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A brief review of the 2018 Dodgers draftees

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Without J.T. Ginn, the class lacks upside

Photo credit: Dale Sparks | WVU Athletic Communications

With the 2019 MLB Draft five days away, why don’t we take a look back at last year’s draft.

Now, we won’t be able to make many definitive statements about last year’s class because baseball draftees don’t move nearly as quickly as those in the NBA and NFL. We might not know there’s a future perennial All-Star among the lot, but there are some encouraging performances to look at thus far.

Round 1 - RHP J.T. Ginn, Brandon HS (Miss.)

Ginn is having a fantastic 2019 season. He has a 3.12 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and a gaudy 11.4 K/9. The only problem is, he’s doing it with Mississippi State University and not, say, the Great Lakes Loons. Ginn did not sign after the Dodgers made him the 30th overall selection in last year’s draft. As a result, the Dodgers were awarded the 31st overall pick in this year’s draft as compensation for not signing Ginn.

Round 2 - RHP Michael Grove, West Virginia University

Photo credit: Dale Sparks | WVU Athletic Communications

Grove was the beneficiary of Ginn not signing. He signed for $1,229,500 as the Dodgers’ second-rounder. When the Dodgers selected him, he was still recovering from Tommy John surgery, so he didn’t appear in an organized game last year. He’s being brought along slowly with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. He’s made eight starts, yet has thrown just 17 innings. The good news is, he’s missing bats — he has a 36.5 strikeout percentage. The bad news is, he has allowed 11 runs (10 earned) in those 17 innings. Four of his outings have been scoreless appearances, so there’s plenty of reason for optimism for the 22-year-old.

Round 3 - LHP John Rooney, Hofstra University

Rooney was another over-slot signing ($563,240) who benefited from Ginn going to college. He threw 20 innings last season between the Arizona Rookie League Dodgers and the Loons. He has logged just 10 13 innings this season after beginning the season at extended spring training. Returning to Great Lakes this season, the southhas allowed 12 hits, 10 runs (nine earned), 10 strikeouts and eight walks in those innings. On the bright side, he has yet to allow a home run in 30 13 career innings.

Round 4 - RHP Braydon Fisher, Clear Falls HS (Texas)

Fisher follows a trend of Dodger draftees in Rounds 3-4 in recent years. They tend to go the high school route, pay over-slot and land a solid prospect — Dustin May comes to mind. Fisher was set to be in the mold. He signed for $497,500. He saw 22 innings with the AZL Dodgers and posted a 2.35 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and struck out 19 hitters (against eight walks) in that time. He was set to see either Ogden or Great Lakes this season, but he had Tommy John surgery in April and will likely be out until late 2020 at the earliest.

Round 5 - 2B Devin Mann, University of Louisville

Mann was an under-slot signing ($272,500) and seemed like someone who could move faster than some of the other draftees. He played mostly with the Loons last season but has found himself with the Quakes this year, and he’s performing pretty well so far — .279/.351/.485. If you’re looking for an MLB comparison, he is the spitting image of D.J. LeMahieu. If he ends up being even a fraction of that, that’ll be a big win for the Dodgers.

Devin Mann
Devin Mann has found himself with the Quakes this year, and he’s performing pretty well so far.
Steve Saenz ~ Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

Round 6 - LHP Bryan Warzek, New Orleans University

If Mann is a candidate for quickest mover among position players, Warzek would be that among pitchers ... if he were to pitch in relief. Instead, the Dodgers are trying him in the rotation, not unlike former farmhand (and, ironically, fifth-rounder) Devin Smeltzer and Josh Sborz before him. He’s struggling a bit with the Quakes after an impressive debut season that saw him strikeout 15.3 batters per nine innings between the AZL Dodgers and Loons. With Rancho, he has a 5.55 ERA and a 29:28 K:BB ratio at the moment.

Round 7 - OF James Outman, California State University, Sacramento

One of my personal favorites (#StingersUp), Outman ($157,500 under-slot) got off to a slow start in both 2018 (1-for-25) and 2019 (.188/.341/.261), but has since picked things up with the Loons. Overall this season, Outman owns a .255/.371/.342 batting line. While the power isn’t yet there, he plays excellent defense in center field and has good on-base skills.

Round 8 - IF Luke Heyer, Univeristy of Kentucky

The Dodgers have a bit of a pipeline with Kentucky and other SEC schools. Heyer ($47,500 under-slot) was a big-time performer in college, but it hasn’t yet translated to the majors. He’s hitting just .239/.317/.446 in 104 plate appearances with the Loons. The pop has been there, but the walk-to-strikeout rate (9:40) hasn’t been great.

Round 9 - OF Josh McLain, North Carolina State University

A senior sign ($7,500), the Dodgers actually drafted McLain in the 14th round of the 2017 draft, but he elected to go back to NC State. He hasn’t appeared in a game yet this season, but he had a somewhat successful 2018 as he hit .303/.335/.388 — mostly with Great Lakes.

Round 10 - SS/2B Deacon Liput, University of Florida

Liput was in the same situation as McLain, as he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 29th round in 2017. He was a draft-eligible sophomore, so he had more leverage. The Dodgers redrafted him in ‘18 and he signed for just a bit under-slot at $134,500. He showed well in his first season and began the ‘19 campaign with Rancho. But after appearing in the first two games, he spent the next roughly seven weeks on the minor-league injured list. Overall, he’s 4-for-17 (.235) with a double this season.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Arkansas vs Florida
Deacon Liput could be one to watch for the rest of the season.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

As a bonus, let’s look at a few later-round selections from the 2018 draft class who warrant a following.

Round 12 - C Hunter Feduccia, LSU

Feduccia is someone I didn’t rank in my Top 100 prospects, but I probably should have. He’s playing with Great Lakes and while the sample size is small, he does have a .270/.407/.427 batting line in 113 plate appearances. With the Dodgers’ ability to develop catchers, Feduccia might be more than just organizational depth.

Round 15 - LHP Julian Smith, Catawba Valley Community College (North Carolina)

Smith got the highest post-10th round bonus given out by the Dodgers. It wasn’t that much over the $125,000 slot ($152,500 bonus), but he obviously impressed the Dodgers’ scouts in college that he was worth it. There are no statistics to pass along because Smith has yet to log a professional inning in the org. But the scouting reports are all encouraging and once he takes the hill, he could be a quick mover.

Round 18 - OF Niko Hulsizer, Morehead State University

When he was drafted, the book on Hulsizer was his immense power. After a strong showing in ‘18, he has been even better this season in the Midwest League. Hulsizer has a .273/.389/.604 batting line with a league-high-tying 12 home runs. While the strikeouts are concerning (28.1 K%), the power is enticing.