Dodgers Once Again Mine Vanderbilt For Talent
The Dodgers might as well set up a booth on Career Day at Vanderbilt.
Each of the past three years, the Dodgers have taken a Vanderbilt player with one of their first picks in the draft. Two years ago, they took righthander Walker Buehler in the first round. Last year, they took another righthander, Jordan Sheffield, with their pick in the compensation round.
This year, they went back to Vanderbilt for their first-round pick, taking speedy outfielder Jeren Kendall with the 23rd pick overall.
“It’s pretty coincidental,” Dodgers director of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino said of the trio of picks. “Obviously we have a lot of respect for the program. We think they do things very well. After interacting with some of the staff there, we know them pretty well. . . . But it just kind of happened this way.”
In Kendall, the Dodgers are getting “a pretty explosive player” as Gasparino put it. Kendall (whose father, Jeremey, spent five years in the Phillies system, topping out at Double-A) offers a compelling combination of speed and power.
In three seasons at Vanderbilt, the 6-foot, 190-pound Kendall stole 67 bases in 83 attempts with a .939 OPS. As a junior this past season, he led the Commodores in hits, runs scored and home runs (15) while batting .307.
But he also struck out nearly once in every three at-bats, a troubling strikeout rate the Dodgers might be willing to tolerate if he is productive in other areas.
“I think every player has a development piece—sometimes more than one if he’s going to reach the major leagues,” Gasparino said. “I think that’s definitely Kendall’s area of improvement.
“I think what we do know is when he puts the ball in play there’s a speed-power result that happens whether it’s home runs or doubles or the ability to steal bases. So if he can raise that contact rate up and put more balls in play he has a chance to be a very productive major-leaguer.”
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With their second-round pick, the Dodgers stayed in college, taking Texas righthander Morgan Cooper with the 62nd pick overall.