The MLB Draft was 18 days ago, and the Dodgers added a healthy group of prospects to its stable. In the Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Billy Gasparino era, the Dodgers have added some quality prospects, none more quality than Walker Buehler.
In the second round of the 2015 draft, though, the Dodgers selected prep outfielder Mitchell Hansen and signed him for almost $1 million. Yesterday, the Dodgers released him. He had the physicality to be a power-hitting corner outfielder, but he could never figure out A-ball pitching. He did well enough in the Pioneer League with Ogden (.847 and 1.029 OPS in two separate seasons), but he struggled with Great Lakes in two different stints — .208/.284/.318. Those Shawn Green comparisons may have been a bit hasty. David Hood ranked him as the 33rd-best prospect in the system before this season, while I had him at a much more pessimistic 68. Sometimes, players just don’t work out.
The MLB Draft is a bigger crapshoot than any other draft, so the farther you get away from the No. 1 pick, the less likely you’re going to land a star player. It’s the same in every sport, but it’s even more amplified in baseball.
The Dodgers’ second-rounders since the new front office took over have been Hansen, Josh Sborz (competitive balance selection), Mitchell White, Morgan Cooper and now Michael Grove. Sborz has finally transitioned to the bullpen and could make it to LA next year (if he’s still with the org), White has shown flashes of brilliance, but he has struggled to find his groove this season. Cooper was thought to be a safer, higher-floor selection, but he has yet to throw a pitch in the Dodgers’ organization. Grove hasn’t thrown since last summer and likely won’t see the mound until the instructional league. None of these guys seem like they’re going to be the one to turn things around for Dodger second-rounders, but they could still be quality contributors.
But the thing is, the Dodgers haven’t had much success with their second-rounders since the inception of the draft. The best player they have drafted in the second round, using Baseball-Reference’s WAR, is Chase Utley (65.6), but he didn’t sign with the Dodgers out of high school, opting to attend UCLA. He turned down a million bucks to do so, in a decision I don’t think he regrets. The next-best player was Bill Buckner (15.1), who was solid but, well, you know. Next up is Sid Bream (11.1), who played all of 66 games with the team. After that, it’s slim pickins. The polarizing Jonathan Broxton had a career WAR of 8.4, Joel Hanrahan was at 4.6 and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Dave Hansen was at 3.8.
Alex Verdugo has a chance to be second on the list, but he’s a long way from accumulating that many wins above replacement.
There have been plenty of good second-round selections since the draft began in 1965. The Reds have fared pretty well, selecting guys like Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin and Joey Votto. Two of the greatest pitchers ever were second-rounders in Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux. Barry Bonds, the greatest player of all-time — as hard as that is to write — was a second-rounder. Other second-rounders who went onto be Hall of Famers include George Brett, Tom Glavine, Cal Ripken, Mike Schmidt and Alan Trammell.
This isn’t to say the Dodgers are bad for not having drafted a second-rounder who had a Hall of Fame trajectory. I’m mainly pointing out that the Dodgers haven’t had the greatest luck in the second round of the draft.
Scouting is hard. Finding gems outside the first round is even harder. Recent years haven’t yielded any “can’t miss” guys, but there is at least some hope for guys like Verdugo and White.
Fare thee well, Mitch. Here’s hoping he catches on somewhere and realizes his potential.