Dodgers draft with focus on college arms

High-skill position players at top of each day; mostly right-handed pitchers after

June 15th, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- If you're a hard-throwing right-handed amateur pitcher, especially one in college, you're on the Dodgers' radar.

Although they took skill position players with their first pick on each of the three days of the 2017 MLB Draft, the Dodgers used most of the other 37 picks on pitchers, primarily righties in college with more upside because of a live arm and big body rather than proven production.

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"Our guys worked so hard and they always try to make the most of every Draft class, but the way it fell this year, we think we really nailed it," said director of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino. "They did a great job, and we're super excited to hand these players over to [director of player development] Gabe Kapler and his staff."

Gasparino chose 35 college players and five from high school. He took 22 pitchers (18 right-handed) and 18 position players. By comparison, last year the Dodgers chose 34 college players and eight from high school, 23 pitchers (21 right-handed) and 19 position players. The club signed 34 of 42 drafted players last year.

Gasparino's top pick overall on Monday was Vanderbilt center fielder Jeren Kendall, who possesses a combination of speed and power and was one of seven outfielders the Dodgers selected. They took five shortstops, including their top pick on Wednesday, 11th-rounder Jacob Amaya from South Hills High School in Covina, Calif.

"With the lack of quantity in the market, the skill player is hard to find, and we spent a lot of time scouting Amaya and are excited for the chance to sign him," said Gasparino. "We think he's really good value for that spot. Offensively and defensively, he's pretty even across the board, a really good player on both sides. We were pleasantly surprised with the way he plays shortstop, with a live body, he's got more power than you'd think for somebody his size (5-foot-10, 165 pounds)."

Gasparino reeled off four consecutive right-handed pitchers in rounds four through seven on Tuesday, added four more consecutive right-handed pitchers on Wednesday in rounds 16 through 19 and tacked on a five-bagger in rounds 33 through 37 before it was over.

"We always try to diversify, but college right-handed pitchers were what was left of the pool," he said. "We took a lot of pitchers, and we think they all have premium power stuff, and the way Major League offenses are going, high velocity is important."

The Dodgers must have had a scout attending the University of Kentucky, because three of their picks came from there, with 23rd-rounder shortstop Connor Heady joining earlier picks seventh-round pitcher Zach Pop and 10th-round outfielder Zach Reks.

"We think Kentucky is one of the better programs in the nation," said Gasparino, who feels the same about Vanderbilt, from which he also took pitcher Walker Buehler in the first round in 2015.