Dodgers finish off draft with surplus of pitchers

Dodgers finish off draft with surplus of pitchers
Dodgers' first round draft pick Walker Buehler has pitched in Dodger Stadium before, during the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic. (Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

While the highest profile picks happened two days ago, the MLB draft only concluded Wednesday afternoon after a marathon session of 30 rounds. Overall, the Dodgers selected 42 players, 25 of whom were pitchers.

The Dodgers did not plan on taking so many arms, but as the days progressed, they continued to do so.


"I was shocked," Billy Gasparino, the team's scouting director, said about the final numbers. "I would have said it would be the other way, 24 or 25 hitters. But we really tried to talk to hitters a lot this year. We scouted them a lot, both on the high school and college level, and we thought it was going to fall to us that way, but it didn't."

Gasparino said in particular the team's top selections, right-handers Walker Buehler of Vanderbilt and Kyle Funkhouser of Louisville, have the ability and polish to contribute on the major league level as starters as soon as next season.

"Walker Buehler and Kyle Funkhouser were supposed to go in the top 15 picks, so to get two of those guys at pick 24 and 35, we thought was great value," Gasparino said. "The timeline of these guys is very quick, in our opinion. They're advanced, they're ready. The amount of development is just a lot smaller. We expect these guys to be on the fast track going forward."

Although Gasparino said the team did not approach the draft with short-term goals in mind, that pitching depth will be key for a team that does not have starter Brett Anderson and relievers Brandon League and Juan Nicasio under contract after this season.

The third pitcher of the Dodgers' first four picks, Virginia's Josh Sborz, will take more time to develop as he transitions from closing on the NCAA level to starting in the minor leagues, Gasparino said.

But in the immediate future, it could take time until Buehler, Funkhouser and Sborz are officially part of the Dodgers, Gasparino said, as they wrap up their collegiate careers and also take some time off. The deadline to sign draft picks is midnight, July 17, and Gasparino said some picks might not sign until the week of the cutoff date.

With their later picks, the Dodgers continued to take players who others passed on because of a high risk associated with them. This strategy fell in line with what Gasparino said before the draft, as Los Angeles has other options for acquiring talent.

Perhaps no pick exemplified this strategy as much as the Dodgers' fifth-round selection, high school shortstop Brendon Davis. At the beginning of the year, Davis was rated among the top 130 prospects in the nation, but after a tractor accident in February in which he fractured his left wrist, he missed his senior season.

"That's one of the advantages of doing our work in the summer and fall," Gasparino said. "We saw Brendon a lot from summer showcases, to the Lasorda games here, to our workout in January. We saw both his preseason games here. So we scouted him as much as anyone in the Draft."

The Dodgers took 33 college players and nine prep stars. The position breakdown was, in addition to the pitchers, one outfielder, four other center fielders, two shortstops, four second basemen, one first baseman and six catchers. Gasparino said he thought the Dodgers would be able to sign at least 30 of their total draft picks, if not more.

The high percentage of catchers was not to address a lack of players within the minor league system, Gasparino said.

"We want a surplus," he said. "It's so hard to find … we used the draft to get the toughest players to find, and it worked out great. It's such a hard position to find. And a couple of guys are dual-position guys, so they can catch, they can play first, they can play third. So they're more like utility guys."