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Dodgers look past injuries, toward ceiling in Draft

MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Marshall Kasowski wins this year's award for overcoming the greatest physical obstacle to still be drafted by the Dodgers, but the competition was fierce, as always.

All Kasowski has done is recover from serious head injuries suffered in a 2015 car accident to lead all Division II pitchers with 165 strikeouts, breaking school and Lone Star Conference records, while also leading the nation with 15.91 strikeouts per nine innings. That's why the University of Houston transfer was taken by the Dodgers in the 13th round out of West Texas A&M University.

LOS ANGELES -- Marshall Kasowski wins this year's award for overcoming the greatest physical obstacle to still be drafted by the Dodgers, but the competition was fierce, as always.

All Kasowski has done is recover from serious head injuries suffered in a 2015 car accident to lead all Division II pitchers with 165 strikeouts, breaking school and Lone Star Conference records, while also leading the nation with 15.91 strikeouts per nine innings. That's why the University of Houston transfer was taken by the Dodgers in the 13th round out of West Texas A&M University.

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"He was one of our favorite pitchers this year, in terms of his performance," said Dodgers amateur scouting director Billy Gasparino. "It was Division II, but I think he had the highest performance we've seen in the last 10 years. He has a unique deception to how he throws the baseball. He has an overhand motion that gives the fastball a lot of rise and creates deception on his secondary pitches. A lot of our guys [compared] him to Josh Collmenter."

Gasparino said Kasowski's performance erased all doubts about any lingering effects from the 2015 auto accident, in which Kasowksi was rear-ended by a car estimated to be traveling 100 mph and was knocked into a second head-on collision. His 2016 season was cut short by related gall bladder surgery.

But Gasparino has never shied away from drafting players with physical risks, and he did it again this year.

For example, he took outfielder Tyler Adkison in the 32nd round out of San Diego State. In a grotesque 2015 intrasquad scrimmage, Adkison was drilled in the mouth by a teammate's pitch, resulting in a double mandible fracture with assorted broken teeth. But after redshirting that year, Adkison hit .302 in 2016 and .337 this year, with an increase in slugging percentage from .502 to .648.

"Adkison is another guy who had a great performance year," said Gasparino. "We think he's a strong, compact outfielder that can really hit. I know he had the accident, we think he's past that, and his performance proves that, and we're really excited to see what he can do with us."

Right-handed pitcher Andre Jackson, L.A.'s 12th-round pick from the University of Utah, was previously drafted by the Rangers in the 32nd round and probably won't pitch this year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

"But I would look for him next year to really make a move in our prospect rankings," Gasparino said. "He's a plus athlete, he played the outfield, and he was really impressive from a performance and stuff standpoint. He has mid-rotation-type ceiling and, in terms of ceiling, we were really excited to get him."

Another Tommy John surgery case is 17th-rounder Nat Witt from Michigan State, who pitched this year after missing the two previous seasons recovering from the surgery.

"He's played some first and pitched out of the bullpen, but he has a really interesting arm," said Gasparino. "He's 6-4, big and strong, and got his fastball up to 96 [mph]. He didn't get a lot of opportunities to pitch at Michigan State, but we're excited to try to develop him into a starting power pitcher."

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

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