Wisconsin SS Not A Lux-ury For Dodgers
LOS ANGELES—Already considered by many evaluators to have the deepest farm system in baseball, the Dodgers got another infusion of talent Thursday.
Thanks to compensation picks for losing Zack Greinke in free agency and failing to sign the 35th pick overall last June (Louisville pitcher Kyle Funkhouser), the Dodgers had four of the first 65 picks on the first day of this year’s draft.
“Our big picture view is the same—take the best talent available,” scouting director Billy Gasparino said of his strategy in making the most out of the glut of picks.
For the first time since drafting shortstop Corey Seager in 2012, the Dodgers went with a position player as their first pick, taking Wisconsin high school shortstop Gavin Lux No. 20 overall and then following that up with another position player, Louisville catcher Will Smith.
Asked for a comparable player, Lux said “some people say Chase Utley.”
“I know the Wisconsin stigma kind of throws some people off,” Gasparino said of the thin history of cold-weather shortstops. “But he’s played in some highly competitive leagues over the summer against some top players. He’s not just some raw kid. He’s advanced, knows what he’s doing on the field. I don’t know an exact timeline but we definitely don’t think he’s a slow mover.
“We just think this type of player does very well historically in the draft. Several of the first-round picks over the years who have the same skill set have gone on to do well. We just thought it was an undervalued, underappreciated skill set—lefthanded hitting shortstops that are athletic and can hit usually overachieve more than underachieve.”
They followed Lux and Smith with two college pitchers—Vanderbilt's Jordan Sheffield and Santa Clara's Mitchell White.
A year ago, the Dodgers’ first pick was another Vanderbilt pitcher, Walker Buehler. He had Tommy John surgery shortly after the draft and has yet to throw a pitch as a professional.
Both Sheffield and White have already had Tommy John surgery.
“In today’s world, it’s almost 'Who doesn’t have Tommy John?” Gasparino said. “It does make us feel better when they’ve been pitching after it for a year with success, with high-end stuff.
“It’s definitely not a strategy as something we’re seeking out. It does seem like something we’re dealing with on a yearly basis a lot, given how many are out there.”
The Dodgers have a signing-bonus pool of approximately $9.3 million this year. Though Lux has signed a letter of intent with Arizona State, he sounded like a teenager eager to sign his first professional contract.
“I want to play professional baseball. I’m kind of set on doing that,” said Lux who has worked out with Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis at a Milwaukee-area facility run by Brewers bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel. “Right now, I just want to get out there and get started as soon as possible.”
• After being sidelined by a minor ankle problem and shoulder inflammation, righthander Jose De Leon rejoined Triple-A Oklahoma City in early June and pitched three hitless innings in his first start, striking out six. The Dodgers had planned to limit De Leon’s innings this season and he had thrown a total of just eight for the OKC Dodgers plus some more in extended spring training.
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• The Dodgers signed former Rangers righthander Nick Tepesch and assigned him to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Tepesch, 27, pitched in 42 games (39 starts) for the Rangers in 2013-14, going 9-17, 4.56. He missed all of the 2015 season after undergoing surgery to treat Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Tepesch was 4-2, 4.11 in 11 starts for Triple-A Round Rock before requesting his release in early June.