Los Angeles Dodgers lookin’ out for number one

“We were surprised he was available.”

2014 draftee Grant Holmes(left), with a Jeff-Bridges like smile, shakes hands with Dodger legend Tommy Lasorda.

2014 draftee Grant Holmes(left), with a Jeff-Bridges like smile, shakes hands with Dodger legend Tommy Lasorda.

That may be the biggest cliché in professional sports when talking about the inexact science of drafting players.  No matter if a projected number 10 pick falls to number 20 or number 200, the team grabbing the guy will be “surprised” no other team grabbed him.  Wouldn’t it be refreshing if someone simply said “Uhm, did another team see something we didn’t?”

Well, we heard the cliché again Thursday when the Dodgers drafted right handed high school pitcher Grant Holmes with their first round pick, #22 overall. “We feel fortunate to have gotten a player of Grant’s magnitude,” said Dodger Vice President of Amateur Scouting, Logan White. Then again, one could easily argue White is well beyond tossing out feel-good stroke job statements.

You can’t question a guy who had a hand in drafting future frontline Dodgers Clayton Kershaw (2006 draft), Chad Billingsley (2003), and James Loney (2002). And there was some talk the San Francisco Giants, a team that knows a little bit about pitchers, had Holmes in their sights with the #14 overall pick. It seems as though Holmes would not have lasted much longer if the Dodgers passed on him-the Pirates were ready to swoop in with the 24th pick.

Holmes, who hails from South Carolina, is listed at 6-foot-1, 215-pounds. In his senior year at Conway High, he struck out 82 batters in 40.0 innings, while posting a 4-1 record with a 0.35 ERA.

It was no surprise the Dodgers used their first round pick for a pitcher given  they have chosen arms over bats in 11 of the previous 12 drafts.  Of course, you could make a case the Dodgers haven’t exactly hit any home runs with their plethora of arms.

Unfortunately, reliever Chris Withrow, drafted in 2007,  recently went down with a season ending, and perhaps beyond, arm injury that may require Tommy John surgery.  Withrow had been a solid contributor within a questionable bullpen since his 2013 call-up.  He had made 46 major league appearances going 3-0, with a 2.73 ERA and 71 strikeouts in just 56 innings.  Outside of Withrow, fans are still left wondering as to who may pan out.

Ethan Martin (2008) was sent to the Phillies in the Shane Victorino trade. Martin is hanging in with the Phillies while the Dodgers no longer have Victorino.  Aaron Miller (2009), who was first drafted out of high school in 2006 by the Rockies but chose college instead,  is down in Double A.  He is currently 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA. Zach Lee(2010) was a very highly touted draft pick partly because he turned down a chance to play football at powerhouse Louisiana State University. The term “bubbling his way up” still applies to Lee but it is possible his first major league breath will be with another team.  Lee is struggling a bit in Triple A (5-5, 4.71 ERA) yet other teams appear to be interested in his potential.  He has been the subject of trade talks the last couple of seasons.

Mike Scioscia was a first round pick in 1976 and five years later, was wearing a World Series ring.

Mike Scioscia was the first of three first rounders who were wearing a World Series ring within five years of being drafted.

The Dodgers still see Lee as a capable number four starter should Chad Billingsley fail to come back from his Tommy John surgery and the Dodgers decide Dan Haren’s one-year, $10 million deal is enough. The Dodgers are probably going to be active as the trading deadline approaches so don’t be surprised to see Lee’s name come up one more time.

Chris Reed(2011) is struggling in Double A but the team still sees him as that rarity known as a left-handed, late inning reliever who can make a living pitching to one left-handed batter in the 8th inning.   The Dodgers used their 2012 first round on an infielder,  Corey Seager, and 2013 pick, pitcher Chris Anderson, is starting to find a groove at single A.

It obviously a rare thing to make a World Series trophy out of just draft picks in this day and age but the Dodgers did the next best thing in the late 70’s.  First rounders Mike Scioscia (catcher,1976), and pitchers Bob Welch (1977) and Steve Howe (1979), all became major contributors to a 1981 World Series championship. The Dodgers did not have first round pick in 1978.

To Dodgers fans, 1981 may have been the one year where all the “best player available” talk was truthful.

For more Dodgers 2014 draft news, click here.