College righties focus of Dodgers' new leaders
Club could see Buehler, Funkhouser at MLB level 'as soon as next year'
LOS ANGELES -- New Dodgers management on Wednesday completed its first Draft, which was heavy on college players and right-handed pitching.
That was the combination the club used with its first two picks Monday -- righties Walker Buehler of Vanderbilt and Kyle Funkhouser of University of Louisville -- as well as the last two picks on Wednesday -- righties Chris Powell of Cal Poly Pomona (son of former Dodgers pitcher Dennis Powell) and Isaac Anderson of Wichita State.
Amateur scouting director Billy Gasparino on Wednesday said Buehler and Funkhouser are advanced enough that they will be fast-tracked and could help on the big league level "as soon as next year." Gasparino said third-rounder Philip Pfeifer and seventh-rounder Andrew Sopko aren't far behind.
All told, the Dodgers selected 42 players. Including two from junior college, 33 (78.5 percent) were from college and nine (21.5 percent) were from high school. Of the 42, 25 (59.5 percent) were pitchers, and of that total 22 (88 percent) were right-handed. The club took a total of 17 position players that included six catchers, all taken on Wednesday.
Gasparino, however, said he expected the opposite. He was surprised that Buehler and Funkhouser fell to the 24th and 35th picks, respectively.
"We thought we got value and feel fortunate," he said. "We tried to target hitters we thought would fall that way, and it didn't."
Gasparino said the strong bias toward college players resulted from the combination of the players available at the time the Dodgers drafted, as well as the gap between the prices high schoolers could leverage with a college alternative versus the college player lacking that leverage.
"A lot of high school guys had high price tags, and we tried to get a couple of them early, but we couldn't get it to fit," said Gasparino. "We aren't opposed to high school. It was more a value play. The money had to be right, and most of the ones that appealed to us were in the $900,000 to $1 million range. We weren't crazy about doing that."
The Dodgers are expected to make an exception in the case of Imani Abdullah, a right-hander out of San Diego's Madison High School. They took him in the 11th round, hedging their bet because unsigned players taken after the 10th round don't count against the bonus pool.
Abdullah scared off other clubs by asking for an $814,300 bonus, commensurate with the 75th slot, but the Dodgers apparently believe they will save enough signing their early-pick college players that they can splurge on Abdullah, who has a commitment to San Diego State University.
The club was serious enough on Wednesday to put its heaviest-hitting recruiter -- co-owner Magic Johnson -- on the phone with Abdullah.
Gasparino said he was very happy with the final take, calling it a "really balanced portfolio."