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The rationale behind the Dodgers spending 17 of 19 draft picks on pitchers

Arkansas pitcher Lael Lockhart reacts after throwing a strikeout against Southeast Missouri State.
Arkansas pitcher Lael Lockhart reacts after throwing a strikeout against Southeast Missouri State during a game on Feb. 28 in Fayetteville, Ark.
(Michael Woods / Associated Press)

Pitcher after pitcher after pitcher. The MLB amateur draft was a three-day binge and pitchers were grabbed faster than at a brewpub happy hour.

The Dodgers took pitchers with 17 of their 19 picks in the 20-round, three-day draft that ended July 13. The San Francisco Giants took pitchers in the first nine rounds and 14 overall. The Angels drafted pitchers with all 20 picks. The Cleveland Indians grabbed 19.

As the draft unfolded, a thought occurred to Dodgers vice president of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino.

Was Will Rhymes, the Dodgers director of player development, freaking out at the dearth of position players he’d have available to populate the lower end of the farm system?

“I consulted with Will and he was fine with it,” Gasparino said.

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The Dodgers had already signed a number of international position players and planned to sign free agents that weren’t selected in the draft, which was only five rounds in 2020 but normally is 40 rounds.

Furthermore, the Dodgers plan to sign as many of their drafted pitchers as possible and, yes, there will be a place for all of them in the farm system.

Young Dodgers pitchers Darien Nuñez and Josiah Gray gave up four home runs, but Chris Taylor homered twice and Will Smith delivered the knockout blow in an 8-6 win.

“Seventeen pitchers is about what we’d take in a 40-round draft,” Gasparino said. “Some we’ll shut down until instructional league because they’ve already thrown a lot of innings this year. There will be a place for them all next spring.”

The run on pitchers made sense for several reasons. Homegrown starting pitchers are the most valuable commodity in baseball and there was a glut of college pitchers because of last year’s abbreviated draft. Everybody knows the Angels are desperate for pitching and the Indians have had a rash of injuries to starters that probably made them appreciate the opportunity to stock up on arms.

That was part of the Dodgers’ rationale as well, although obviously no one they drafted two weeks ago is ready to fill holes left by injuries to starters Dustin May and Clayton Kershaw and the repulsive behavior of Trevor Bauer.

“It just kind of kept happening and happening and you look up at the total and you’re like, ‘Oh, my god, we took all pitchers,’” Gasparino said.

The Dodgers stayed true to form in some respects: They drafted high school pitchers early — left-hander Maddux Bruns in the first round and right-hander Peter Heubeck in the third — then tabbed three pitchers whose stock was depressed because of injury.

And they didn’t stray from the gospel of advanced analytics, identifying pitchers with exceptional spin rates even if their performance was relatively pedestrian.

“We were focused on talent,” Gasparino said. “We thought it was very clear in favor of the pitching.”

So far, Bruns has signed for $2.2 million — about $250,000 under slot — and ninth-round pick Lael Lockhart of Arkansas and 10th-round pick Michael Hobbs of St. Mary’s each signed for $2,500 even though slot was nearly $150,000.

Right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray, the Dodgers’ top prospect, is expected to make his major league debut Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants.

Lockhart, 23, was a fifth-year senior with no negotiating leverage and Hobbs is just now pitching after missing a full year recovering from Tommy John surgery.

One player the Dodgers definitely won’t sign is 20th-round pick Charlie Connolly of the Naval Academy. Connolly chose to fulfill his active-duty service commitment immediately. The Dodgers have about $2.5 million left to spread among the other 15 unsigned players they drafted.

Dodgers scouts, like others across baseball, had difficulty evaluating the improvement of hitters after college and high school teams missed nearly an entire year because of the pandemic. Therefore, the Dodgers and others simply declined to draft them.

And when the Dodgers finally did, in the 16th round, they tabbed a shortstop with pitching bloodlines. Michael Sirota, from the Gunnery School in Washington, Conn., is the great-nephew of Hall of Fame left-hander Whitey Ford.

DODGERS 2021 DRAFT
Rd Pick Pos Name Age School

1 29 LHP Maddux Bruns 19 UMS Wright prep (AL)

2 --- No pick as compensation for signing Trevor Bauer

3 101 RHP Peter Heubeck 18 Gilman School (MD)

4 131 RHP Nick Nastrini 21 UCLA

5 162 RHP Ben Casparius 22 UConn

6 192 RHP Emmet Sheehan 21 Boston College

7 222 RHP Ryan Sublette 22 Texas Tech

8 252 LHP Ben Harris 21 Georgia

9 282 LHP Lael Lockhart 23 Arkansas

10 312 RHP Michael Hobbs 21 St. Mary’s College

11 342 LHP Justin Wrobleski 20 Oklahoma State

12 372 LHP Ronan Kopp 18 South Mountain CC (AZ)

13 402 RHP Antonio Knowles 21 Florida Southwestern

14 432 RHP Jordan Leasure 22 Tampa

15 462 RHP Madison Jeffrey 21 West Virginia

16 492 SS Michael Sirota 18 The Gunnery School (CT)

17 522 LHP Adam Tulloch 20 West Virginia

18 552 OF Damon Keith 21 Cal Baptist

19 582 RHP Gabe Emmett 20 Folsom Lake College

20 612 RHP Charlie Connolly 22 Navy


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