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Top Picks and Phenoms Do Not Always Make It

Since the Dodgers came to Los Angeles, they have had 67 first round picks. More than half, 37, have been pitchers. 25 were right handed and 12 left handed. 9 shortstops, 9 outfielders, 5 catchers, 3 first baseman, 3 third basemen and 2 second basemen.

7 came from universities or high schools in the state of Texas.  They got 6 from California. 9 first round picks have been with World Series winners. Stubbs, Howe, Anderson, Welch, Kershaw, Buehler, Seager and Smith. Mike Scioscia, the 9th player, was on both the 81 and 88 teams.

Howe Seager and Sutcliffe were first rounders who were ROY’s. The Dodgers have made 11 selections in the supplemental round, but have never had an overall number one pick.

Now there can be many reasons most of these guys never pan out. Better competition, injuries, bad work habits, not adaptable to coaching.

Some just never make it out of single A ball. The 65 draft featured Rick Monday, the #1 choice and a kid named Tom Seaver. The Dodgers drafted # 8 and took John Wyatt, a SS from Bakersfield. Wyatt does not even have a minor league page which should tell you all you need to know.

Their 66 selection, Larry Hutton, made it to AA ball. Don Denbow, picked in 67 never made it past single A. In 1968, with the #5 pick, they got Bobby Valentine. The 1968 draft has long been considered the best in Dodger history. While Valentine was the top pick, he never would achieve the same success in his career that some of his fellow draft class would.

Bill Buckner, Tom Lasorda, Steve Garvey, Bobby Valentine – Lasorda with 3 of the prized 1968 LAD Draft

The Dodgers traded him after the 72 season to the Angels as part of the deal for Andy Messersmith and Ken McMullen. Granted, a serious injury after catching his spikes in the chain link fence in Anaheim cost him his speed as his bones never healed correctly.

He did go on to manage the Mets and the Rangers and is well known for donning a disguise and returning to the dugout after being tossed from a game. He also had two stints managing in Japan.

It would be 1971 before they would have another pick who would make it to the majors, Rick Rhoden (Pictured). Rhoden pitched for LA from 74-78. Then he was traded to the Pirates for Jerry Reuss at the beginning of the 79 season.

In 74, the first round pick was Rick Sutcliffe. Sut would become the ROY in 1979.  He won 17 games, and was traded to Cleveland in the Orta deal. He would win a Cy Young with the Cubs in 84.

Mark Bradley was drafted as a SS and he began to show real promise when he made it to AA and AAA ball. But he only played parts of three seasons in the majors, most of his games coming as a Met. He played all of his MLB games as an outfielder. He was traded to the Mets for 2 minor leaguers and cash.

With their next three draft picks, they had much better luck as all three were part of World Series winners. They had no first rounder in 78. Scioscia, Welch and Howe were those three picks.

Scioscia had a 13 year playing career then managed the Angels from 2000-2018. Welch would win a Cy Young with the A’s, but he is best remembered as a Dodger for his epic duel in the 1978 World Series with Reggie Jackson that ended with Jackson striking out. Howe came out of nowhere to win the ROY in 1980.

 

 

Both he and Welch had abuse problems. Both passed away way too young. Over the next 10 years, four of their first rounders went on to play in the majors, Anderson, Stubbs, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Tom Goodwin.

But third rounder, Billy Ashley, drafted in 1988, had more hype than any of those guys. Ashley was supposed to be the next big thing as a power hitter when he crushed 26 homers in 92, and 2 more for the Dodgers. He then slammed 37 at AAA in 93. He would spend parts of 6 seasons with the Dodgers and 1 with the Red Sox. He hit 28 total in the majors and was out of the league at 28 years old.

They drafted Greg Luzinski’s son Ryan with their first round pick in 92. But he was blocked by Piazza and never really reached the potential they saw in him.

Then came 1993 and they drafted Darren Dreifort at #2. Their highest pick ever in Los Angeles. Dreifort was one of the few players who made his first pro appearance as a major leaguer. He did spend some time in the minors after his debut in 94.

He was out all of 1995 with injuries.  From there on he would be plagued by multiple injury issues that kept him out several times in his career. He also missed the entire 2002 season. He never reached the heights expected. He was under .500 for his career. His 5 year deal signed in 2000 for 55 million ranks as one of the team’s least productive contracts. Dreifort would pitch in only 3 of the 5 seasons. He retired at 32 after the 2004 season.

It has been learned since that Dreifort’s injury problems may be traceable to a degenerative condition that may have weakened his connective tissues as well as a deformed femur which may have been the root of his hip problems.

That directly affected his ability to rotate his body correctly which could lead to elbow and arm trouble. Dreifort has had 22 surgeries. 20 of those came after he turned pro. He now is a Dodger spring training instructor.

Their next first rounder was Paul Konerko, drafted as a catcher. Blocked by Piazza, Lasorda traded him to the Reds. He went on to have a stellar career as a first baseman for the White Sox blasting over 400 homers in his career. Whoops, we blew that one!

Since Konerko, the Dodgers have drafted twenty-one players who have spent time in the majors. Three players they drafted, Hochevar, Funkhouser and Ginn did not sign with the team. Of those 21, Loney, Billingsley, Kershaw, Seager, Buehler, Lux and Smith, made significant contributions to the Dodgers. Kersh will no doubt be in the Hall of Fame.

Some were traded for players who made impacts like Zack Lee for Chris Taylor. Bobby Miller is the latest first rounder to impact the team. And we will see how he progresses over the next few years.

Some had cups of coffee with the team. And as usual, some were total busts or have not quite made it yet. The way the Dodgers have played over the last 11 seasons, all of their picks have come later in the first round.

With the way ownership thinks at this point, it is doubtful that will change.

 

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Badger

I recall the 1978 World Series. I recall the Dodgers losing 4 in a row, the last two not even being close.

Bklyn2LA57

What I remember about the 78 series is Reggie sticking his hip out and deflecting Russell’s throw to first allowing Munson to score. I couldn’t believe it when the umpires let him get away with it.

Badger

You’re right. One of the all time umpire blunders in WS history, and there have been a few.

A little known and seldom enforced rule in baseball reads like this: if after having been put out (which Jackson was) that runner interferes with the defense’s opportunity to get another out, it’s a dead ball and not only is that runner who interfered out, the runner closest to home shall also be declared out. That was Munson who was allowed to score. At the time this happened I was an active umpire in Northern California and I was coming out of chair screaming at the tv. Now how is it I knew that rule and 6 Major League umpires doing a World Series didn’t know it?

Duke Not Snider

It’s been awhile since the Dodgers had a true “phenom.” I think Puig might qualify, as he was certainly phenomenal…until he wasn’t.
Trout or Puig? That was a legitimate debate for a couple of months.
Trout was a phenom who made it. ML debut at 19. More recently we’ve see young guys like Acuna, Soto, JRod, Tatis and Wander (alas) burst on to the scene.
Anyway, I think the Dodgers are overdue. A 21st century Fernando would be nice, for example. I don’t see anything happening this season, but perhaps De Paula or Jeondry Vargas will get in position.
Welch was a pretty exciting rookie. He’s also a reminder how a young arm (like maybe Bruns or Ferris or Kopp or ??) could make a big impression in relief before they transition to SP. I keep thinking the Dodgers could have one of those guys.

Mark Timmons

It’s funny that I was reading this and said to myself, “Self, that’s not Jeff writing that!” Then I saw the disclaimer. Nice Article, Bear!

I was perusing Fangraphs and looking at their ZIPS projections (which is seldom close to reality) and thought I’d share this with you guys. Here are their Projections for some of the Dodgers:

Smith .259 BA/.355 OB%/21 HR/74 RBI
Betts .278 BA/.381 OB%/31 HR/112 RBI
Freeman .299 BA/.384 OB%/25 HR/109 RBI
Outman .245 BA/.337 OB%/23 HR/85 RBI
Ohtani .259 BA/.359 OB%/38 HR/91 RBI
Muncy .214 BA/.336 OB%/27 HR/80 RBI
Vargas .253 BA/.331 OB%/18 HR/82 RBI
Rojas .249 BA/.301 OB%/6 HR/43 RBI
Lux . .251 BA/.323 OB%/8 HR/56 RBI
Teoscar .263 BA/.314 OB%/30 HR/78 RBI

You can see the whole thing at Fangraphs. It means nothing…

Badger

Means nothing? There must be a reason it’s posted. Fangraphs teams of statisticians have mountains of algorithms that spit those numbers out. I think they are worth discussing and appreciate you sharing them.

My first reaction is where are the OPS projections and how does Vargas get 82 RBIs?

I think both Ohtani and Lux will do better and Muncy will thrive in that lineup. If he is the everyday third baseman he will hit over 30 home runs.

Mark Timmons

I did not post the SLG, but Fangraphs has it. They make you do the OPS calculation.

IlliniDodger

How close was Fangraph’s projections to reality last year?

RC Dodger

Thanks for posting the Fangraphs projections Mark, and thanks for the nice article Bear.
I checked the Fangraphs zips team projections from opening day last year, They had the Dodgers winning only 89 games and finishing in 2nd place behind the Padres, and one game ahead of the Giants. And that was before the rash of pitching injuries the Dodgers suffered through. Of course the Dodgers won 100 games. Pretty poor projection last year.

A few other notes from the 2023 projections: They had the Cardinals winning the Central with 91 wins, but they finished with only 71 wins.
They had the Mets winning 93 games and finishing in second to the Braves. Mets actually won 75 games.
They had Orioles finishing 4th and winning 80 games, but the won division with 101 wins.
Mark put it well. Their projections don’t mean much.

RC Dodger

Link to 2023 ZIPS projected standings.

The Official Hopefully-Not-Too-Erroneous 2023 ZiPS Projections

Mark Timmons

You can go here and see for yourself:

2023 ZiPS Projections: Los Angeles Dodgers

Bumsrap

Projections seem to always be conservative and generally throw cold water on fans’ dreams. Ohtani isn’t going to hit 65 home runs? Really?

Bobby

True, but unless he’s injured and out fo a while, or he’s intentionally walked 150 times like Bonds, I’d expect more than 91 rbi, especially if he’s batting behind Mookie and Freddie (and Lux at 9)

Last edited 4 months ago by Bobby
RC Dodger

ZIPS projections on Ohtani look low but he has only had 100, 95, and 95 RBI in the last three years. The Dodger lineup will be stronger and give him more opportunities, but ZIPS also projects for potential injury or performance decline.
ZIPS projects Ohtani for an OPS of 904 in 2024 which is well below his 2023 OPS of 1066, but above his 2022 OPS of 875. His career OPS is 922. So ZIPS seems low but not way out of line with his career stats.

Bluto

Couple of things:
1. Atlanta still higher on ZIPS
2. Dodgers, i think im right, have always over-performed ZIPS under Friedman

Last edited 4 months ago by Bluto
Badger

At first glance they looked conservative.

Oldbear48

There will be a player somewhere down the road who will come out of nowhere and make an impact. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is pretty special. Someone mentioned Puig. Puig had so much ability, but a 5-cent head. Had he listened to his coaches and toned down the behavior, he might still be in the majors.

Mark Timmons

ZIPS Projections always assume 400-600 ABs, and that does not happen.

Oldbear48

I for one think projections are dumb. They can predict trends based on previous years, but they rarely hit the mark. Just like prospects are prospects until they aren’t, when predictions actually hit the mark, I will believe in them.

Dionysus

Damn straight

Badger

I like them.

Oldbear48

I predict none of their projected stats will even come close to what the player will actually do.

Bluto

none of them!?!!

how would you define close?

Oldbear48

Within plus or minus 5. That is close.

Dan in Pasadena

I REALLY remember thinking Puig had SO MUCH physical talent but no maturity, no judgment at all. I wondered if he would mature before he outlived his abilities?….he didn’t. Such a waste. He could have been phenomenal.

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