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Dodgers Put Away Moneyball Myths

June 7, 2004
By Chris Kline

The Dodgers dispelled all the Moneyball myths that have arisen since Paul DePodesta became their general manager by selecting two high schoolers in the first round. Both also had a Missouri flavor as well.

DePodesta and scouting director Logan White took lefthander Scott Elbert 17th overall and third baseman Blake DeWitt at No. 28.

"A lot's been made about the whole 'Moneyball' thing," White said, referring to DePodesta's days with the Athletics organization. "Paul and I get a kick out of it sometimes and sometimes, to be quite frank, we get annoyed with it too. We just came into this with the mindset to take the best players available, and I think our staff did a really nice job."

Elbert and DeWitt played high school ball just 279 miles apart in Missouri, and faced each other last summer on traveling teams.

"He's a great player and he deserved to get picked where he did," Elbert said of DeWitt. "Great hitter. It's going to be fun being two guys from the same state starting off our professional careers together."

Elbert was the consensus top high school lefty in the nation entering the season at Seneca High. He struck out 17 in his first start and never looked back.

He features a hard, sinking fastball that sits consistently at 90-93 mph, and his changeup also has diving action. He scrapped his curveball in favor of a slider, and it is now in the mid-80s range.

He was also among the state leaders in home runs this spring and was the state's top running back as a junior. He ran for a state-best 2,449 yards and scored 36 touchdowns in 2002, carrying Seneca to the state Class 3 semifinals, but gave up football last fall to focus on baseball.

"I knew I wanted to be a professional something and I had no chance to play in the NFL," said the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder. "This is the best opportunity I have, and I consider myself to be on a three-year plan to hopefully make it to the big leagues."

DeWitt split his time on the mound and at short this season for Sikeston High, but his best tool is his bat. The lefthanded-hitting Georgia Tech signee batted .544 with 11 home runs this year and was considered one of the safest bets to hit among high school prospects. DeWitt's power still shows when he uses wood in batting practice. The 6-foot, 175-pounder doesn't project as a shortstop, however, and the Dodgers will move him to third as a pro.

"I think he projects best at third right now," White said. "He's got good hands and he's bigger and stronger than most shortstops. I think he'll handle the move fine. He uses the whole field and we believe that you have to hit before the you can utilize the power. And this kid can hit."

The organization's third pick was Virginia Commonwealth righthander Justin Orenduff, chosen with supplemental pick (33rd overall) for the loss of reliever Paul Quantrill. Orenduff and his three solid pitches went 4-5, 2.49 performance in the spring and had 123 strikeouts against 31 walks in 94 innings for the Rams. He has a prototype pitcher's body, compact delivery, and loose, easy arm action. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder, who pitched for Team USA last summer, works off a heavy 87-93 mph sinker and supplements it with a deceptive changeup and a slider with cutter action.

"I think he's the most polished pitcher we got this year," White said. "He's been in a lot of big competition, so he's used to the pressure. He's got a great power slider that's pretty tough to beat."

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

Righthander Javy Guerra went in the fourth round and features a very intriguing delivery. For Denton Ryan High in Denton, Texas, Guerra tends to hop off the mound before he goes into his windup, though he has toned it down recently and was hitting 95 mph last weekend in the state playoffs. "I do think when our coaches get him in, they're going to try to smooth it out further," White said. "He's a guy with a power arm and if that's the only adjustment he needs to make, he'll be fine."

Of the Dodgers first 20 picks, 10 were college players, six came from high school and four from junior colleges. They took 11 position players and nine pitchers--six righthanders and three lefties.

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