By Jon Weisman
As the Dodgers completed the first 10 rounds of the 2016 MLB draft, some fans scratched their heads over the selection of three shortstops, considering that the team has a 22-year-old future All-Star at the position.
But in discussing the Dodgers’ selections today, director of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino explained the thinking — and no, it’s not that the Dodgers have forgotten about Corey Seager.
“The theory is that looking throughout the history of the draft and how athletes develop and age, when they’re athletic enough to play shortstop, it’s a pretty good recipe — as they age and get older and their skills develop and their bodies go forward or backwards — they can usually play other positions,” Gasparino said. “So many players today who are left fielders or right fielders, third basemen, second basemen, started out as shortstops. If you can start there, it’s a lot easier to transition to other places on the field, and gives you more avenues of versatility that way.”
In other words, this isn’t the NBA. With development such a long, protracted process in baseball — and almost no such thing as a quick fix — the overwhelming tendency is to take the player with the greatest potential, regardless of what the current Major League roster looks like. If the worst-case scenario is the Dodgers have multiple quality shortstops, they’ll live with that.
Gasparino also said that the drafting of several players from smaller four-year or community colleges illustrates an attempt to find value within a draft landscape where so few rocks go unturned.
“The depth of the draft is a priority and something we preach,” he said, “so in many ways it leads you to go look for those players, and you kind of think you have value there, whereas (for example) the junior center fielder from the University of Georgia has been well seen.”
Though players at different levels — or even at the same level but from different regions — obviously don’t face the same level of competition, the Dodgers are confident in their ability to translate performance.
“That’s why we have the tool grades, and you just look at the physical tools,” Gasparino said. “And I think our analytical staff does a very good job of analyzing the numbers and trying to correlate different levels of competition with a lot of different factors. And just our scouts’ experience: We have a lot of experience on the staff, and they seem to have a very good knack of trying to cipher through that stuff and figure out who the better players are.”
Gasparino said that advanced scouting stats such as exit velocity and spin rate have migrated to the Division I colleges and high-school summer showcases, further enhancing their ability to evaluate.
And with that, here are quick thoughts from Gasparino on each of the Dodgers’ draft picks today:
3) Dustin May, RHP, Northwest HS, 6-6, 180, 9/6/97 (18)
“Dustin’s one of our favorites — not only the talent with being up to 93 and a plus breaking ball, but he’s got big red hair and tons of personality. We call him “The Viper” because he has a really unique arm action that we think produces plus stuff. He’s a fan favorite for sure, from our scouts’ point of view.”
4) D.J. Peters, OF, Western Nevada CC, 6-5, 2-10, 12/12/95 (20)
“He’s just an uber-talented outfielder with tons of tools and upside, and big power. He came to our workout at Dodger Stadium and was launching balls into the stands and throwing well and running well, just really a physical freak in some ways.”
5) Devon Smeltzer, LHP, San Jacinto College, 6-3, 185, 9/7/95 (20)
“Smeltzer’s a left-hand pitcher with plus pitchability, really good slider. He’s had tons of success, really good makeup. Just really happy to get him there.”
6) Errol Robinson, SS, Ole Miss, 5-11, 170, 10/1/94 (21)
“Errol is a plus defender at short, with a track record of hitting in the Cape (Cod League). We just think he’s an athletic shortstop with a chance to be an everyday player — really good find for us there in the sixth round.”
7) Luke Raley, CF, Lake Erie College, 6-3, 220, 9/19/94 (21)
“Raley was kind of an underscouted outfielder from Lake Erie College, a small school that not many people get to. Marty Lamb did an outstanding job just finding this guy, identifying the talent and doing a lot of work on him. He’s big, he’s physical, he’s got tools, he had a great performance at a lower-level school, and we think it’s gonna translate well to the next level.”
8) Andre Scrubb, RHP, High Point University, 6-4, 265, 1/13/95 (21)
“He’s a big, right-handed pitcher with plus velocity, has a really good breaking ball. His strikeout rate was very high. We think we have a few ways we can help him more, get even more strikes, repeat his delivery better, and we’re looking forward to having our player-development staff work with this one.”
9) Anthony Gonsolin, RHP, St. Mary’s, 6-2, 180, 5/14/94 (22)
“Gonsolin is a two-way player at St. Mary’s, very athletic, up to 95 with a plus curveball. He was also a prospect as a hitter. It’s one of those guys that Paul Cogan and Tom Kunis knew well and had a deep history with, and we were able to get him as a senior in the ninth round. … We’re going to convert him to pull-time pitcher, and feel good about his chances in that role full-time.”
10) Kevin Lachance, SS, Maryland-Baltimore, 6-3, 185, 7/2/94 (21)
“Kevin is an athletic shortstop, maybe even slash center fielder — we’re not really sure what up-the-middle position he’s gonna play yet. But he’s a 70 runner, with a high-contact skill bat. He’s 6-3 — it’s a great body. Really twitchy, kind of loose athlete that we were excited to get.”
The 2016 draft concludes Saturday with the compression chamber of rounds 11-40 in a single day. After completing today’s selections, the Dodgers were quickly moving back into preparation mode.
“It’s not too much different from the first couple of days, except that it happens a lot faster,” Gasparino said. “So we’re going to spend a couple of hours getting more organized for tomorrow, building some priority lists for rounds 11-15. After that, it becomes a combination of trying to acquire some talent and also fill some roster spots, (talking) with player development about some of our needs. There’s a whole sort of mix that comes after that 15th round.”