The Dodgers made two picks on the first day of the MLB Draft, selecting speedy Texas high school outfielder Kendall George at No. 36 overall, and taking power-hitting Virginia third baseman Jake Gelof in the second round at No. 60.
“I’ve been coaching for 25 years, and he’s by far the best runner I’ve ever had,” George’s high school coach Eric Matthews told Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times. “It’s electric, game-changing speed.”
George’s speed is considered an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
“He makes a lot of contact and doesn’t chase much, though his power is limited and it doesn’t seem like that will ever be a big part of his game,” wrote Ben Badler at Baseball America. “George is a good prospect, but seeing the Dodgers draft him here is surprising.”
George said the Dodgers were going to pick him in the second round, but shifted at the last minute to take him 36th overall.
“The way the draft unfolded, we just didn’t want to lose him,” Dodgers vice president of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino said. “We valued him that much.”
What changed, says Eric Longenhagen at FanGraphs, was the Marlins drafting Massachusetts high school left-hander Thomas White at No. 35, one before the Dodgers:
The Dodgers had their pocket picked by Miami (Thomas White) and diverted to elite speedster Kendall George, who I expect will sign for less than slot. That should give Los Angeles the flexibility go over at some point during Day Two.
Though not commenting specifically on whether George would sign for an under-slot bonus, he did say the outfielder would give the Dodgers more flexibility on Day 2 of the draft.
Of note, White was the first left-handed pitcher drafted on Sunday, which snapped a 44-year streak of at least one lefty pitcher getting drafted in the first round, per Carlos Collazo at Baseball America.
Keith Law at The Athletic found the combination of George and Gelof to be a strange pairing for the Dodgers:
The Dodgers’ picks mystified me, and I say that knowing full well that they have been one of the best drafting teams in baseball for a long time. I’m fine with Jake Gelof in the second round, but there’s more risk to him than is typical for a college bat because he has such an issue with high fastballs.
Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com noted the decrease in strikeout rate for Gelof over the last two years, from 18.7 percent in 2022 to 16.3 percent this year.
“He might be power-over-hit in the future because he has a big swing,” Mayo wrote, “but he managed to limit strikeouts while getting to his power during his junior year at Virginia.”
Power is Gelof’s game, setting single-season (23) and career (48) home run records at the University of Virginia. Gelof’s father Adam tweeted a picture of Jake wearing a Dodgers uniform in Little League.
@Dodgers Thank you for believing in my son @jakegelof . You drafted an intensely motivated young man that is gonna do everything in his power to show Dodgers fans how bad he wants to help them win games. BTW he will hit dingers. 1st one in LL Dodgers blue age 9. pic.twitter.com/kwdxafEd9k— Adam Gelof (@adam_gelof) July 10, 2023