Pfeifer's triumph through adversity impressed Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- After loading up on players with barely a blemish in the first day of the Draft, new Dodgers management opened Tuesday's session taking a player who had failed a drug test.
But director of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino said the Dodgers believe they know exactly what they are getting in left-handed pitcher Philip Pfeifer and couldn't be happier about it.
"We're comfortable with his background, having talked to his coach and talking to the kid and the background work we do," said Gasparino. "Actually, we think it can be a positive. He's already had to get through and show he can handle adversity. We see that as a strength."
Pfeifer is a Vanderbilt University teammate of right-hander Walker Buehler, the Dodgers' first-round pick, so scout Marty Lamb saw plenty of both. Pfeifer was 5-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 25 games, with 105 strikeouts and 40 walks in 83 2/3 innings. Like Buehler, Pfeifer pitched at Dodger Stadium earlier this year in the Dodgertown Classic. He turns 23 next month.
"I'm just proud of the kid and the way he's handled everything," said Lamb, who has scouted Pfeifer since high school. "I told him he's going to have a great story to tell. He's a great example for guys. You know, at first, you don't know if you want to be involved in something like this. But you talk to the kid, see how sharp and cerebral he is.
"What put me over the edge is that he was voted captain this year by the coaches and players. With that Vanderbilt program being what it is, they're not voting somebody captain just because he's a good guy. They saw all the work and effort he's put in. That was a really strong statement."
Gasparino said Pfeifer (6-foot, 195 pounds) profiles as a back end of the rotation starter.
"He's aggressive, attacks with a fastball at 93 [mph], and he has two secondary pitches -- a plus curve and a plus changeup," said Gasparino. "Those two pitches vary by outing, but he's an above-average strike-thrower."
Speaking to Adam Sparks of The Tennessean after the Dodgers made him the 101st pick, Pfeifer said he wasn't sure if his recovery from substance abuse or a big performance in the Super Regional over Illinois (sending defending champ Vandy into the College World Series again) had the biggest impact on his Draft selection.
Pfeifer missed the entire 2014 season after failing the drug test. His teammates won a national title while he sat out recovering from admitted abuse of drugs and alcohol that began in high school. Pfeifer was drafted in the 44th round by Texas in 2011, but went to college instead.
"A lot of these high school kids come out [straight to the pros]," Pfeifer told The Tennessean. "But if I had come out of high school and signed [with a Major League club], there might be a completely different tragic ending to all this. Reflecting on it, yes, the maturity aspect of me now definitely helped [in attracting scouts] -- and not just my off-the-field activity, but also how I approach the game."