LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers vice president of scouting Billy Gasparino had said that this year’s Draft class was deep in college pitching. This week, he took what it gave him.
Four of his six picks were college right-handed pitchers that excelled in strike throwing. After taking Louisville’s Bobby Miller in Wednesday’s first round, he added Eastern Tennessee State’s Landon Knack in Thursday’s second round, Texas Tech’s Clayton Beeter with a compensation pick and the University of Central Arkansas’ Gavin Stone in the fifth round.
• Day 1: Dodgers select Louisville RHP Bobby Miller at No. 29
For the second time in five years, scout Marty Lamb had the first two players taken by the club. Walker Buehler was one of them in 2015.
“He seems to get anyone he wants,” joked Gasparino. “You tell him to take the first two or three picks and we’ll try to do our best after. He started feeling a little guilty and told us to take other players. His run is unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The Dodgers also added Jake Vogel, a center fielder from Huntington Beach (Calif.) High School in the third round and Virginia Tech catcher Carson Taylor in the fourth round.
• Draft Tracker: Complete pick-by-pick coverage
“We’re fired up,” Gasparino said. “We’ve got a lot of velocity, a lot of pure stuff. It’s big, it’s right-handed. It was the strength of the Draft. Knack is a great strike thrower and Beeter had a great year in his first as a starter. We are ecstatic to get both guys.”
Gasparino said all four pitchers will begin as starters. He conceded that some teams doubt Beeter’s ability to start, but “we’re very bullish on him starting.” He added that Beeter’s breaking ball “we thought was best in the Draft class and would be dominant [in relief].”
Despite the abbreviated amateur season because of the coronavirus, the Dodgers “bought into these upticks and trends up in four weeks of the season on all of these guys,” Gasparino said. “Other teams didn’t and we did. I think we got really good talent.”
Gasparino said the limitation to five rounds was “weird,” and he saw only two of his six selections (Miller and Vogel) in person.
Knack, 22, is 6-2 and 220 pounds. He has a 98 mph fastball and has overcome injuries to both shoulders to bloom late, as he was ranked No. 112 by MLB Pipeline coming into the Draft.
He finished the shortened season with a 4-0 record, 51 strikeouts and only one walk and a 1.08 ERA after allowing just three runs in 25 innings. He led the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio (51-1), strikeouts (51), was fourth in the NCAA in WHIP (0.52) and eighth in walks per nine innings (0.36).
“He’s naturally gifted throwing strikes,” said Gasparino. “Marty Lamb identified him making a jump in velocity and stuff. All of a sudden, not only did the stuff improve, it improved by a large gap. He went from 90 to 95 mph.”
According to MLB Pipeline, Knack is the best fifth-year senior prospect in years. He injured his right labrum pitching in high school and needed surgery, then dislocated his left shoulder diving into a base in junior college.
Despite being passed over in four previous Drafts, Knack, in a brief showing this spring, combined added velocity with uncanny control, averaging only 1.3 walks per nine innings from 2019-20. He’s the brother-in-law of Pirates 2016 first-rounder Will Craig.
• Draft Central
Competitive Balance Round B, 66th overall: Clayton Beeter, RHP, Texas Tech
With a Competitive Balance Round B pick, acquired from the Twins in the Kenta Maeda/Brusdar Graterol trade, the Dodgers selected Beeter, who has been a reliever in college after having Tommy John surgery in 2017. Stretched out as a starter this spring, he showed dramatic improvement with his control.
“He surprised us,” Gasparino said. “Whether it was the extended time away from the Tommy John surgery, but everything improved. Curve strike percentage went up. Became more of a starter option than we ever thought he would be. Texas Tech coaches say he’s one of the strongest guys they’ve ever had as a pitcher there. It all came together for us on a guy we really like.”
Round 3, 100th overall: Jake Vogel, OF, Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS
In the third round, the Dodgers took Vogel, a 5-11, 165-pound speedster who is committed to attend UCLA. A right-handed batter, Vogel is a spray hitter who utilizes his speed (6.15 seconds for 60 yards) and is a true center fielder with a strong throwing arm.
“He’s a dynamic athlete,” said Gasparino. “Seventy runner [rating] with a big arm, plus center-field defense, got power. Physically gifted kid. He missed last summer with a back injury, but this fall and early spring performed really well and kind of shot up our board. This is running back sprinter speed -- like, strong, explosive, powerful strides. He can really get after it. We think he’s a good hitter with surprising power. Our player development guys are champing at the bit to get ahold of him.”
Round 4, 130th overall: Carson Taylor, C, Virginia Tech
Taylor, who also played first base, is a switch-hitter whose offense improved dramatically (.431 average, 12 walks, five strikeouts) in this season’s small sample. He missed the final month of the 2019 season with a broken right hand after being hit by a pitch.
“He tried to play in the Cape Cod League last summer and was playing hurt,” Gasparino said. “The healthy version of Taylor is what showed up this year.”
Round 5, 159th overall: Gavin Stone, RHP, Central Arkansas
To complete this year’s Draft, the Dodgers took a smallish right-hander (5-10, 170), a former reliever who threw a no-hitter in one of his four starts this year. He kept with the Dodgers’ trend this Draft, striking out 31 with six walks in 27 2/3 innings.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.