As the Dodgers and Angels prepare to battle on the field for the first time this season, we can revisit an earlier pseudo-faceoff between the two clubs – the MLB draft.
Los Angeles and Los Angeles* drafted in succession, with the Dodgers using the 16th pick overall and the Angels the 17th. Both teams picked college juniors: Stanford pitcher Chris Reed to Chavez Ravine, Utah first baseman C.J. Cron to Anaheim.
The question of the day is this: Why did the Dodgers, an organization that needs offensive help, take the pitcher – a reliever at that – instead of the hitter. Cron certainly has his bona fides.
“A 6-foot-4, 235-pound right-handed slugger who can drive the ball but also sprays it to all fields and makes consistent contact, Cron from the beginning was in the bull’s-eye of Los Angeles scouting director Rik Wilson,” wrote Tom Singer and Jordan Garretson of MLB.com.
In 49 games, the first-team All-American had a .517 on-base percentage and .803 slugging percentage, with 15 walks and 31 walks compared to 21 strikeouts in 198 at-bats. The twist with Cron: Do the words “torn right labrum” scare you off?
“I played through it, because the doctor said I couldn’t do any more damage,” Cron told MLB.com. “It’s pretty painful when I throw, so something will have to be done eventually.”
Said Jason A. Churchill of ESPN.com: “Cron possesses perhaps the best power tool among college bats in the entire class. A natural catcher, Cron played first base this season due to a shoulder injury, but that is likely where he ends up as a pro. He makes a lot of contact, too, but doesn’t generally work the count all that much. He generates leverage and loft consistently and is believed to have a strong enough ability to hit for average that he’ll skate through the minors in a couple of seasons. The Halos need bats, and Cron gives them one.”
And this from Baseball America: “He doesn’t move well at first base and is a bottom-of-the-scale runner, but that’s all right because he’s the best all-around hitter in the country and should have no problem producing the numbers teams expect from a first baseman. Cron has the unique combination of pure hitting ability and power. He projects to be an above-average hitter and has legitimate 80 raw power on the 20-80 scale that translates into at least above-average usable power. He has great hand-eye coordination and the strength in his hands to drive good pitches for singles and doubles. He uses a good approach at the plate and makes adjustments well, so he should move quickly through a team’s system.”
However much they might or might not have been tempted by Cron, the Dodgers went with Reed, the reliever whom they project as a starting pitcher.
“Reed is listed at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds,” said Baseball America, “but scouts say he has grown and gained strength from last year to this year. His fastball varies from 89-91 mph some nights to 92-94 on others, and he has touched 96. He’ll show a power slider and above-average changeup, but all of his stuff needs more consistency. That should come with experience. Reed has totaled just 68 innings at Stanford and has started only one game. His size, athleticism and three-pitch mix will tempt teams to give him a shot as a starter in pro ball.”
The Cleveland High grad finished his season with 52 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings, while allowing 39 hits (one home run) and walking 17.
“There’s big league ability here and his changeup and slider are his two best pitches,” Churchill said, “but this was a pick to make sure they landed a player with probability and signability, rather than upside.”
However, the final judge was Dodger assistant general manager of scouting Logan White, and don’t try telling White that Reed doesn’t have upside.
“I think this guy definitely can start,” White told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “I think we got fortunate that the kid was pitched out of the bullpen. We were on him a long time. He hasn’t been seen a lot (by other clubs). He throws 92-95 (mph). … He is big and strong, 6-feet-5 and 215 (pounds). He has a hard slider, 86-88, and a sharp changeup as well.”
If anything, the signability issue might loom larger in White’s mind, with Reed being a Scott Boras client, but the man who lassoed Zach Lee a year ago isn’t lacking confidence.
“I would never say it’s a slam dunk, but I’m fairly confident about it,” White told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. “I think the kid really wants to play; he’s given us every indication that he wants to go play. He wants to start.
“Scott and I get along fine. I’ve had fine dialogue with the Boras Corp. I don’t have resentment from that standpoint. There’s always some concern. Like last year, I felt we would sign (Lee), but I couldn’t say 100 percent. This is the same way.”
White’s bias toward drafting pitchers in the first round is hard to ignore – this is the ninth time in the past 10 Dodger drafts that a pitcher has been the team’s first pick. It hasn’t always been successful, but Cron did not persuade White to break from the formula. Best-case scenario: Reed is competing with Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Rubby De La Rosa, Zach Lee, Garrett Gould, Nathan Eovaldi, Allen Webster and more for a spot in the Dodger rotation.