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Mocking the first 10 rounds for the Dodgers’ 2018 MLB Draft

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NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Miami vs UC Santa Barbara
Noah Davis may be out with Tommy John surgery, but he showed 2nd round talent before injury.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s draft eve, and one of my favorite articles to do every year is playing general manager/scouting director for the the first 10 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.

Last year, two of the names in my mock draft were eventually drafted by the Dodgers, with an additional name coming from the 2016 version. With only 10 picks this year, my chances of breaking, let alone tying last year’s number feel slim, nevertheless I hope you find this exercise beneficial in seeing how the draft may play out.

The biggest constraint going into the 2018 draft is the budget, as the Dodgers have the smallest bonus pool allotment in MLB this year. Additionally, the Dodgers only pick twice in the first 100 picks, so despite the draft being deeper this year, I expect less talent to choose from in the first few rounds.

My gameplan mirrors the “typical” Billy Gasparino draft, in that I’m looking for the best player available, preferably from the college ranks. We don’t have the budget to splurge on an expensive prep and would not consider exceeding the allotment to lose next year’s first-round pick. Looking at how other mock drafts have shaped up, I’m particularly eyeing Shane McClanahan (3rd on the big board) and Logan Gilbert (8th) as my pipe dream Walker Buehler or Jeren Kendall-type picks, but more realistically, I would be happy if Ryan Rolison (17th) got to 30. Failing that, the first round might be my best shot to grab a high ceiling prep talent that I could sign for slot or close to it.

1st round (pick 30)
Jordan Groshans, SS (Magnolia HS)

The round went close to chalk, with no significant fallers to pick 30. The best player available is Kumar Rocker (6) and he’s only here because of a rumored price tag that would bust the budget. Next would be JT Ginn (20) but as I mentioned earlier this week, he has some additional risk given his size and lack of stamina. I instead focused on the toolsier bats that while risky, don’t carry the additional injury risk that comes with arms. While the Dodgers have been linked to several prep outfielders, I prefer to take chances on player that can stay in the dirt.

Jordan Groshans (24) was the top prep position player left on my board, and I’m excited to grab the toolsy 6’3 infielder. He is listed as a third baseman on my big board but was announced as a shortstop, and given his infield actions and arm, I would let him try to stick before sliding him over. He has enough quickness and twitchy athleticism to be a plus defender at the hot corner if need be.

Groshan’s projectable frame gives him tremendous potential, as he already has a swing conducive to average while flashing power on the summer circuit. His swing can get a little long and he will need to adjust his fairly level plane to tap into his raw power, but the raw tools are there for him to develop into a middle order threat offensively.

As i mentioned earlier this week, his profile isn’t too dissimilar to Corey Seager’s when he was drafted. We will have to see if he has the acumen and tenacity to develop into a 70+ grade hitter like Corey did, but Groshans is a good molding clay for the development staff.

Though he’s a high upside prep player, Groshans should be signable around slot. He’s a Kansas commit, where his brother is the starting catcher, but would likely pass up the one season he would get to play with his brother for first round money.

2nd round (pick 68
Kyle Isbel, CF (UNLV)

I was hoping for California RHP Tanner Dodson to slide to this pick but he’s taken a few picks ahead of me. Dodson is Cal’s closer but one of the more electric and athletic arms in this draft. His numbers are solid but I believe a development staff like the Dodgers could get the most of his arm talent. He’s also a speedy outfielder and on a wild hair, you could try to develop him on both sides, though the offensive payout might not be tremendous.

That’s not to suggest I’m not excited to draft Isbel, who ranked 46th on my big board and was a player I had on my second round shortlist. Isbel has five at least average tools and the acumen to allow his hit, power, and speed to play above their raw rating. Though listed at just 5’11, Isbel has a swimmers build, with longer arms that he uses to full extension and solid leverage at the plate. He still has some room for additional muscle and still maintain his athleticism.

While I don’t quite see Isbel being a middle order threat, I see the potential for .280 with 20 homers and 20 steals, and solid outfield defense. Isbel also has an infield background and could be tried at second base, or brought up in a utility role. He’s been productive at UNLV and could move fairly quickly, with the California League being a potential first season goal.

I should mention that two remaining names on my board I ranked higher than Isbel, I did not consider due to potential price tag/signability. One, Kyler Murray, is QB1 at Oklahoma and could go the way of Russell Wilson. The other, Zach Watson, is a sophomore eligible at Louisiana State and could be a first round candidate in 2019.

3rd round (pick 104)
Kyle Bradish, RHP (New Mexico State)

Not only was Bradish best player available, he was a guy I was long eyeing for this selection. Bradish is one of the top K-rate pitchers in college baseball this season. He has a long and still projectable 6’4 frame, and is especially tough on hitters with a high, overhand slot. He has reportedly reach 96 mph in the past, and though he primarily sits in the low 90s, I would expect that number to tick up a bit with a better monitored pro workload.

Bradish has four pitches, with riding life on his fastball, and a true put away pitch in his 12-6 curve that looks like it has high spin. His slider is a tighter almost cutter like pitch, and his changeup can also be an effective weapon. His mechanics will need some toning down, and it wouldn’t surprise me if his drafting team tried to keep him a little more upright in his delivery to help with his command.

His college delivery and stuff profile is reminiscent to Ross Stripling out of Texas A&M, albeit Bradish’s stuff is better at the same stage of their respective careers. Like Stripling, Bradish’s floor is effective middle relief, but I see potential for a number three starter that can miss bats at the big league level.

4th round (pick 134)
Grant Little, SS (Texas Tech)

I had a few options with this pick, with a couple of good names still on the big board ahead of Little. I passed on prep LHP Garrett Wade, who may not be signable at this point in the draft, and Nick Sandlin was under consideration but his profile feels more like relief pitcher for me.

Grant Little is listed as a LF/@B on the big board, and is Tech’s current LF, but has seen time all over the diamond in college and might have enough athleticism to hang at SS, though my intention was for him to continue playing multiple spots early in his pro career. What we are really look at in Little is the polished bat that can hold down a number of spots. Little has one of the better hit tools and plate approaches in the Big XII, and should move quickly for that reason as a pro.

Little’s power ceiling might be a question mark, but he could be a .285-.295 hitter with 15-20 home runs in an everyday role at a position like second or as a super utility type. Think Kike Hernandez with better bat-to-ball skills.

5th round (pick 164)
Noah Davis, RHP (UC Santa Barbara)

There were higher ranked players on the board still as I select Davis, but given his situation, I will likely still have to go above slot to pull this signing off, but he represents a potential payoff of a first day arm in the fifth round. Davis is available at this point in the draft because he needed Tommy John surgery after just two outings this spring.

When healthy, Davis was becoming an intriguing package of pitchability with developing power. He’s a smallish 6’2 195 lbs., but was always athletic with an easy, repeatable delivery. Over the summer he started to touch the mid 90’s, jumping his profile from back of the rotation to mid rotation.

The Dodgers have shown some willingness to wait on arms with potential injury issues or lengthy injury histories, and Davis’ medical would be important before drafting him. He could always return to school as a redshirt junior to improve his stock, but I’m hoping an above slot deal would encourage Davis to do his rehab with a first rate professional staff.

6th round (pick 194)
Austin Cox, LHP (Mercer)

Cox has been one of the best remaining players on my big board for the last three rounds, so I feel fortuitous to be able to take him here. Like Bradish, Cox rankings pretty high on the D1 K/9 leaderboard, albeit he has not been as dominant at suppressing contact like Bradish.

Cox is a broad shouldered left hander that can run his fastball into the low 90’s, but does much of his damage with a tough 1-7 curveball. He’s pitched as a starter at Mercer and he would be developed that way, but his stuff might tick up in relief, where his fastball command issues might be better covered up.

7th round (pick 224)
Braydon Fisher, RHP (Cedar Falls HS)

The top two players under consideration were young-for-their-class prepsters that might be a little raw for the pro game, but should still be signable on day two given their school commitments. I elected to pass on outfielder Lawrence Butler, who has the ceiling of a power hitting corner outfielder but carries considerable risk in his bat. Instead I take the projectable Texan with great natural arm speed.

Fisher will not likely move as quickly through the ranks as another recent Texas prep Dustin May, but at his peak, Fisher could pitch in the mid to upper 90’s with good life and a slider with good tilt out of a ¾ slot. Fisher has a head whack in his delivery and some command issues to iron out, but he has the frame and natural arm talent that can’t be taught and could be hard to find this late in the draft.

Fisher is a bit of a late riser and is committed to mid-major Lamar, so I will assume his signability on day two even at this point is still good.

8th round (pick 254)
Tarik Skubal, LHP (University of Seattle)

At this stage of the draft, I’m looking for signable arm strength guys that might still project to more, and the talented but erratic Skubal fits the bill. Like Bradish and Cox, Skubal has a high K rate, but his comes with an also high walk rate and struggling command. Part of his struggles can be attributed to this being his return season from Tommy John surgery, so some improvement can be expected.

When right, Skubal can run his lively heater into the mid 90’s, and has a workable curveball but could also be a candidate to add a slider from his arm slot. He might be a better candidate than Cox to stick in the rotation if he can harness his fastball command given his arm strength, but could also be moved to relief as a fall back.

Two notable names ahead of Skubal, Texas’s Bair Henley and California prep infielder JT Schwarz, were passed on due to signability (sophomore eligibility for Henley, tough UCLA commitment for Schwarz).

9th round (pick 284)
Tyler Cropley, C (Iowa)

We’ve come to the part of the draft where the big board takes a back seat to money saving senior signs, though Cropley did get consideration for my top 200. Cropley was one of the better statistical performers in the Big Ten showing both power and the ability to hit for average without racking up the strikeouts. Cropley is athletic for a catcher and has the shorter, looser build we’ve seen in recent Dodger catcher picks, though I have not seen enough about Cropley’s defense to suggest he would be on par with the likes of Will Smith or Connor Wong.

Nonetheless, Cropley was a standout performer in a major conference and should provide savings on slot.

10th round (pick 314
Kevin Magee, LHP (St. John’s)

Magee has a track record of good command with the ability to punch above his weight in terms of strikeouts. Still, he can run his fastball into the low 90’s and back it up with a solid change up. He probably won’t be able to produce at quite the same levels as a pro, especially as he climbs the ladder and player are more adjusted to good speed mixing pitchers. Still, he has bottom rotation upside and the numbers to warrant a shot at starting in pro ball.

Magee is another college senior that will allow the dodgers to save on slot. Incidentally, he’s also the third left handed pitcher taken in the first ten rounds this year, an especially shallow position in the organization. This wasn’t necessarily done intentionally, but it also doesn’t hurt to fill in the gap with some solid performing collegiate arms.

Once again, the draft was heavy on collegians but was done so out of necessity given the slot constraints this year. There’s still plenty of upside, especially with first rounder Groshans, that a star could yet come out of this class, but at the least, the quality college performers will make a deep organization even deeper and more flexible.