The 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is coming up on Thursday at 4 p.m. PT from Secaucus, N.J. For the Los Angeles Dodgers, a franchise that has been known for its farm system over the years, the draft has shown that in order to get the most talent doesn’t necessarily constitute holding a top pick.
We break down five Dodgers who have been drafted over the years with some of their original scouting reports.
Steve Sax (9th Round, 229th overall pick, 1978 Draft)
Before Dodgers fans could admire the quirkiness and fun-loving behavior of Steve Sax, the West Sacramento, Calif. kid was drafted in round nine of the 1978 amateur draft. His career accolades include winning the 1982 National League Rookie of the Year Award, followed by committing 30 errors at second base the following season. His mechanics would be straightened out by the time his Dodgers career came to an end in 1988, which contributed to him being named an All-Star five times.
Orel Hershiser (17th Round, 440th overall pick, 1979 Draft)
“Bulldog” played his collegiate baseball at Bowling Green State University before being taken late by the Dodgers in the 1979 MLB Draft. Scouts, whose anonymity have been preserved from a 2004 ESPN article, said that Hershiser had “no command or control” and that he “looks like he rattles easily.” Defying the critics, Hershiser went on to have a stellar career. He had one of the most impressive individual pitching seasons in MLB history in 1988.
After leading the majors in wins, innings pitched, complete games and shutouts, Hershiser ended the season by breaking former Dodger Don Drysdale’s record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched with 59.
In the playoffs, Hershiser’s run to the pantheon of Dodgers history started in the League Championship Series against the New York Mets when he made four appearances, earning one save and pitching a shutout to send the Dodgers to the World Series against the favored Oakland Athletics. Hershiser came back to the mound in Game 2 and again threw a shutout followed by a complete-game in the clinching Game 5. Hershiser was named the Cy Young award winner as well as the World Series MVP in 1988 and would go on to pitch for twelve more seasons, including seven with the Dodgers.
Eric Karros (6th Round, 140th overall pick, 1988 Draft)
Karros was the definition of a homegrown player, having played his college baseball at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was selected with the 140th overall pick 1988 MLB Draft and shot through the minors quickly. Karros made it to the Dodgers September call-up roster in 1991. The following season, Karros played 149 games, recording 20 home runs, 88 runs batted in and slugging .426. Those stats earned the 25-year-old the National League Rookie of the Year Award, starting a five-year streak of Dodgers winning that hardware.
Mike Piazza (62nd Round, 1,390th overall pick, 1988 Draft)
Out of Phoenixville High School outside of Philadelphia, this “avg. student” who was “slow to the plate when making contact” was selected initially as a first baseman in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB Draft by his father’s childhood friend, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. Piazza was promoted to the big leagues after being converted to a catcher under the suggestion that Lasorda said he would have a better chance at playing for the Dodgers.
The end result was Piazza winning the 1993 National League Rookie of the Year Award after batting .318 with 35 HR and 112 RBI. Piazza would play 4+ seasons for the Dodgers thereafter and end his 16-year career with a trip to Cooperstown for enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame this August.
Clayton Kershaw (1st Round, 7th overall pick, 2006)
Despite being drafted in the first round of the 2006 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, six other major leaguers were taken before the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner. Jim Callis, a scout for Baseball America in the state of Texas where Kershaw attended high school, said on July 27, 2006,
“[Kershaw] has pitched at 90-96 mph all spring while continuing to pound the bottom of the strike zone. His curveball has improved even more than his fastball and now ranks a legitimate second plus pitch.”
That scouting report on the then-18-year-old has held to form as Kershaw’s curveball has become his most devastating pitch to strike out opposing hitters. That curveball along with a multitude of other pitches has earned the Dodgers current ace an MVP award in 2014 as well as five trips to the midsummer classic.
In 2016, Kershaw won the NL Pitcher of the month for May after recording the National League’s best ERA (0.91), innings pitched (49 2/3) and strikeouts (65). Kershaw recorded his 100th strikeout of the season on May 29, becoming the first pitcher in the live-ball era to hold a 20-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He currently leads all of baseball with a 1.46 ERA and 92 2/3 innings pitched, which could earn him his sixth straight trip to the All-Star Game, but might also earn him his first start in the midsummer classic.
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