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Draft Preview

Postby ensanimal » Fri Jun 04, 2004 5:15 pm


LOS ANGELES -- While the industry seems fascinated by the dynamics of Logan White's first draft answering to Paul DePodesta, White is a lot more fascinated by the dynamics of the actual draft.
A few weeks ago, the Dodgers scouting director thought other clubs that used high picks to draft college players in recent years might be more receptive this year to drafting high school players.

A few days ago, White sensed that the shift might not happen after all, that there'd be a run on college players Monday, leaving him with a wide selection of high school players to draw from for his three selections -- picks 17, 28 and 33.

In truth, it's just a big guessing game until the names are called Monday as the two-day First-Year Player Draft begins.

"I anticipate a better mix than the past couple years," said White, who has drafted high school players (first baseman James Loney and pitcher Chad Billingsley) with his first pick the past two years.

And White relishes the role of contrarian.

"I'm not out trying to trick the industry -- that gets you beat," said White. "But it's nice when you see something that others have not seen. That makes scouting fun. I try not to get involved in the stereotype of the industry or the flavor of the month in the industry."

Among the college players who might be available and fit when the Dodgers draft 17th are Oklahoma State third baseman Josh Fields, Princeton outfielder B.J. Syzmanski, Miami University first baseman Mike Ferris and Florida pitcher Justin Hoyman. The high school players could be Georgia outfielder Dexter Fowler, California pitcher Phillip Hughes, Massachussetts pitcher Jay Rainville and Maine pitcher Mark Rogers.

White's reputation has been quickly established with two creative drafts built on high-ceiling high schoolers rooted out by old-school scouting. DePodesta hit the baseball map -- and landed in the Dodgers front office -- in large part through his well-documented influence on Oakland A's drafts that relied on college players and statistical analysis to find them.

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The apparent diametrically opposed approaches fueled all sorts of speculation about the co-existence of the two executives from the minute DePodesta joined on. So far, there's been an absence of fireworks, as White and DePodesta insist they are on the same page.

DePodesta is a behind-the-scenes general manager who was virtually invisible during May as he became immersed in the draft. He insists that he and White have staked out common ground and that White remains in charge of the draft, although he concedes the draft is ultimately the responsibility of the general manager.

"I don't feel our philosophies are as disparate as people make them out to be," said DePodesta. "We both believe the talent pool dictates which way you go. We have a lot more similarities than differences. I told Logan I won't be grabbing the phone away from him to announce the selection. He's been hired to do a job.

Past five No. 1 picks
Year Player
2003 Chad Billingsley, RHP
2002 James Loney, 1B-LHP
2001 None
2000 Benjamin Diggins, RHP
1999 None

"I've told Logan these are the two most critical days on the calendar. You're acquiring the rights to 40 or 50 players that will be among your assets going forward. So, they are absolutely critical days for your baseball operation and it's essential for the general manager to be involved."

White pretty much reads from the same script when describing his relationship with DePodesta.

"Paul and I are not nearly as different as the industry makes us out to be; actually, it's the opposite," said White. "My philosophy is to always try to get the best player available, whether it's high school or college, regardless of position. You don't totally disregard position, and how close the player is to reaching the big leagues factors in. As does the market trend. If everybody's taking high school players, we're more than likely going to wind up with a college player."

Nobody ever admits a club drafts for need, but the Dodgers' minor league system is generally considered deep in pitching and thin in position players, particularly run producers, a situation not helped by the recent trade of top outfield prospect Franklin Gutierrez for outfielder Milton Bradley.

At the time, DePodesta justified that swap because Bradley is talented, young (26) and under contract control through the 2007 season. However, Bradley's volatile history and his recent in-game meltdown are reminders to management that with his rare ability comes serious baggage that must be considered when analyzing his future with the club.

The Dodgers have their first-round pick (17th overall), and for losing free agent Paul Quantrill they picked up the Yankees' first-round pick (28th) and a sandwich pick after the first round (33rd).

Signability is always an issue with draft picks, but the Major League Baseball office has slotted suggested salaries for the Dodgers' top three picks at around $3.6 million. White and DePodesta said they do not anticipate a problem with the money.

"From Day One, the McCourts have been tremendously supportive," White said of the club's new owners. "I think whatever it takes to make us a winning organization from top to bottom is what they want. As far as money to sign, we'll do what we need to do within reason."

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