The importance of power today’s era of baseball was obvious in how the Dodgers set their priorities for this year’s draft.
With their first two picks this past June, the Dodgers selected Tulane third baseman Kody Hoese and North Carolina slugger Michael Busch, who combined to hit 39 home runs this spring.
Last year, the Dodgers used an 18th-round pick on another college player with power potential in outfielder Niko Hulsizer, who won the 2017 college home run derby after mashing an Ohio Valley Conference record 27 home runs as a sophomore at Morehead State. In 2018, a broken hand limited Hulsizer’s playing time, but he still managed to hit 12 home runs with a 1.049 OPS as a junior. That was good enough for the Dodgers to draft him in the 18th round, and his power potential has carried over into tangible results in his first full professional season in 2019.
“We really liked his power potential,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “He put in a lot of work this offseason with our guys. The fact that he is capturing so much of that so early on in his professional career is really encouraging.”
Where Hulsizer has managed to show off his power has also caught the attention of the Dodgers’ front office.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Hulsizer hit .281 with nine home runs in 48 games at Rookie-level Ogden last year then moved up to low Class A Great Lakes for the beginning of the 2019 season. He was among the best hitters in the Midwest League over the first half, ranking second in home runs (15), slugging percentage (.574) and OPS (.969) before being promoted to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga on June 19.
“Yeah, for sure,” Friedman said, when asked if Hulsizer’s numbers mean more in the Midwest League. “We have not had very good offensive production in Great Lakes over the past four years. I didn’t even know it was possible until this year. It’s been up and down our lineup. But Niko especially stood out in that group.”
Hulsizer’s raw power is his greatest asset, Friedman said, but he also praised Hulsizer for devoting his offseason to work on creating a more efficient swing with the Dodgers’ coaching staff.
— Dodgers’ first-round pick Kody Hoese signed quickly and joined the Dodgers’ Rookie-level Arizona League team on June 17. He hit a home run in his second game and went 7-for-9 in his first three games with four doubles and the aforementioned home run.
— The Dodgers’ trade with the Reds this past December was headlined by former All-Stars Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood and was superficially seen as strictly a salary dump. But the Dodgers also obtained two minor leaguers who are making their case as potential Top 10 prospects in their new organization. After a rough April, when he hit just .213, infielder Jeter Downs has raised his season batting average to .251 with a .790 OPS and 12 home runs for high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Meanwhile, righthander Josiah Gray went 1-0, 1.93 with an 0.83 WHIP in five starts for low Class A Great Lakes, earning a promotion to Rancho Cumcamonga, where he accumulated a 3-0, 3.12 record with a 1.13 WHIP through his first seven starts.