With president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman in charge and scouting director Billy Gasparino running the draft, the Dodgers have shown a willingness to take risks when drafting pitchers in hopes of getting big rewards.
Most prominently—and most successfully—the Dodgers selected Walker Buehler with the 24th overall pick in the 2015 draft even though Buehler’s elbow would require Tommy John surgery just weeks later. The pick has paid off in a big way.
The Dodgers had three picks on Day 1 of this year’s draft, providing them with an opportunity to take the same kind of risk-reward pick. With the 78th pick overall, which was compensation for the free agent departure of catcher Yasmani Grandal last winter, the Dodgers picked righthander Jimmy Lewis out of Lake Travis High in Austin, Texas.
The 6-foot-6 Lewis projected very well, but he was committed to Louisiana State and had not pitched after the first round of the Texas high school playoffs despite his school advancing to the semifinal round.
“l had to shut it down,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t going to be able to play. I wasn’t going to be to where I was. It wouldn’t have done any good.
“At the time, we thought it was my lat. My lat was hurting,” he continued. “It was after I hit, I felt like I tweaked it. It was pretty bad for awhile. Later on, we got an MRI with the Dodgers and found out there was a slight tear in my labrum.”
Later on wasn’t until the Dodgers had convinced him to skip college and sign with the organization for a $1.1 million bonus, well above the slot value ($793,000) of the 78th overall pick.
“It was hard,” Lewis said of the decision to forgo college. “But my dream has always been to pitch in MLB, honestly, and this way is the best way to get there. I took a lot of thinking, but I always had my mind set on doing what’s best for my career.”
Surgery will apparently not be necessary to address the labrum tear. Lewis is in the early stages of a throwing program with hopes of being on a mound some time early next year. In the meantime, he has focused on adding strength. He has added about 15 pounds to his frame since signing, and he is now up to 213 pounds.
— Shortstop Gavin Lux and righthander Josiah Gray were selected as the winners of the Dodgers’ Branch Rickey Award as the top minor league player and pitcher in the system for 2019. Lux, who was also named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year, finished the season in the big leagues and hit a home run in his first postseason plate appearance in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Nationals on Oct. 3. Gray, meanwhile, went 11-2, 2.28 with 147 strikeouts in 130 innings while progressing from low Class A Great Lakes to Double A Tulsa this season, his first in the Dodgers’ organization.