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Andrew Friedman’s sixth draft with the Dodgers will be the strangest.
The president of baseball operations won’t be in a room with his colleagues overseeing animated discussion. He’ll be alone in his Dodger Stadium office, down the left field line, orchestrating his organization’s decisions through computers. A camera will be mounted nearby for a national audience to occasionally peek into his space for Major League Baseball’s first official event since suspending operations March 12 with heated negotiations for the league’s return in 2020 serving as the unfortunate backdrop.
He won’t be there long. This year’s draft won’t be the 40-round event scheduled to take place for the first time in Omaha before the start of the College World Series. It will be five rounds, with the first round Wednesday and the next four Thursday.
Undrafted players can sign for no more than $20,000. Clubs will choose from players who played a brief spring season — if they played one at all — before the COVID-19 pandemic shut sports down.
The unprecedented circumstances forced teams to overhaul their draft preparations. Out went in-person workouts. In came Zoom calls. The effect won’t be fully understood for years, until players develop, if ever.
The Dodgers own six picks in this draft, starting with the 29th overall selection. In a video call with reporters last month, Billy Gasparino, the Dodgers’ director of amateur scouting, noted that this draft is the deepest in at least five years. He said the talent pool’s strengths are in college pitchers and high school position players.
There aren’t any prominent holes in the Dodgers’ farm system — Baseball America ranked it No. 3 in baseball in February — so picking for need is a pitfall they can avoid.
The Dodgers have used 22 of their 30 picks in the first five rounds on college players since 2015, but they have not feared taking chances on high school talent such as Gavin Lux and Dustin May. This year, mock drafts — crapshoots even in normal years — have connected them to players from both groups with their first-round pick.
Friedman hired Gasparino a month after he was hired as the Dodgers president of baseball operations in October 2014, and the regime’s first two drafts — 2015 and 2016 — have so far produced 10 major leaguers. Another five players are on the Dodgers’ or another team’s 40-man roster. Of those 15 players, nine were selected in the first five rounds.
The Dodgers used their three first-round picks in those drafts on Walker Buehler, Lux and Will Smith. Buehler is a budding ace, Lux is considered a top-five prospect across baseball, and Smith ended last season as the team’s starting catcher.
The last three drafts have yet to produce a player in either category, though it remains early to judge the results. In 2018, the Dodgers failed to sign their first-round pick, J.T. Ginn, a high school pitcher who is back in this year's draft after winning national freshman of the year honors at Mississippi State in 2019. That gave the club a second first-round pick last year. They used both on college position players — third baseman Kody Hoese of Tulane and second baseman Michael Busch of North Carolina.
Clayton Kershaw (first round), Corey Seager (first round) and Cody Bellinger (fourth round) are among the picks the Dodgers landed in the first five rounds before Friedman arrived. This week, they’ll look to add big league talent to the brimming homegrown cupboard with their limited chances.
Dodgers' first-round draft picks since 2000
POS, NAME, OVERALL PICK, SCHOOL, MLB WAR
RHP Ben Diggins, 17th pick, 4YR, -0.7 WAR
No first-round pick
1B James Loney, 19th pick, HS, 11.3 WAR
LHP Greg Miller, 31st pick (compensation), HS, N/A
RHP Chad Billingsley, 24th pick, HS, 17.2 WAR
LHP Scott Elbert, 17th pick, HS, 1.5 WAR
2B Blake DeWitt, 28th pick, HS, 1.9 WAR
RHP Justin Orenduff, 33rd pick (compensation), 4YR, N/A
RHP Luke Hochevar, 40th pick (compensation), 4YR, 3.7 WAR*
LHP Clayton Kershaw, 7th pick, HS, 67.9 WAR
RHP Bryan Morris, 26th pick, JC, 2.7 WAR
SS Preston Mattingly, 31st pick (compensation), HS, N/A
RHP Chris Withrow, 20th pick, HS, 1.4 WAR
LHP James Adkins, 39th pick (compensation), 4YR, N/A
RHP Ethan Martin, 15th pick, HS, -0.6 WAR
LHP Aaron Miller, 36th pick (compensation), 4YR, N/A*
RHP Zach Lee, 28th pick, HS, -0.3 WAR
LHP Chris Reed, 16th pick, 4YR, 0.0 WAR
SS Corey Seager, 18th pick, HS, 15.7 WAR
SS Jesmuel Valentín, 51st pick (compensation), HS, -0.8 WAR
RHP Chris Anderson, 18th pick, 4YR, N/A
RHP Grant Holmes, 22nd pick, HS, N/A
RHP Walker Buehler, 24th pick, 4YR, 5.5 WAR
RHP Kyle Funkhouser, 35th pick, 4YR, N/A*
SS Gavin Lux, 20th pick, HS, 0.6 WAR
C Will Smith, 32nd pick, 4YR, 1.7 WAR
RHP Jordan Sheffield, 36th pick, 4YR, N/A
OF Jeren Kendall, 23rd pick, 4YR, N/A
RHP J.T. Ginn, 30th pick, HS, N/A*
3B Kody Hoese, 25th pick, 4YR, N/A
2B Michael Busch, 31st pick, 4YR, N/A
* Did not sign with Dodgers