Local Clubs Are Pleased With Draft Crop : Dodgers Went for Hitters; the First Priority of Angels Was Pitching
The Dodgers went after hitters and the Angels went after pitchers last week in the 21st annual summer free-agent draft, and the scouting directors of both clubs say they got what they wanted.
“We think we had a good draft,” said Ben Wade of the Dodgers. “We got a number of the players we wanted. We went pretty much for hitting this time, and our first six picks are position players. That’s a little different than in the past. We usually go for pitchers.”
Larry Himes of the Angels took pitchers with his first three picks. “Our objective was to get pitching,” he said. “We’re trying to get more pitchers into the organization, because that’s what we need. I think we had a good draft. We got some quality arms.”
In the regular phase of the draft, the 26 teams make their selections in reverse order of the previous year’s standings, with the two leagues alternating picks. The Dodgers finished fourth in the National League West, so they picked 10th. The Angels tied for second in the American League West and picked 15th. They also had the 19th pick, received as compensation for Baltimore’s signing of Fred Lynn.
The Dodgers had not had such a high drafting position since they picked ninth in 1980, and they made good use of it by selecting San Diego State center fielder Chris Gwynn, one of the finest hitters in college baseball. For the seventh straight year, the Dodgers drafted a college player in the first round.
Gwynn, brother of the San Diego Padres’ Tony Gwynn, was plagued by wrist, hamstring and shoulder injuries this season and played in only 39 of San Diego State’s 72 games, but he batted .403 and drove in 37 runs. In 89 games last year, he batted .383, set an NCAA record with 137 hits, 19 of them homers, and drove in 95 runs. His three-year average was .363.
“We think he’s one of the top five hitters in the country,” Wade said. “I’m very happy to get him. If we had drafted when we normally do, we wouldn’t have gotten him. I’m still surprised he was available. Maybe it was because he was hurt most of the year and not many scouts saw him. We’re the local club, so we had a chance to see him a lot.”
Gwynn signed and has reported to Vero Beach, the Dodgers’ affiliate in the Class A Florida State League. Wade said that Gwynn will work out for about a week before moving into the starting lineup.
The Dodgers had the third pick in the second round as compensation from the Texas Rangers for signing Burt Hooton and selected Mike Watters, a second baseman from Michigan.
Watters, who bats left and was the Wolverines’ leadoff hitter, also played third base and all three outfield positions at times this season. He batted .417 with 17 homers and 61 RBIs, and set school records for hits with 91, triples with 10, runs with 81, total bases with 172, and steals with 20. His three-year average was .348 and he stole 44 bases in 54 attempts.
“We’re very fortunate to get a middle infielder like this boy,” Wade said. “He has a good bat and can run. He played the outfield, but if he had been the regular second baseman, with all the attention the shortstop got, he would have been picked higher.” That shortstop, Barry Larkin, was the fourth player picked, by Cincinnati.
The Dodgers drafted for need with their own second-round pick, taking Dan Smith, a catcher from Morehead State in Kentucky.
“He’s a very good defensive catcher,” Wade said. “He has a good arm, good hands and he has good power. He’s a (Steve) Yeager-type. We felt we needed catching because we don’t have much in the organization.”
The Angels’ first-round pick, right-hander Bill Fraser, is from Concordia College in Bronxville, N.Y. The school is certainly not a college baseball power, but that doesn’t concern Himes.
“School size makes no difference if the quality is there,” he said. “I saw him, and he’s a quality guy. We weren’t the only ones who knew about him. The Dodgers were interested, and so were Montreal and Toronto. We were hoping he’d still be available when our turn came.”
Fraser, a junior, had a 6-3 record with a 3.51 earned-run average and 69 strikeouts in 59 innings. As a freshman, he was 5-3 with a 1.93 ERA and averaged 8.41 strikeouts per nine innings. As a sophomore he was 6-1 with an 0.87 ERA and averaged 13 strikeouts per nine innings.
According to Al Zoccolillo, Fraser’s college coach, the pitcher’s fastball usually is clocked at 84 or 85 m.p.h. in the early innings, but picks up as the game progresses. In one game late this season, his fastball was clocked at 92 m.p.h. in the eighth inning.
“But his out pitch is a forkball,” Zoccolillo said. “It’s major league caliber. He has long arms and long fingers which enable him to throw it well. When he’s on with that, you can’t touch him.”
Said Himes: “He’s big (6 feet 3 inches and 210 pounds) and very strong. He has an outstanding split-fingered fastball, and his other stuff, his fastball and curve, is above average. He has an opportunity to be a front-line starter here.”
With the Angels’ other first-round pick, Himes took Mike Cook, a hard-throwing right-hander from the University of South Carolina. Cook, 6-3 and 195, a junior, was 16-2 with a 1.91 ERA, and in 141 innings allowed only 99 hits while striking out 168. His career record is 30-8.
“He’s a power-type pitcher,” Himes said. “He throws a good fastball, which we’ve timed at 89 to 93 m.p.h, and a good sinker, and he has an above average slider.”
The Angels drafted Bob Sharpnack, a Fountain Valley High right-hander, in the second round. Sharpnack was 10-3 with a 1.15 ERA and struck out 115 in 85 innings.
“He’s strong enough to go out and compete at the pro level now,” Himes said. “I think we were fortunate to draft him. I’m still surprised he was available when our turn came up. His being a local had no bearing on why we took him. We picked him because of his physical ability. I think he can pitch in Anaheim Stadium by the time he’s 21.”
Himes selected another local pitcher in the fourth round, Scott Marrett of Pepperdine. Marrett, a junior right-hander, was 15-0 with a 2.08 ERA and completed 10 of his 19 starts. He yielded only 114 hits and 32 walks in 142 innings.
“This young man throws strikes,” Himes said. “We like that. You can’t pitch in the big leagues if you don’t throw strikes. He’s an aggressive pitcher, he threw inside at Pepperdine, but we want him to discover that he can throw harder. We think that when he gets out in pro ball, his velocity will improve.”
Draft Notes Glendora High catcher Kurt Brown and Chris Gwynn were the only Southern California players selected in the first round. That’s the fewest in draft history. Three were picked in 1978, Hubie Brooks by the New York Mets, Rod Boxberger by Houston, and Tom Brunansky by the Angels. Brown, the fifth player drafted, was picked by the Chicago White Sox. . . . Eight Southern Californians were drafted in the second round--Cal State Fullerton second baseman Jose Mota by the White Sox, Cal State Fullerton right-hander Mike Schooler by Seattle, USC left-hander Randy Johnson by Montreal, Riverside Norte Vista shortstop Bert O’Neal by Houston, New Mexico shortstop Jim Fregosi by St. Louis, Sharpnack by the Angels, Arizona left-hander Mike Young by Philadelphia and El Cajon Granite Hills catcher Damon Hansel by Pittsburgh. Fregosi qualifies because he played in high school at El Modena in Orange. Young played at Rolling Hills High and Harbor College before going to Arizona. . . . Fregosi, who batted .445 this season, is the son of former Angel Jim Fregosi, now the manager at Louisville, St. Louis’ affiliate in the triple-A American Assn. Mota, who batted .317, stole 19 bases in 24 attempts and had a .969 fielding percentage--9 errors in 288 chances--is the son of Dodger coach Manny Mota.
Arizona State center fielder Barry Bonds, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick--he was the sixth player drafted--is the son of former major league star Bobby Bonds, now a coach with Cleveland. Bonds, who hit .368 overall, batted .406, hit 16 of his 23 homers and had 38 of his 66 RBIs in the Sun Devils’ 30 games in the Pacific 10’s Southern Division. . . . Brian McRae, a shortstop from Manatee High in Bradenton, Fla., and the son of Kansas City designated hitter Hal McRae, was the Royals’ first-round selection. It’s the first time that a club has drafted the son of one of its active players in the first round. . . . As is usually the case, more pitchers, 11, were drafted in the first round than position players. There also were 11 pitchers taken in the second round.