Logan White on all things MLB Draft
By Cary Osborne
This is the home stretch, and it doesn’t necessarily take place at home.
Dodger vice president of amateur scouting Logan White spent much of the last week leading up to the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Draft in airplanes, rental cars, on high school and collegiate baseball fields and in meeting rooms in final preparations for the three-day, 40-round event, which begins Thursday.
Prior to catching a plane, White took a breath and sat down to talk this year’s draft, strategies and thoughts with Dodger Insider. With as much media attention as the draft gets (thanks to the proliferation of blogs, mock drafts and television coverage than years past), many feel they have a read on what teams will do. However, White said he does a good job of maintaining secrecy.
White has an idea of who the Dodgers’ No. 1 pick will be this year. Past his inner circle, that idea is on lockdown. Yet the day of the draft, circumstances could change the pick.
“There are probably four, five, six guys who the guy is at this stage,” White said. “But I’m also prepared to expect the uncertain. More so now, I have to be more prepared now because you just don’t know what teams strategy-wise are doing in front of you.”
White began running the Dodgers’ draft in 2002 and between that year and 2013, the Dodgers picked only two position players with their first pick (James Loney in 2002 and Corey Seager in 2012).
This particular draft, White said, is heavier on the pitching side. And the Dodgers have done extremely well the last decade drafting pitchers with their first pick (Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Withrow, Zach Lee to name a few). However, White said it’s not necessarily the Dodgers’ intention to pick pitchers with the first pick. Drafting pitchers No. 1 has been more of a combination of philosophy and circumstances.
“I don’t really have a philosophy of pitcher over position player,” White said. “I do a lot of research. .. A lot of the times your position players (such as Buster Posey, Troy Tulowitzki or Ryan Zimmerman), especially the quality college position players, would go before you pick at 22. That becomes a factor. A lot of position players are taken that you would have considered over the pitcher you’re taking. (But) you have to draft a lot of pitching to maintain pitching because of the injury factor. We’ve been pretty successful with pitching, and we got some pretty good position players down the line (Dee Gordon in the fourth round, Matt Kemp in the sixth, Russell Martin in the 17th and A.J. Ellis in the 18th, for example).”
In addition, the Dodgers welcomed top-level pitching depth from the 2013 draft because of trades that brought in Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez. The Dodgers dealt top pitching prospects Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa and Nathan Eovaldi in those trades.
At the top of the 2013 draft, the Dodgers selected big, hard-throwing right-hander Chris Anderson 18th overall and left-hander Tom Windle at No. 56. One year later, they are ranked fifth and seventh respectively among Dodger prospects.
Pitching, White said, will always be a need because of what he called the 4-2 rule. For every four pitchers you draft, two will likely break down. With the rash of Tommy John surgeries this year, it presents a unique question: Do you draft more pitchers now or are you scared away from drafting pitchers?
“I think (some) people will take the approach that, ‘Geez, we’re afraid to take pitching.’ Me personally, I think that might be the wrong direction. You might want to go the other direction — strength in numbers,” White said.
Catching depth is an obvious need at the minor league level, but White said there’s a major difference between baseball’s draft and football’s draft, for example, in that drafting for a perceived need isn’t necessarily the approach.
“Certainly we look what we can do to shore up and improve our position player situation,” White said. “But it’s so difficult in baseball to look at it and say we’re going to draft based on need. A perfect example is you look at our starting second baseman, Dee Gordon. Last year at this point in time, a lot of people wouldn’t have said Dee Gordon will be your starting second baseman. So people will say you need a second baseman. We had one in house and he’s here. Sometimes these things work themselves out. Like catcher. We have a kid named Kyle Farmer and a kid named Spencer Navin. We drafted both last year and both have a chance to be good Major League catchers.
“You certainly want to look at position players and have a strategy behind it, but you can’t make a draft produce something it doesn’t have.”
This year, the Dodgers are selecting No. 22 overall and have a bonus pool (the sum of the bonus for all of the team’s picks in the first 10 rounds) of just under $5 million — the seventh smallest pool in the Major Leagues this season. Those provide strategic challenges. One method teams use to maximize their dollars is draft more college seniors high in the draft because they have less leverage and therefore in some cases can be offered smaller bonuses. That allows the teams to allocate more dollars to the more difficult signs.
The smaller bonus pool changes strategy somewhat for the Dodgers, but not the goal.
“I always go into a draft thinking I want the player that has the highest ceiling. I want the player that will be the best possible player taken in that draft for the longest period of time and will get to the big leagues the quickest. I’m trying to accomplish three things with it,” White said. “Obviously you work off that because that’s not necessarily always going to happen, especially when you’re picking 22. If you’re picking one or two you have more choices. And I’m not making any excuses.
“The reality sets in though where we pick and we say we got the best of what’s available at this point in time. It might not be a Hall of Famer, but could be a pretty good big leaguer that can contribute here in L.A. and help us win a championship or a guy who we can use down the line as a trade piece that gets us a player who helps us win a championship. I still think you have to start a draft looking to get the best possible guy, the best athlete who will have the best big league career.”
In rounds 11-40, the competition and intensity are still there because any pick can make a significant impact. In 2010, Joc Pederson was taken in the 11th round. In 2005, Scott Van Slyke was drafted in the 14th round.
As White puts it, any pick can change the direction of a franchise. The Dodgers have 40 chances this week.
Photos: Jon SooHoo, Los Angeles Dodgers