The Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday evening announced their first two selections in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft, picking Vanderbilt University outfielder Jeren Kendall with their first pick and University of Texas right-handed pitcher Morgan Cooper with their second selection in the second round. Kendall was the 23rd overall pick, while Cooper was the 62nd overall selection in this year’s draft.
Kendall became the third Vanderbilt star to be selected by the Dodgers on the first day of the draft, joining pitcher Jordan Sheffield from last year and pitcher Walker Buehler from 2015.
The left-handed hitting Kendall posted a .307 batting average with 10 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs, 53 RBI and stole 20 bases in 2017 as a junior last season at Vanderbilt. He led the team in runs scored, hits and home runs, while recording a .372 on-base percentage and a .556 slugging percentage. Kendall, 21, was ranked the sixth-best outfielder in the 2017 draft and the 18th overall best prospect by Baseball America. He was also named to the All-SEC and All-Defensive Team this season with the Commodores.
“Kendall is a very explosive player and some people may use the five-tool word to describe him,” Dodgers Director of Amateur Scouting Billy Gasparino said in a press release. “He has the speed, the power and can play defense in center field and he has a pretty accomplished track record of results. He played for Team USA and playing at the Vanderbilt program that we know very well, we just thought it added up to a lot of positives.”
Kendall was scouted by Dodger area scout Marty Lamb and it marked the second straight year that the Dodgers have selected a position player with their first overall pick, selecting shortstop Gavin Lux from Indian Trail High School in Wisconsin last year. Los Angeles has selected a pitcher with their first pick of the draft in 10 of the last 13 years.
In the second round, Los Angeles selected 22-year-old University of Texas right-handed pitcher Morgan Cooper. As a redshirt junior in 2017, he posted a 6-3 record in 16 games while recording a 2.32 ERA and holding the opposition to a .208 batting average. Rated as the 80th overall pitching prospect by Baseball America, he led the Longhorns with 15 starts, 110 strikeouts and 11.1 K/9 last season. The Jarrell, Texas native was named to the 2017 Collegiate Baseball All-America Third team and is a semifinalist for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound pitcher was scouted by Dodgers’ scout Clint Bowers.
“Morgan is what you would expect from a Texas right-handed pitcher. He is big, he is strong and at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, he is very competitive and we loved his mean streak on the mound. He has a mid-90s fastball and has two breaking pitches that we think can be potential plus pitches. We really liked the physical package a lot and given his experience at the University of Texas, we expect him to hit the ground running fast. We have big expectations for Morgan and we see a lot of qualities of a starting pitcher in him.” said Gasparino.
The 2017 draft will continue on Tuesday with rounds 3-10 starting at 10:00 a.m. pacific time and rounds 11-40 on Wednesday starting at 9:00 a.m. pacific time.
(Dai Sugiura provided the majority of information furnished in this report)