick No. 20, and overall select 11 players from my top 200, six from my top 100. I was still able to nab a high-ceiling prep infielder, though the opportunity never seemed right to get a prep shortstop, one of the weaker positions in the system.
I’m pleased with the selection of a few top college performers that might translate enough of their production to the next level, giving the Dodgers something to show quickly from a draft that on the surface doesn’t have as much talent as previous years. If even one of Wentz, Lodolo, or McClanahan reach their potential, this should be considered a successful class.