Even with all of the advanced analytics and sophisticated evaluation tools, one thing remains true—the draft is an inexact science.
In 2015, the Dodgers saw enough in righthander Imani Abdullah to use an 11th-round pick on him, even though the San Diego prep was planning to attend San Diego State and had pitched just two seasons in high school.
The Dodgers were so optimistic about the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Abdullah’s potential that they enlisted co-owner Magic Johnson in their recruiting pitch. Johnson called Abdullah, helping to sway him to sign with the Dodgers.
But three years later, Abdullah had pitched just 105.2 innings as a professional and had reached high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. In July, the 21-year-old retired from baseball.
“He just didn’t have the love of the game anymore,” farm director Brandon Gomes said this summer. “He wanted to put his energy into other things. College is on the table for him. He was interested in real estate, the business side of things. Imani was a bright guy with a lot of interests other than baseball—unfortunately for us.”
Abdullah ranked as high as No. 22 on the organization’s prospect list, which he did coming into 2018.
The righthander had shoulder issues in 2017 and made just six starts at low Class A Great Lakes. This year, he started the season in the California League but pitched just eight innings, walking 13 in that time.
“We tried to rebuild his delivery a little bit last year,” Gomes said. “This year, he just wasn’t throwing strikes in the same capacity.”
Dealing with the frustration of that process proved to be too difficult for Abdullah.
“It’s difficult even if you’re totally committed, and his heart just wasn’t in it,” Gomes said. “You certainly see why people were interested. But this game is tough. A lot of things are stacked against you. Everyone fails at some point, and you have to decide if you’re going to put everything into it.
“Being cerebral can be a blessing and a curse in baseball. I have no doubt he’s going to do very well in whatever he decides to pursue.”
• The Dodgers made a minor league trade with the White Sox in the days after the season ended, sending Triple-A lefthander Manny Banuelos to Chicago for 22-year-old first baseman Justin Yurchak. A 12th-round pick in 2017, Yurchak hit .256/.348/.326 with one home run in 95 games at low Class A Kannapolis this season.
The White Sox added Banuelos to their 40-man roster. Otherwise he would have qualified for minor league free agency.