On what was a very busy first day for the Dodgers in the 2016 MLB Draft, the high point came when the club chose shortstop Gavin Lux with the 20th overall selection — the first of three choices in the initial round.
The pick marked the first time that the Dodgers selected a position player with their first overall selection since Corey Seager in 2012. Los Angeles has selected a pitcher with their first pick of the draft in 10 of the last 12 years.
A native of Kenosha, WI, the 6’2″, 175 lb. left-handed hitting shortstop hit .531 (43-for-81) with six home runs, 10 doubles, four triples, 31 RBI and 23 stolen bases during his 2016 campaign. He also drew 29 walks, while only striking out twice in 26 games. Lux, 18, was rated by Baseball America as the fourth-best shortstop in the draft and was ranked as the 36th overall top prospect. He was also named the Gatorade State player of the year for the state of Wisconsin.
“He has a lot of athleticism, has really good hands and has enough arm strength to stay at shortstop,” Dodgers’ director of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino said. “He is a very good baseball player, and we really think he has a good chance to be a really good hitter at the Major League level. He has a great mix of talent and skill, and has a very high character.”
Lux was scouted by Dodger area scout Trey Magnuson.
With their second selection in the first round, the Dodgers selected University of Louisville catcher Will Smith. The right-handed hitting catcher was rated by Baseball America as the sixth-best catcher in the draft and became the first catcher since Paul Konerko in 1994 to be drafted in the first round by the Dodgers. Smith, 21, was scouted by scout Marty Lamb.
Smith had a stellar junior season, hitting .380 (57-for-150) with eight doubles, seven home runs and 43 RBI in 53 games along with a .476 OBP and a .573 SLG for the Cardinals in 2016. He was also named third-team All-ACC in 2016, while leading Louisville to the 2016 NCAA Super Regional, where they will face UC Santa Barbara on June 11. During the course of his three-year college career, Smith hit .289/.389/.410 with 20 doubles, seven home runs and 43 RBI, along with a .991 fielding percentage.
“After converting from shortstop to catcher when joining Louisville, it took him a while to sync in at that position in the college level,” said Gasparino. “But we think he’s a great athlete with a plus arm, and he can really receive and throw the ball well. He has always had a short compact swing with good bat speed and controls the zone very well. He is a great leader on the field, and his intangibles are off the chart.”
With their third choice of the first round, the Dodgers picked Vanderbilt University RHP Jordan Sheffield, who was rated by Baseball America as the 12th-best pitcher in the draft and the 23rd-overall prospect. The 5’10”, 195 lb. redshirt sophomore and Golden Spikes Award semifinalist went 8-6 in 16 starts this season, recording a 3.01 ERA (34 ER/101.2 IP), and struck out 113 batters against 40 walks. The Tullahoma, TN, native went 13-8 with a 2.84 ERA in 38 games (22 starts) over the course of his career at Vanderbilt. The 21-year-old was also scouted by Lamb.
“He is very athletic, maybe one of the better athletes in the draft at any position. and he is up to 96 and has big arm strength,” Gasparino explained. “He is a highly competitive kid, and he knows the game and understands professional baseball really well. His changeup has really developed this year into a plus pitch, and the breaking ball has always been a calling card for him.”
In the second round, the Dodgers selected 21-year-old Santa Clara University right-handed pitcher Mitchell White. As a sophomore in 2016, White posted a 3-6 record in 15 starts while recording a 3.72 ERA (38 ER/92.0 IP). Rated as the 138th-overall prospect by Baseball America, he led the Broncos in starts (15), innings pitched (92.0), strikeouts (118) and strikeout per nine innings (11.54) this season. The San Jose, CA native was named to the 2015 All-West Coast Conference Freshman Team after finishing the year 3-2 with a 3.62 ERA (13 ER/32.1 IP) and five saves in 29 relief appearances as a redshirt freshman. The 6’4″, 210 lb. pitcher was scouted by Tom Kunis.
“He was a second half performer this year and went up to 95 MPH late in the year, collecting multiple high strikeout games. He has a plus slider, he is big, he is physical, and we really feel like he is trending up into being a mid-rotation starter,” Gasparino said.
The Dodgers started the second day of the draft by selecting Northwest (TX) High School right-handed pitcher Dustin May in the third round. The 18-year-old Texas native pitched in seven games his senior year, going 3-1 with a 1.92 ERA (11 ER/40.0 IP) and limited the opposition to a .175 average. He struck out 58 batters against 13 walks and was rated by Baseball America as the 117th overall prospect in the 2016 draft.
The draft concludes on Saturday with rounds 11-40.
(Dai Sugiura furnished some data provided in this report)