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Dodgers take Tulane slugger with first pick

3B Hoese drafted 25th overall; LA takes UNC 2B at No. 31
@kengurnick
June 4, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- With their two first-round picks in the 2019 MLB Draft on Monday, the Dodgers went all-in for power-hitting college infielders, selecting Tulane third baseman Kody Hoese No. 25 overall and North Carolina utility man Michael Busch, taken as a second baseman No. 31 overall. “We liked that

LOS ANGELES -- With their two first-round picks in the 2019 MLB Draft on Monday, the Dodgers went all-in for power-hitting college infielders, selecting Tulane third baseman Kody Hoese No. 25 overall and North Carolina utility man Michael Busch, taken as a second baseman No. 31 overall.

“We liked that demographic, and it worked in our favor in this Draft,” said amateur scouting director Billy Gasparino. “We like college bats and always search for them first.”

Draft Tracker: Complete pick-by-pick coverage

The Dodgers also drafted Jimmy Lewis, a right-handed Texas high school pitcher, 78th overall with a compensation pick for the free-agent departure of Yasmani Grandal.

Hoese, 21, is a right-handed hitter who was drafted by Kansas City in the 35th round last year. After two unspectacular years in college, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound slugger erupted this season, drawing comparisons to Josh Donaldson and becoming the first third baseman the Dodgers have ever taken with their first pick. He hit .391 with 23 homers and 61 RBIs in 58 games. He was scouted by Benny Latino.

“Kody is a guy we earmarked coming out of the fall that we really thought took a jump in both ability and performance. He’s an athletic 6-4, lean-bodied third baseman who we think is a plus defender,” said Gasparino, who saw Hoese play three games in two days.

“We thought the power was going to be there, and then he went out and almost hit .400 with over 20 home runs and really showed us that he was a dynamic hitter that can hit with power. His defense is plus.”

Here’s the MLB Pipeline scouting report on Hoese:

After going homerless as a freshman in 2017 and hitting just five homers as a sophomore, Hoese ranked fourth in NCAA Division I with 23 long balls during the 2019 regular season. Taken in the 35th round in 2018 by the Royals as a Draft-eligible sophomore, he began to realize his power potential by blasting seven homers with wood bats in the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer. He tied a Tulane record with three homers in his fifth game of the 2019 season and has kept up the rampage, winning American Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors.

Tulane's best offensive prospect since 2003 Indians first-rounder Michael Aubrey, Hoese is loaded with natural right-handed power. He's always had a good swing and the ability to leverage the ball with his 6-foot-4 frame, and he has taken off since getting stronger. He drives the ball in the air from gap to gap with ease, maintaining a disciplined approach that has led to more walks than strikeouts in 2019.

Though he's a below-average runner, Hoese moves well for his size and covers enough ground to remain at third base. His solid arm strength adds to his quality profile at the hot corner, a package that should land him in the top two rounds.

Busch, a first baseman/outfielder in college, said he wasn’t surprised the Dodgers drafted him as a second baseman, his position in last year’s Cape Cod League. He was a shortstop in high school.

“Michael is a guy who we thought was one of the better bats in the Cape, both in terms of performance and swing, as well as overall defensive versatility,” Gasparino said. “He’s been a staple in the UNC program. They rave about his makeup and his character, and we’re excited to add him to our organization. We’re going to challenge Michael and start at second base.”

Busch is 21, 6-foot, 207 pounds and Gasparino called him “an elite” left-handed hitter who was compared to Dodgers slugging infielder Max Muncy during the Draft by MLB Network analysts, which Gasparino said “I don’t think is a crazy idea. … The similarity is very real."

“I don’t like to compare myself to other players," Busch said. "Max Muncy is a fantastic player and it’s an honor to be compared to him. One day I hope to be as good as him.”

Busch played three years of varsity football and hockey, leading his team to a state final as a quarterback. He wasn’t drafted out of high school and said he wasn’t one of the better players on his college team as a freshman, but what he’s learned from his teammates “has had the greatest impact on my career.”

He had 16 homers, 57 RBIs and hit .290 for the Tar Heels.

Here’s the MLB Pipeline scouting report on Busch:

While Busch was Minnesota's top high school position prospect in 2016, his bat stood out more than his athleticism and he wasn't a highly regarded recruit or Draft target. That profile remains true today, but now he's one of the best pure hitters in college baseball and a likely first-round pick. He has been one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's most dangerous bats the last two years and also has starred in the Cape Cod League.

Busch makes it look easy at the plate. He has a smooth left-handed swing with plenty of bat speed and a patient, balanced approach that allows him to hammer balls to all fields. He should hit for average and power while drawing plenty of walks, and few college players in this Draft have a higher offensive ceiling or floor.

Busch's Draft status is compromised somewhat by uncertainty about his future home. He's small for a first baseman and has below-average to fringy speed and arm strength. He's more athletic than his 6-foot, 207-pound frame might indicate -- he starred in football and hockey as well as baseball in high school -- and possibly could handle second base (where he played on the Cape) or left field (where he has seen action this spring).

The slot money designated for the 25th pick is $2,740,300 and the 31st pick is $2,312,000.

Lewis is 18, 6-foot-6, 200 pounds and is committed to LSU. He went 9-0 with a 0.52 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings. Here’s the MLB Pipeline scouting report:

Lewis still has plenty of room to add strength to his 6-foot-6 frame and he already can reach 95 mph with his fastball and carry low-90s velocity deep into games. He uses his size and a high-three-quarters arm slot to deliver his pitches on a steep downhill plane. Those attributes also help him stay on top of an upper-70s curveball with good depth than can become a plus pitch once it's more consistent.

Lewis also demonstrates some feel for a changeup but will have to use it more often against more advanced hitters. He has a fairly simple delivery for such a tall pitcher, and his strength and athleticism bode well for his control and durability. He's part of a banner Louisiana State recruiting class but becoming less likely to make it to Baton Rouge.

The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 9:30 a.m. PT, with exclusive coverage beginning at 10 a.m. PT. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.