It’s draft day, and one of my favorite articles to do every year is play general manager/scouting director for the the first ten rounds of the MLB Draft for the the Los Angeles Dodgers. While I try to consider the Dodgers’ methodology and developmental practices, the picks are made using my Top 200 big board. The picks made by the other 29 teams come from the latest Baseball America mock draft, with rounds 2-10 being selected by “best player available” in the Baseball America Top 500.
I’ve had some good fortune in getting at least one player right (though not the round) in my last three mocks, so I am feeling the pressure this year to uphold the streak. That being said, I want to stress that these picks are still my own and reflect the direction I would go, and not fall back on rumored names linked to the Dodgers at various picks unless that player makes too much sense.
While the Dodgers have a little extra currency with the two first round picks, the lack of a pick in round two leads to a steep drop in talent and bonus allotment between picks two and three, so the budget will have to be well managed and overslot players might still be tough to wedge into the pool. That said, I feel there are a few budget risks I can take on day two to still land a quality class with upside.
Like the last few drafts, I do appreciate the Gasparino approach heavy on college players with tools, while also giving a nod to players that have elite production that could possibly translate to the pro level. I don’t intend to draft for need, let alone organizational need, as the system is still deep and shouldn’t weigh into any personnel decisions. If anything, the development team’s overall success in getting players with tools to translate them to performance might allow me to take risks on underproductive collegians.
I don’t have any particular targets with the first overall pick, and I don’t expect any major prospects to slide, though I do expect a player or two in my 60 grade tier to be available, so pitchers are strongly in the mix for the first pick.
First round, with the 25th pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers select Quinn Priester, LHP, Cary-Grove HS
As I expected, I had my pick of pitchers in my 60 grade tier and chose the one with the most upside in Priester. Priester is an athletic 6’3 arm that flashes a plus sinking fastball and downer breaking ball and enough command to start his pro career. I expect Priester to go ahead of the Dodgers tonight in 15-22 pick range, so getting him at 25 is great value.
Priester might require a bit more than slot at 25, given his value exceeds the selection, but I don’t expect the amount to require budget picks later on day two for now.
First round, with the 31st pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers select Ethan Small, LHP, Mississippi State
Going just a smidge off the board in passing on Drey Jameson, a pitcher I really like for his athleticism and upside, to take the top collegiate performer with unreal strikeout numbers in the top RPI conference. While Small’s stuff might not be much better than average presently, his feel for pitching is off the charts and he knows how to attack the modern swing.
I felt I would not get a second chance at Small in the comp round, and would really like to see what growth the development team can get from him. He should move very quickly and provide the organization immediate value as an asset to either move or free up others to move.
Compensation round B, with the 78th pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers select Ryan Jensen, RHP, Fresno State
Three picks, three pitchers, but I’m playing the board again and Jensen was best available. I believe Jensen will go ahead of this pick tonight, but he’s good value here as one of the more athletic power arms in the collegiate pool, and one I feel is just tapping into his potential. Jensen is a little undersized at 6’0, and not everyone feels he is fit for starting, but he holds mid 90’s velocity deep in his outings and could turn the corner with a sharper breaking ball.
Jensen is likely a slot pick money-wise, and while I don’t want to stray too far from my board, I will probably need to prioritize bats early on day two.
Third round, with the 102nd pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers select Ivan Johnson, 2B, Chipola JC
Johnson was a pseudo-target for day two as a young bat with potential. He struggled at the division one level but has rehabbed his image at the plate with Chipola. Johnson has excellent bat speed and some feel for hit, especially if he can improve the consistency of his plate approach. If he can stay at second or even short, he will also bring plus power to the position.
His defensive home is still in question, but the development team can sort that out while working with some of the better raw offensive tools available from the junior college ranks.
Fourth round, with the 131st pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers select Matt Gorski, CF, Indiana
Gorski fits the mold of the tools over skills collegian that might benefit from the Dodgers development team. He comes from a very astute, data-driven program at Indiana that tolerated a healthy amount of swing and miss, so some of the themes he would transfer to in pro ball should be familiar.
Gorski reminds me of a right handed Cody Thomas with football size, plus bat speed and raw power. Like Thomas, he can probably handle all three outfield positions now but will likely settle into a corner. Gorski has high risk due to his large strike zone and poor pitch recognition, but equally high reward if he can figure some things out offensively.
Fifth round, with the 161st pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers select Tyler Fitzgerald, SS, Louisville
I actually considered drafting Fitzgerald in my mock draft in 2016 in the second round, and he was a targeted selected on day two this year. Fitzgerald was awash with tools upon arriving at Louisville, and still will show at least average tools across the board as he’s developed. Fitzgerald has started to put everything together this year as a junior, but is a good candidate for a swing change to better tap into his raw power.
I like the idea of developing Fitzgerald at short, though he could move across the diamond to second base in time. He has a short stroke that could loosen up some, and he’s still a good athlete with potential for improvement. After three seasons at Louisville, he is now cheaper bonus-wise and could move fairly quickly through the early minors. He is a better prospect than last year’s Louisville infielder Devin Mann, but brings a similar versatile game to the pros.
Sixth round, with the 191st pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers select Dante Biasi, LHP, Penn State
Back to best available, Biasi isn’t as toolsy as previous picks, but was one of the better strikeout performers in major division one baseball this year. The left hander is almost a poor man’s Ethan Small, playing around with hesitation and quick pitching to deceive hitters. Biasi has a low 90’s fastball that sneaks up on hitters thanks to one of the better change ups from the college pool.
Biasi’s upside is likely 4th or 5th starter or relief, but his aptitude and strikeout production gives him a chance to exceed expectations if he can clean up his breaking ball and possibly up his velocity a tick.
Seventh round, with the 221st pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers select Cameron Meeks, RHP, Sam Houston HS
It’s tough to take high schoolers this late and buy them out of big college commitments, but sometimes pop-up players with smaller school scholarships will be willing to take a solid six figure bonus to take their shot at pro ball. Like Brayden Fisher last season, a Lamar commit, Cameron Meeks has a projectable build and improving arm strength that might be ready for the pro game and his commitment to McNeese State may not prove a big enough obstacle to signing if the Dodgers come calling.
Meeks has a short arm action and his breaking ball and command are both raw, but he’s a good athlete and his velocity is trending upward. He will have to be developed slow and may need a second year at short-season, but the payoff could be a mid rotation starter.
Eighth round, with the 251st pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers select Hayden Wesneski, RHP, Sam Houston State
Going back to the board and best available, Wesneski is a strike-thrower with a durable build and a sinker that has reached the mid 90’s. He has a low slot that makes spinning a quality breaking ball difficult, and could possibly need a move to the pen at some point. But he has arm strength and a proven collegiate track record to build on.
Ninth round, with the 281st pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers select Eric Yang, C, UC Santa Barbara
There are a handful of solid college catchers with a little bit of athleticism and the receiving skills to meet the new mold of catchers the Dodgers use. The position is certainly not a weakness in the organization, but you can never have enough quality backstops. I like other catchers more defensively, but Yang has a short stroke and a good feel for hitting, with the movement skills to develop into a solid receiver.
Tenth round, with the 311th pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers select Dane Acker, RHP, San Jacinto JC
Typically, this pick, and often the previous two, goes to college seniors that will help conserve the budget for a few day three selections. Since I’m not mocking the third day, Acker is my version of an overslot 11th or 12th rounder. Acker is committed to Oklahoma and could become a top five round arm if he finds success in a Big XII rotation, but might consider starting his pro career with a six figure bonus.
Acker doesn’t bring as much potential as other junior college arms, but already has average command of three pitches and fastball that shows good sink in the low 90’s. He has a quick arm and a repeatable motion and should stick to starting pitching as he climbs the ladder. His strikeout production is a little short compared to other junior college arms being taken on day two, but tightening his breaking ball and pushing his command toward plus could give him enough bat missing stuff to become a number three or four starter.