By Jon Weisman
With three picks before the second round of Thursday’s 2016 MLB draft, the Dodgers are sitting pretty.
And on top of that, their top pick from 2015, Walker Buehler — who had Tommy John surgery in August before appearing in a professional game — is on course to make this year’s haul even stronger.
“Walker Buehler’s going to be ready to throw next year — he’s almost like a pick this year,” Gasparino said. “We feel good about his recovery, his rehab and where he’s at in the process.”
Buehler is following a 15-month plan, throwing light bullpen sessions, and is moving toward facing live hitters in instructional league, according to Gasparino.
“Everything’s looked good,” Gasparino said. “Velocity, arm action, delivery. We’re having to more slow him down than anything else.”
Though the Dodgers entered 2016 with the top-rated farm system in baseball, some of that talent (Corey Seager for one) has already to the big leagues. So Los Angeles will be trying to replenish, although the priority isn’t to draft someone who will have an immediate Major League impact.
“We’ve really been trying to keep the long view on that,” Gasparino said. “There’s always a couple of examples where the probability or the speed of the player helps their case, but we’ve been trying to keep the long view, and I think the talent in our farm system helps us do that.”
That talent includes several players who have met or exceeded optimistic projections.
“Personally, I still think what Willie Calhoun’s doing at Double-A, at such a young age and so soon, is a really big accomplishment,” Gasparino said. “I think it gets a little underrated. We don’t send most guys who are 20 into Double-A and (have them) hit that well. That does not happen. That’s way exceeded our expectations and the timeline that usually goes along with that.
“But we have a pretty good crew. Josh Sborz is throwing really well in High-A (Rancho Cucamonga). Imani Abdullah got moved to (Single-A) Great Lakes and has had really a couple of good outings for an 11th-rounder. Kyle Garlick is another one in the 28th round who is doing great. Andrew Sopko (3.12 ERA, 9.2 K/9 with Rancho Cucamonga), reports coming back have been really good. Brendon Davis was able to get a couple of good (Spring Training) at-bats and did well. I think it’s been mostly positive so far.”
The Dodgers did not sign 2015 first-rounder (35th overall) Kyle Funkhouser, who returned for his senior year at Louisville. Draftees who don’t sign with a team must sign a “reconsent form” to open up the possibility of being drafted by the same team the following year. For what it’s worth, Gasparino said that Funkhouser signed that form.
“We went eyes wide open into Kyle and our pick and what might or might not happen,” Gasparino said. “It was his choice, and we respected it. We still like Kyle a lot, like the family. We have no hard feelings at all.