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How the Dodgers missed out on Chase Utley in 1997

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Their 2nd-round pick in 1997 decided instead to go to UCLA

UCLA Bruins Photo by Collegiate Images via Getty Images

Most of the time when teams reach in the draft for a high school player, it seems to happen relatively later in the draft. The Dodgers drafted David Price in the 19th round in 2004, and picked Paul Goldschmidt in the 49th round in 2006, for instance.

Both players went to college instead.

That was the case with Chase Utley, too, but the Dodgers were much closer to convincing the Long Beach Poly grad to turn pro. They drafted him in the second round in 1997, and the Dodgers were his favorite team growing up.

Utley talked with Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer about his draft experiences:

“My dad, who was a lawyer, felt he could handle the negotiations and he got to a number that seemed very fair for where I was drafted. That coincided with me going on my senior trip with a bunch of high school buddies. So my dad told the Dodgers that he’d reconvene the conversation when I got back. I went down to Cabo and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed being outside with my buddies and I enjoyed that atmosphere and I decided during that week that I wasn’t ready to go to pro ball. I wanted to continue my education as well as play baseball at UCLA. I wanted to experience college life and when I got back I told my parents. Obviously the Dodgers were disappointed.”

Despite the Dodgers’ “very fair” offer, Utley instead chose a different Los Angeles path, going to UCLA. Three years later he was drafted by the Phillies in the first round, and built a borderline Hall of Fame-caliber career.

Six other players drafted by the Dodgers in 1997 would reach the majors, though five of them didn’t sign with LA. Those six combined to play 214 games in the big leagues and totaled -0.2 Wins Above Replacement.

Left-handed pitcher Steve Colyer, taken in the supplemental portion of the second round, seven picks after Utley, was the only player drafted and signed by the Dodgers that year to make the majors. He pitched in 61 games, all in relief, in parts of three seasons for three teams, posting a 5.04 ERA. Colyer had a 2.75 ERA in 19⅔ innings for the Dodgers in 2003.

Links

  • Speaking of unsigned draftees, Dan Szymborski at FanGraphs examined which teams lost out on the most drafted talent. The Dodgers have the third-most missed WAR before age 30 from unsigned drafted player, most notably missing out on Utley and Tom Seaver (1965, 10th round).
  • Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus eviscerated Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt for his ridiculous comment Tuesday that baseball “isn’t very profitable.” From Mains: “Bill DeWitt has earned returns on his baseball investment that are far, far higher than anyone outside his financial class could reasonably expect.”