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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dodgers' draft strategy isn't as high school-oriented as it's perceived

Since Logan White took over as scouting director (now vice president of amateur scouting and assistant general manager), the Dodgers have been known for drafting high school players.

White’s first draft pick was James Loney in 2002, a high school first baseman (who some viewed as a pitcher) from Texas.

While White’s crew has selected prep players in the first round (and supplemental first round) 13 of 19 times, it seems the philosophy has changed -- especially in recent years.

Here it is in table form.

Year
College
HS
HS%
2013
31
9
22.5%
2012
26
14
35.0%
2011
36
14
28.0%
2010
32
18
36.0%
2009
30
21
41.2%
2008
26
19
42.2%
2007
19
20
51.3%
2006
21
29
58.0%
2005
25
26
51.0%
2004
30
22
42.3%
2003
14
36
72.0%
2002
22
30
57.7%
Total
312
258
45.3%

As you can see, there has been fluctuation in the types of players drafted by White. But never had he drafted high schoolers less than 40 percent of the time before 2010. That’s been the norm for the last four years, capped with just 22.5 percent high schoolers drafted this year. And the team has drafted more college players than high schooler players since 2002.

Three of White’s last five first-round picks have been college players: 
In White’s first draft, he selected 30 high schoolers compared to 22 college players. In 2003, he selected 36 prep players compared to just 14 college players. That would be the highest percentage of high school draftees in any White draft. This year, the Dodgers drafted 31 college players and just nine high schoolers -- a drastic shift.

Some say it could be the new ownership having a say about who to draft (i.e. Stan Kasten), some say the team wants guys who are closer to the majors. While I’m not against drafting players who are closer to the majors, I am against passing on higher-ceiling prospects for lower-floor guys. I know those guys are a must in all farm systems, but it seems the Dodgers took that too much to heart in this year’s draft.

Cody Bellinger was the team’s only high school draftee in the first 10 rounds, and they didn’t select a prep pitcher until the 13th round (Ty Damron). That’s unheard of for White and Co.

The Dodgers had a poor farm system from the late 1990s until White took over. Guys like Chin-Feng Chen, Angel Pena and Ben Diggins were among the team's top prospects. In just three years, White made the Dodgers a Top 5 farm system in baseball for a number of years. Once the draft philosophy shifted from prep to college, the farm system’s overall ranking went down. It could be coincidence or it could be the fact ex-owner Frank McCourt hamstrung the Dodgers’ spending. But the fact is, the Dodgers haven’t been a Top 15 farm system in since graduating Clayton Kershaw during the 2008 season. after being a perennial Top 6 system for four years in a row in the mid-2000s.

There’s nothing wrong with drafting college players, but college players – unless choosing near the top of the draft -- offer less upside than high school players in most cases. Most college guys offer little projection but more present-day value.

I’m partial to high school talent. I wanted the team to take Ian Clarkin (who just signed with the Yankees) instead of Anderson. But I’ve warmed up to Anderson. The team had to go nearly $300,000 more than slot to sign its lone prep draftee in the first 10 rounds in Bellinger. Other than those two, the Dodgers didn’t draft guys with much impact potential. That’s thanks in large part to the poor draft class but also because they didn’t take nearly enough chances.

There’s some maneuvering with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Dodgers landed Ross Stripling in the fifth round last year for nearly $100,000 less than slot. Fast forward a year and Stripling is an easy Top 10 prospect in the system and more likely a Top 5 guy. He’s the exception, not the rule.

Here’s hoping the Dodgers and White get back to their high school-drafting ways. While the 2012 draft looks like it could be one of the best in White's tenure, the 2013 draft could go down as his most lackluster.


Graphic credit: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

6 comments:

  1. You think this recent draft has anything to do with slot money? Seems like to get a high school guy to give up college commitments, frequently you're forced to go over slot, particularly lower in the first round and in later rounds.

    Can't explain some other drafts--nor skipping Clarkin--but it seems like slot money can handicap doing something like a Lee signing, since going over by that much can give you a huge penalty.

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    1. well, teams like the bluejays seems to have figured out the draft game, e.g. sign high floor, low ceiling types in the first ten rounds and then pocketing that money for higher ceiling high school guys in the latter rounds. seems like there's not really been a logic or pattern behind the way the Dodgers have drafted in the brave new screw the players world of slot money.

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  2. always love a nice looking graph.

    this is a question I posed to Chad and I guess maybe over all of the MLB is something that's a bit too daunting to do but with the preoccupation that Logan White seems to have with drafting bloodline players, is there any research out there showing that that bloodline players on average are more likely to graduate to the majors?

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  3. another way to look at this is, it's yet another affirmation at how susceptible we are to casual observations.

    as you can see from the stats, white went heavy on the high school talent early in his career with the dodgers and that perception has stuck even as white has shifted his strategy.

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  4. Don't disagree. Just wondering how do we explain the Cardinals consistently having a top farm system and their draft philosophy is to prefer college players?

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    Replies
    1. Cards had a crappy system just a few years ago.

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