Aug 15

Deadline for Dodgers to sign top draftee: 9 p.m. Monday

With little for me to talk about regarding today’s 13-1 defenestration of the Dodgers – Tony Jackson has everything you could possibly want to know, including the tidbit that the Dodgers have gone three straight games without a run-scoring hit – I can finally turn my attention to Monday’s 9 p.m. deadline to sign 2010 draft choices, including No. 1 pick Zach Lee.

Bullet points:

  • The Dodgers aren’t the only team going down to the wire on their first-round draftee, as the chart accompanying Ken Gurnick’s MLB.com article indicates.
  • Kevin Baxter of the Times details how little the Dodgers have been spending on amateur talent lately.
  • Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports bucks the conventional wisdom and suggests that the Dodgers will make Lee a legitimate bid, with lots of explanation why. Henson has a quote from Lee saying, “I know I’m going to have to make a decision if they make an offer.”

No single draft pick is a referendum on the Dodgers’ amateur talent strategy. The cupboard isn’t barren. But let’s just say that a team that spends its past year not signing its first-round pick, not offering salary arbitration to free agents and thereby forfeiting more first-round picks, not investing in international signings and not stopping from trading away handfuls of prospects each year is checking off a lot of boxes on the negative side of the ledger.

Let’s see what the news is at 9 p.m. Monday.

Jun 09

Controversy remains over Dodger draft

The controversy over the Dodgers’ top draft choice continued Tuesday.

Dodger assistant general manager Logan White insists that the Dodgers think they can sign Zach Lee, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, despite speculation that the Dodgers purposely chose a player whose salary demands would be unreachable, in order to save money.

Louisiana State football coach Les Miles said Tuesday that he met with Lee and his parents and that Lee intends to go to college to play football and baseball. White addressed that statement directly.

“He might go to school,” White said. “That is always a possibility. We certainly knew that was a possibility when we drafted him.”

Even so, White adamantly denied that the Dodgers would ever draft a player knowing they couldn’t sign him.

“I can understand why people might think that,” he said. “But that is one of those things where people create what they want to create, and it is just so far from the truth. I certainly want to sign Zach Lee, as much as any player I have ever drafted.”

White also dismissed a suggestion that he was under orders from McCourt to tank this year’s first-round pick.

A similar (though perhaps less intense) drama brewed around the Dodgers’ sixth-round pick, pitcher Kevin Gausman, who is also an LSU recruit. Writes Evan Drellich of MLB.com:

Gausman told The Denver Post he too was leaning toward going to college.

“Because of the amount of money that I want, they are going to follow me and see if I’m actually worth that,” Gausman told The Post.

“Being drafted in the sixth round, I think I have a chance to next year come out and really be a big influence at LSU and maybe even be their No. 1 guy on the mound,” Gausman said. “As of right now, I’m set on [LSU].”

White called Gausman’s statement “a normal part of the process.”

“He would’ve been a potential late first-round sandwich pick, but he’s got significant signing demands as well,” White said. “And he may not sign. We’ll see what happens.”

If Lee doesn’t sign with the Dodgers, the team will get a compensatory pick in the 2011 draft. Some believe this might be a smart move, because that draft is expected to be deeper in talent – so that even if the Dodgers acknowledge (to themselves, if no one else) that Lee isn’t coming, it doesn’t mean that they are avoiding paying amateur talent. We’ll see.

On a brighter note, Drellich writes that second-round pick Ralston Cash said he is interested in signing with the Dodgers despite having a scholarship to Georgia. Cash flew out last weekend for a last-minute workout with the Dodgers, and he and White bonded.

* * *

  • Vicente Padilla went 4 2/3 innings with one run allowed in a rehab start for Inland Empire on Tuesday. Padilla gave up three hits, walked one and struck out four.
  • Kyle Russell singled and tripled in his AA debut for Chattanooga on Tuesday, while Chris Withrow threw seven innings without allowing an earned run, striking out six.
  • Elisaul Pimentel allowed one run over six innings in Great Lakes’ victory. Brian Cavazos-Galvez had three hits.

* * *

Stat of the Day has a fun list of pitchers who have thrown at least five consecutive starts of eight innings or more, without allowing more than one run – fun because the list of course includes the Orel Hershiser and Don Drysdale scoreless inning streaks, as well as Fernando Valenzuela’s beginning to the 1981 season. You’ll also find Don Sutton and Don Newcombe there.

Jun 08

Casey Blake returns to action

Casey Blake returns to the Dodger starting lineup after missing four games with back spasms. Trainer Stan Conte gave the go-ahead.

* * *

Memories of Kevin Malone has information on the Dodger draft picks that came after the third round:

* * *

Scott Elbert had to miss his start for Albuquerque today because of a family matter. Bobby Blevins and his 5.80 ERA for Class A Inland Empire took his place and allowed one run in five innings. Last week’s Dodger hero, Travis Schlichting, gave up two runs in a 9-6 Isotopes loss.

* * *

Former Dodgers Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young had the first hit and home run, respectively, off Steven Strasburg during his otherwise impressive major-league debut. Strasburg struck out six in his first three innings for Washington before giving up the two-run homer to Young in the fourth, and was still losing 2-1 in the sixth despite having 11 strikeouts and no walks.

But back-to-back homers by Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham in the bottom of the sixth put Strasburg in position to get the victory.

Stat of the Day places Strasburg’s debut in historic context. Through six innings, he had the most strikeouts without a walk in a major-league debut ever.

* * *

Jerry Stephenson, the former Dodger scout and major-league pitcher, passed away from cancer at age 66. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes about Stephenson.

Jun 08

And the Dodgers’ second-round pick is …

… Ralston Cash, a 19-year-old, 6-foot-1, 197-pound right-handed pitcher from Lakeview Academy in Gainesville, Georgia. Here’s video on Cash from MLB.com. Cash will go to the University of Georgia if the Dodgers don’t sign him.

  • This article by Bill Murphy of the Gainesville Times describes the hardships in Cash’s life after a single-car accident took the life of his mother when he was 3 1/2 years old.
  • Andy Seiler of MLB Bonus Baby filed this long report on Cash in March.

    … My overall impression of Cash was quite positive. He displayed the solid natural stuff that I expected, though his command wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. He consistently left pitches up in the zone, though the Commerce hitters lacked the strength and bat speed to catch up to the ball. His curveball needs some work, and like I said above, I’d change him to a slider based on his arm speed and angle. The pitch even looked like a slider at times, so I wouldn’t see a tough transition. There’s a good bit of upside here, and I came away still seeing him as a solid 3rd-5th round prospect. He had a bad defense behind him, and every scout that evaluates him will have to completely ignore his final line and actual results on batted balls, but the approach is there for a pro pitcher. He’ll need to learn to adjust to having a competent defense behind him, and he’s going to be a flyball pitcher in the long run, but I’m glad I got to see Cash throw a pretty solid outing.

  • In 2010, Cash had a 2.68 ERA and 79 strikeouts, writes Murphy. In 2009, Cash had a 0.97 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 57.2 innings, according to Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Here’s a short writeup from BaseballScoutz.com.

* * *

In the third round, the Dodgers picked Leon Landry, a 20-year-old, 5-11, 195-pound outfielder from Louisiana State (the Dodgers are determined to get themselves someone from there.) Here’s the MLB.com video.

  • Keith Law of ESPN.com ranked Landry 82nd overall on his prospect list.
  • Here’s his official Louisiana State bio. Landry had a .418 on-base percentage and .513 slugging percentage this season, with 16 steals in 20 attempts.
  • Friend of Dodger Thoughts John Klima provides this detailed writeup on Landry at Baseball Beginnings.
  • Check out this catch Landry made in a 2008 postseson game:

Jun 07

And the Dodgers’ first-round pick is …

… Zach Lee, 6-foot-4, 195-pound right handed high school pitcher from McKinney, Texas.

He’s a high-school quarterback committed to Louisiana State, so there are immediate signability issues. This draft choice sets up a new referendum on the McCourt ownership.

Here’s a scouting report with video from MLB.com. An excerpt:

Summary: With above-average to plus stuff across the board — fastball, slider, changeup — good command and tremendous athleticsm, Lee should be one of the high school arms being mentioned up close to the top of the Draft, or at least on a short list of top high school arms. If he’s not, it’s largely because of one thing: signability. As a quarterback recruit, he’s committed to play two sports at LSU next year, and many think he’s unsignable as a result. That said, there’s bound to be a team with deep pockets that will take a shot at luring him away from the gridiron and life as a collegiate athlete.

Here’s what Marc Hulet of Fangraphs has to say:

A top quarterback prospect from Texas, it will clearly take a lot ($$$) to sway Lee away from his commitment to Louisiana State University. A team drafting Lee in the first round will have to have a pretty good feel on his signability. Lee has a three pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball, slider, and change-up. His arm slot tends to wander at times. Thanks to his focus on the football field, the right-hander is still raw but he does display solid control for his age.

From ESPN.com:

Lee is a star quarterback who has committed to LSU to play both football and baseball, but if he put word out tomorrow that he was willing to sign and focus exclusively on the world’s greatest sport, he’d go off the board in the top 50 picks next month.

Lee will show three pitches, with the changeup already flashing plus, and his fastball velocity is likely to increase as he fills out and if he dedicates himself to baseball.

He has a really bright future if and when he chooses baseball, but if he’s not interested in a pro career now, doesn’t that say something about the kid’s commitment to football and/or school? Buying him out of LSU isn’t the solution, and I think he’ll be a top-20 guy in 2013.

From Baseball America:

Lee’s status as one of the best quarterback recruits in the nation and a top student will make him one of the most difficult signing decisions in this draft. The perception among area scouts is that Lee might require as much as $3 million—and even that might not be enough to steer him away from playing two sports at Louisiana State. He passed for 2,565 yards and 31 touchdowns last fall, and his arm is just as potent on the mound. He already has a 90-93 mph fastball with room for more projection in his 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame. He also throws a sharp slider and a changeup that needs work but shows promise. Unlike many two-sport stars, he has a lot of polish. Lee has a clean delivery that he repeats, enabling him to throw strikes with ease.

Here’s some video of Lee playing football at YouTube. And here he is on the mound last summer at the Area Code Games.

Jim Callis of Baseball America called the Dodgers “the last team” he expected to go after Lee.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that football is leverage, rather than the top priority for Lee. And it’s not as if the Dodgers have no draft budget – they could always have made a conservative pick that would sign relatively inexpensively. But hardcore fans will be watching carefully to see if the Dodgers punted this pick, or if they will complete the Hail Mary. Certainly, there is going to be tons of skepticism.

The draft continues Tuesday.

Update: From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

“People can think what they want, he was the best talent available and I want to sign him, absolutely,” said Logan White, assistant general manager of scouting. “I didn’t take Zach to not sign him. You’ll see as the summer goes along we’ll make every effort to sign him, and I want to sign him. I know it won’t be easy, but hopefully we’ll get it done.” …

“If he focuses on baseball, I think he can move quickly, like Kershaw and Billingsley,” said White. “A lot will be made of the two sports, but as a pitcher, he has a real good arm and delivery, a plus breaking ball, he has a feel for a changeup, and when I saw him he was 90-92 [mph] with the fastball and up to 95. The ball comes out of his hand easily.

“The guy’s a competitor, he’s smart. Put it all together and we really couldn’t pass him up. He’s worth the risk of not signing. I like him that much.”

Unlike many recent Dodgers top picks, the club did not hold a special workout for Lee. According to White, Lee was surprised to get the call.

“He certainly was surprised,” White said. “They didn’t have a feel for what we were going to do. It’s part of the gamesmanship of the Draft.”

Update 2: From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

“These are unusual circumstances,” White said. “I can only say that I am optimistic we will sign him. … [But] I can’t sit here and tell you that we’re going to sign him. It will really be Zach’s decision and his family’s decision. But we feel confident that once he and his family are able to get a good look at what this organization is all about, we’ll have a good chance to get him.”

White said Lee’s fastball has been clocked anywhere between 89-95 mph and routinely hits 93 and that he already has a plus changeup and curveball to go with it.

“One thing I will tell you is that he is quite an athlete,” White said. “One thing we liked was his athleticism, his size and his strength. He is tall and has a very good delivery, just easy, easy arm action. He is a strike thrower, and he knows how to change speeds. He has a great feel for pitching. He doesn’t just try to blow it by everybody, even though he has that ability. It’s a chess game for him because he is very competitive.”

White said Lee plans to follow through with his plans to participate in LSU’s summer football workouts, so an agreement with the Dodgers probably isn’t imminent. White wouldn’t rule out an agreement that would allow Lee to play football at LSU while playing baseball professionally in the Dodgers’ system, but it also didn’t sound like the kind of agreement White is eager to enter into.

“I wouldn’t rule anything out, but I just feel like if we can get him into our organization, he is going to be [in the majors] pretty fast,” White said.