2013 Dodgers Draft Preview: Part One

With the draft just days away, it's time to look at who the Dodgers could be targeting in the Rule 4 festivities.

I was thinking of breaking this into several parts, but with just a few days until the event, I figured to cram bunches of info into a few key posts. So, let's start off with my Top 10 prospects:

1. Trey Ball, LHP
2. Hunter Harvey, RHP
3. J.P. Crawford, SS
4. Ian Clarkin, LHP
5. Nick Ciuffo, C<
6. Phil Bickford, RHP
7. Dominic Smith, 1B
8. Eric Jagielo, 3B
9. Alex Balog, RHP
10.Aaron Judge, OF

Now, if you've been following the draft, you'll ask me where Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray and Kris Bryant are. Well, they're not here because there's no way the Dodgers would be able to draft them. I purposefully omitted the top players and others whom I seriously doubt will be available at the 18th pick. Now, some info on who I did include.

Prep Arms

Logan White's calling card. Of the 11 drafts he's conducted, White has used six of his first picks on high school pitchers. While only one of his previous four first picks has fit that mold (Zach Lee in 2010), I believe his approach had shifted not due to a change in philosophy, but a pragmatic approach to a constrained budget.

Thus, Logan is likely to have a pick of the best prep arms in the draft, save Kohl Stewart, and I think he would have a hard time passing some of these guys up.

Ball and Harvey are immensely intriguing. Both are athletic, projectable arms who flash plus velocity and plus breaking balls. Trey Ball was also considered a serious hitting prospect coming into the year, though his future is definitely on the mound. With a heater that's touched the mid 90s as well as the potential for a good curve and a reliable change, as well as an ultra-lean 6'6 180 lbs frame, Ball has a skillset that you can dream on. He may be gone before the Dodgers pick, but if he falls, L.A. would have to give him serious consideration.

Harvey is someone I've been talking about for a while now. The son of former MLB reliever Bryan, Hunter has every tool you look for in a pitching prospect. He's projectable at 6'3 and 170 lbs, he's athletic, he has a good arm action, has arm strength, can spin a breaking ball and has bloodlines. Add in to that the fact that he's from North Carolina, home of Dodger draft picks like Corey Seager, Allen Webster and fellow Catawba resident Jerry Sands, as well as him being considered extremely signable, and he makes almost too much sense.

The next two, Clarkin and Bickford, have minor issues that can probably be sorted by pro coaching. Clarkin is a San Diego native with a sturdy build, arm strength and a good breaking ball. He comes at hitters over the top, which looks a little awkward, but his delivery works and he hasn't had any problems maintaining his stuff. He's had issues with his command but simply needs time to refine it and his usable, but inconsistent, changeup. Ian is a favorite of Mock Drafters to go to the Dodgers, which makes sense.

Bickford is a local boy for me, attending school about 10 minutes from where I live. When I saw him pitch, I caught on him one of his "bad" days, even though he only gave up a pair of hits in six scoreless frames and struck out double digits. His fastball sat 91-93 early on but faded later, probably due to the muggy 95 degree heat. Recently, he's been sitting in the mid 90s and consistently throwing his slurvy breaking ball for strikes. It's not the best breaker in the world, with curve velocity and slider shape, but he locates it well. His changeup could give him a third weapon down the line. His fastball plays up because of its life and how well he commands it and he should have no problem cruising thru A ball on it alone. However, I wonder how good his secondary stuff will be as he climbs the ladder. He also makes an inverted L in his delivery, which should be ironed out in the pros.

High School Bats

Logan White shocked the world last June by selecting Corey Seager, just the second hitter he's taken with his first pick in his 11 years of drafting. His first was in 2002 with James Loney, the first year he ran the Dodgers' draft. Oddly enough with the way this draft is setting up, all three hitters could be there when the Dodgers pick or maybe none of them make it to 18. Either way, they're worth talking about.

J.P. Crawford, who is related to Carl Crawford, tops the group as an athletic, projectable shortstop with the tools to stick there. The lefty-hitter has some pop in his bat and should add muscle to his 6'2, 180 lbs frame. He's a good, but not great, runner who projects to be average defensively. Still, if he can hit at all while playing average defense at short, J.P. would be a very valuable asset in the majors.

Nick Ciuffo gets compared to A.J. Pierzynski for his skillset and demeanor on the field. He's a fiery leader with solid tools across the board, save for speed. He shows pop from the left side and has hit well against good competition on the showcase circuit, as well as showing the necessary skills to stick behind the plate. The history of prep catchers, especially in the past 10 years, hasn't been promising, but it's a strength of this class with the potential of three going in the first round and Ciuffo is likely the safest bet to make it to the show behind the plate.

Dominic Smith is a unique prospect. He could be the highest selected high school first baseman since Eric Hosmer went 3rd overall in 2008. Smith doesn't have quite that level of acclaim, but the Serra HS alum will be a definite first rounder. The left/left slugger is heralded as a great pure hitter, something the Dodgers love early in the draft. James Loney was extremely similar coming out of high school: an excellent defender at first with a strong arm who pitched for his team. However, Smith has more present power than Loney did out of high school. It would be unconventional, but Dominic is the exact type of player Logan covets early in the draft.

The College Guys

Two of the past four top picks for the Dodgers have been of the college variety. Oddly, both were fairly new to pitching, with an outfielder turned pitcher turned outfielder in Aaron Miller and a reliever turned starter in Chris Reed. Each have had their struggles, with the former having to switch positions twice in order to find a place in the organization while the latter has had some success in advanced ball in spite of being a frugal pick. Nevertheless, it's always a possibility, and all possibilities should be explored.

Eric Jagielo is an interesting guy. Seen as a power-hitter with holes in his swing and possibly a first baseman moving forward, the Notre Dame third baseman has improved on both sides of the ball. He slugged 13 home runs in the Cape Cod League last year, a wood bat league filled with top college players, so the power potential is obvious. While he may never be a high average hitter, Eric should hit enough to tap into his power. And while he won't be a gold glover, he'll be fine at third. Not the most exciting prospect, but power-hitting third basemen are always welcome in my book.

Alex Balog is riding Kyle Zimmer's coattails. The big righty out of San Francisco has everything you look for in a pitcher: the build, the delivery, the stuff. His results have been spotty over the years but late season adjustments on the mental side have seen his production and stuff take a big step forward. He's young for a college junior, as he won't turn 21 until July, and there still seems to be some untapped potential in there. If he continues pitching like he has of late, someone's going to get a very good pitcher.

Aaron Judge, along with prep outfielder Clint Frazier, are the freaks of the class. While Frazier is an undersized redhead with a lightning bat, Judge is a physical specimen that dwarfs most pros. Standing 6'7 and weighing in at 255 lbs, he seems like he should be a hulking statue stuck at first base. However, Judge runs well for his size and is built less like Adam Dunn and more like Blake Griffin. He puts on spectacles in batting practice and has begun showing power in games this spring. With his length, there are concerns about how much contact he'll make after he signs and he figures to slow down over the years, but the potential of another Giancarlo Stanton is too much for some clubs to pass up.

That's all for the first round. I'll take a look at some players who may entice the Dodgers after the first round in the next entry. Stay tuned.

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