Pitching remains a staple of Dodgers' Draft plans
Fast-track collegians a likely target in pool rich with arms
LOS ANGELES -- The sudden epidemic of Tommy John surgeries in baseball isn't so sudden to Dodgers vice president Logan White.
It's an occupational risk he considers every year at this time, when -- more often than not -- he ties his livelihood to the fragility of some kid's ulnar collateral ligament.
White almost always takes signable pitchers in the first round, and this Draft seems to play right into his wheelhouse. The only recent tweak, demonstrated last year, was shifting an emphasis from high-ceiling high schoolers to more fast-track collegians. That's probably the way he'll go with the 22nd-overall pick.
The 2014 Draft will take place on Thursday-Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 3 p.m. PT. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 4 p.m. PT, with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 9:30 a.m. PT on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft and tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
"This Draft, more than any other I can remember, has velocity," said White. "Some will call it pitching rich, but you've got to do your homework and sort it out. There are a lot of quality arms.
"But it's an unusual year with what's happening with the Tommy John surgeries and injuries -- and it's happening at the collegiate level, too. Already, there have been two go down that figured to be taken before we pick, meaning that will thin out the group that gets to us. So the injury issue has shaken up scouting, too."
Chris Withrow, a first-round pick in 2007, is the latest Dodger claimed by the Tommy John plague. Chad Billingsley and Scott Elbert, also Dodgers first-rounders, are working back from last year's operations.
White said he has long subscribed to a selection theory that assigns equal weight to quantity and quality because of predictable attrition.
"You've heard me say over and over why I draft a lot of pitchers, " said White. "It's my 4/2 rule. For every four you take, two will break, probably need surgery at some point. So I draft a lot of pitchers. Some clubs will stay away from the pitchers because they worry about the injuries. I think that's wrong.
"Pitching is always the most valuable commodity. You have to draft pitching. I try to draft the player that will have the greatest impact on the Major League level for the longest time. That's the type of player I look for, and he's often a pitcher. You hope it's a [Clayton] Kershaw or a [Matt] Kemp. That's what you're shooting for."
The Dodgers pick 22nd overall this year. Last year, they selected 20-year-old Chris Anderson, a junior right-handed pitcher from Jacksonville University, with their first pick (18th overall).
That was a shift from White's fondness for taking high school pitchers with high ceilings, but not a departure from his fondness for taking pitchers, in general. The Dodgers have taken pitchers first in 10 of the last 11 Drafts.
Here's a glance at what the Dodgers have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The Dodgers took a college pitcher last year in the first round, and it's a good bet they will do it again this year, since pitchers are plentiful. White said this year's Draft is thin in collegiate position players.
Beyond acknowledging his track record of drafting pitchers, White won't be pinned down on specific players he's targeting. But he almost always goes for high-ceiling arms, which is how he landed Kershaw and Billingsley.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, in his latest mock draft, projects the Dodgers taking University of Virginia right-hander Nick Howard. In earlier MLB.com mock drafts, California high schoolers Jacob Gatewood (shortstop) and Derek Hill (outfielder) showed up on the Dodgers' radar.
Dodgers bonus pool
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax, plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage, as well as the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax, plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Dodgers have $4,947,700 to spend on their first 10 picks, ranking 25th in MLB, with $1,980,500 designated for the first-round pick. While the team can afford to surpass its allotted pool, it will not hit the penalty threshold to lose a first-round pick.
Big league needs almost never influence the Dodgers' Draft, as their selection list usually begins and ends with pitching. If they did draft by need, a run-producing catcher might top the list, followed by a first baseman to groom for life after Adrian Gonzalez. They've loaded up on international middle infielders, like Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena, and one of them figures to push Corey Seager to third base.
The Dodgers are about as transparent as they come with the Draft. Whatever their needs, they usually draft pitchers. Whatever is bountiful in a particular class, they usually draft pitchers. Whoever is owner of the club, they usually draft pitchers. In White's 12 years in charge of the Draft, he's taken a pitcher first 10 times.
* Recent Draft History *
The best qualifier for this category might be Anderson, last year's top pick, even though he hasn't exactly dominated the California League, with a 2-4 record and 5.96 ERA. But the Dodgers still think he could arrive in the big leagues quickly, which was the point of taking a college pitcher.
Brian Wilson was drafted in the 24th round in 2003 by San Francisco, but the best homegrown Cinderella story for the Dodgers is A.J. Ellis. Ellis was drafted in the 18th round in 2003 and spent five years strictly in the Minor Leagues, then another four years shuttling between L.A. and Triple-A before given a legitimate chance to start.
In The Show
From the current 25-man roster, Ellis (18th round in 2003), Kemp (sixth round in 2003), Kershaw (first round in 2006), Scott Van Slyke (14th round in 2005) and Dee Gordon (fourth round in 2008) were drafted by the Dodgers and developed by their Minor League system.
The Dodgers' recent top picks
2013 -- Anderson, RHP, Class A Rancho Cucamonga
2012 -- Seager, SS, Class A Rancho Cucamonga
2011 -- Chris Reed, LHP, Double-A Chattanooga
2010 -- Zach Lee, RHP, Triple-A Albuquerque
2009 -- Aaron Miller, RHP (switched to OF), Class A, Rancho Cucamonga
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.