The June amateur draft is due to kick off on Monday, June 12, with the first two rounds and supplemental rounds due to be selected that day. Rounds 3-40 will be selected June 13-14. Talent-wise this is considered to be a very weak draft overall. I like the quote from one Area Scout; “I feel like a beachcomber with a metal detector, and all I keep finding is a broken earring here and there.” So Billy Gasparino and his scouting department will have their work cut out for them. The Dodgers will select 23rd, 62nd, and 100. The MLB Amateur Draft is a lot more difficult to predict than the NFL and NBA. With both the NFL and NBA, the teams are looking for the talent they need the next season. In the MLB draft, the scouting directors are projecting the talent level for future years.
Gasparino has been a MLB Scouting Director and responsible for the Amateur Draft for four years; 2013-2014 San Diego and 2015-2016 Dodgers. His first three drafts he selected college juniors. In 2013, his 1st round selection was OF Hunter Renfroe and Mississippi State. In 2014, his 1st round selection was INF Trea Turner and North Carolina State. In 2015, RHP Walker Buehler and Vanderbilt was his first selection as a Dodger Scouting Director. Last year, Billy selected a HS SS, Gavin Lux. Renfroe and Turner have already made a mark at the ML level, and Buehler is on his way. Lux, we do not know yet. Gavin was considered in the top group of HS SS behind Delvin Perez and Carter Kieboom, and perhaps the highest offensive ceiling. Current projections have him perhaps sliding over to 2B where his arm is more projectable.
There were rumors of failed drug tests that dropped Delvin Perez from a probable Top 10 to #23 overall (Cardinals). Kieboom went #28 overall to the Nationals. The other 1st round HS SS selected was Hudson Sanchez #24 overall (Padres), somewhat of a surprise. Two other highly rated HS SS were Grae Kessinger (Grandson of Don Kessinger) and Nicholas Quintana. Both were considered tough signs, drafted in the later rounds, and ultimately did not sign. Many were surprised that the Dodgers did not draft Kieboom, but with Gasparino’s track record for 1st round selections, I will continue to have high hopes, regardless as to how well Kieboom and Bo Bichette are playing. Bichette is absolutely tearing up the Midwest League, while Lux is struggling.
So what happens this year? In general, most evaluators believe the Dodgers 1st priority is the one area where this year’s draft is weakest…a college bat. A college 3B would be ideal. However, there is really only one projected in the first round, Jake Burger, Missouri State. Burger is labeled as a bad-bodied 3B who can hit, and hit well. He is one of the best power bats in the draft, also with a good idea of the strike zone. He has good pitch recognition, and has the bat speed to catch up to high velocity fastballs. Defensively while lacking a good first step, he has good feet work. He has an average arm and limited range.
Overall there are seven college position players that the Dodgers are probably considering, but only five that may be available when their pick comes around:
Jeren Kendell OF Vanderbilt (L)
Evan White 1B/OF Kentucky (R)
Jake Burger 3B Missouri State (R)
Pavin Smith 1B Virginia (L)
Logan Warmoth SS North Carolina (R)
Keston Hiura 2B/OF UC Irvine (R)
The Dodgers second priority is LHP, another 2017 draft weakness. There are six projectable first round LHP prospects. Billy Gasparino is not inclined to select HS pitchers in the first round, leaving three potential candidates. Of the three, Brendan McKay will be going in the first five picks, and Seth Romero has a questionable character after being suspended two times for team rule violations, and then being kicked off the University of Houston team altogether. He is a top ten prospect, and he will be selected in the first round. It is possible (probable) that he will be available with the Dodgers 23rd pick, but Dodgers consider character quite a bit in their decision making process. That would leave one potential LHP the Dodgers may have a chance at, David Peterson, Oregon. Peterson is a strike out pitcher with plus command. His fastball is generally around 91 (up to 94 without overthrowing) with pin-point control. He has a swing and miss slider that he can deliver all night long. He will mix in an average curveball that is getting better. Baseball America rates Peterson as the #15 draft prospect, and with the very few projectable LHP, Peterson will probably not be available when #23 comes around. Ironically, only the Baseball America mock draft considers Peterson to be available for the Dodgers first round pick, and they do not think the Dodgers will select him.
There should be several Dodger selections of high school bats, but there is only one projectable in the first round for LAD, Bubba Thompson, OF, McGill-Toolen HS, Mobile Alabama. Thompson is a two sport star getting several scholarship offers for both baseball and football. He received multiple SEC offers as a quarterback, including Tennessee. Bubba has dropped football, and has accepted a baseball scholarship to the University of Alabama. Thompson grades out as a 70 speed, and has shown plus power. Scouts are divided as to whether he will be a premium hitter for average. He is raw in the OF. What Bubba is, is an athlete with a couple of skills that cannot be taught (speed and power). Interestingly, Bubba represents a very high ceiling but a low floor project. This seems contrary to Gasparino’s (and FAZ) line of thinking, but many talent evaluators think this will be the Dodgers #1 selection.
So who will the Dodgers select? While Thompson is the favorite choice for many, others believe that UC Irvine 2B/OF, Keston Hiura will be that selection. Hiura is considered the best pure hitter in the draft. Hiura hit an amazing .482 in Big West Conference (.442 overall), and led the nation with a .567 OBP. He is a consensus All American, and was the 2017 Big West Player of the year. I am sort of partial to that label, as my son was the Big West Player of the Year 20 years ago in 1997.
“He doesn’t demand attention, but commands attention,” said Oregon coach George Horton, who coached Hiura on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer. With the score tied in the deciding game of a three-game series against Cuba, Hiura hit a winning, pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning. “I’ve been coaching for 40 years,” Horton said, “and I’ll never forget about that at-bat.”
So how is a player with that kind of skill set projected by many to be available with the 23rd selection? Unfortunately Hiura sprained his UCL on a throw to the plate from CF on April 19, 2016. That turned out to be the last game he has played defensively. He was a DH all summer with the USA Baseball Collegiate National team and all season with his Anteaters.
Per Baseball America, Hiura experienced no setbacks, and was cleared to play the field. Unfortunately for Keston, towards the end of the fall ball, Hiura re-injured himself as he turned a double play from second base. He again shut things down and ultimately opted for a platelet rich plasma shot in January with the goal of speeding up his recovery. It has been suggested that Hiura might undergo TJ surgery after the draft. Ironically, Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed the PRP procedure, so the Dodgers should have good medical information on the elbow.
With the Dodgers depth, they can afford to wait for Hiura to get his elbow repaired. IMO the two best hitters to come out of the LA area were George Brett and Jason Kendall. Some local scouts have called him a RH George Brett with the bat. Keston has unbelievable hand/eye coordination with some pop (not plus power), and is the same size and weight as both Brett and Kendall, so it was easy for me to see the comparisons.
The consensus is that the Dodgers will select, if available, either Bubba Thompson or Keston Hiura. Most do not believe that Evan White, Logan Warmoth, or Jake Burger will be around for pick #23, but if they are, they would be considerations. My two favorite draft evaluators are Baseball America and MLB’s Jim Callis. They are split on Thompson and Hiura. I am going with Baseball America’s projection, Keston Hiura.
I am heading out on vacation this week, but I will have my computer with me and will be following the draft on Monday, June 12. Most of my friends and family follow the NFL draft religiously, but I have always been a MLB draft follower.
For more information on Keston Hiura, I recommend that you Read more at http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/keston-hiuras-injury-bat-present-unique-situation/#AxRcthRDVIBUAE00.99