The 2020 version of the MLB Draft will be (on par with 2020 thus far) unlike any draft in recent memory for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, 2020’s player-pool has been sliced from roughly 1200 players (40 rounds) down to a mere 160 (5 rounds). The decision to cut the player pool by a staggering 87% has exponentially added even more uncertainty to a year all-but drenched in it.
Six Picks in Five Rounds
However-this much is certain-the Dodgers will make six draft picks this year (after receiving the competitive balance pick from Minnesota in the trade for Kenta Maeda). That’s six picks in just five rounds!
To help assist Dodgers’ fans with this year’s shortened MLB Draft, I’ve highlighted a few (six to be exact) draft prospects who I believe will be selected by the Dodgers in just a few short days. I’ve also given two honorable mentions for each round at the end of this article. All players highlighted have videos of the player attached in their write-up.
Without any further ado…
1st Round (#29 Overall)- Ed Howard IV (SS) Mt. Carmel (IL)
High-ceiling high-floor athletes make excellent 1st round draft picks. However, they are especially hard to come by and especially at the high school level.
Add even rarer features such as innate intangibles like leadership, baseball intelligence, and a never-ending work ethic—now we’ve entered the prototypical Dodgers 1st round pick territory.
Since Andrew Friedman started calling the shots at Dodger Stadium he’s taken Walker Buehler (RHP, 2015), Gavin Lux (SS, 2016), Will Smith (C, 2016), Jordan Sheffield (RHP, 2016), Jeren Kendall (OF, 2017), JT Ginn (LHP, 2018), Kody Hoese (3B, 2019) and Michael Busch (2B, 2019), all in the 1st round.
Dodgers’ Drafting D.N.A.
Though Gavin Lux was the only high schooler signed from the 1st round (Ginn also came out of HS but didn’t sign with the Dodgers), they all had (have) Dodgers’ 1st round D.N.A.—leadership, work-ethic, baseball intelligence, and high ceiling-high floor projectability.
With differing opinions on where he’ll land in the 1st, Howard could successfully fall into the Dodgers’ lap at #29. If he does, you can count on Friedman to nail him as their 1st round pick.
Physicality and Skillset
I started watching tape on Ed Howard when he was a sophomore in high school. He stood out because he was a head shorter than everyone yet he did everything just as well as his baseball peers, if not better. As he grew, his skills grew and now he’s a solid 6’2”, 185 lbs with long legs and a very projectable frame. He physically resembles a slighter Luis Robert.
Some players will outgrow a position because their size can impede their abilities (constituting a move from SS to 3B for example), but Howard’s skillset guarantees he’ll remain at short.
In fact, given Howard’s quick-twitch athleticism, strong arm, and nose for the ball, he easily projects as a plus-fielder with the potential for Gold Gloves in his bright future.
His stroke is fast, direct, and to the point. Upon impact with the ball, his perpetually circular followthrough is outright gorgeous. He makes violent impact bat-to-ball, unloading with enough balance to maintain composure start-to-finish.
Right now most scouts would agree that his power is more tailored toward the gaps.
However, he’s shown enough pop to go oppo during the 2019 Perfect Game Showcase at Chase Field. Plus, within the right system, he’ll add natural loft to his already swift and powerful swing.
Natural Fit for the Dodgers and Their 1st Round Draft
Everything he does on a baseball field looks naturally well put together. He’s loose yet simultaneously in full control. Plainly, he’s a ballplayer with an innate feel for baseball seldom seen amongst those of his age.
If Howard can drop to the Dodgers and find himself within one of the best developmental systems in baseball, with his natural talent and inherent intangibles, the sky will literally and figuratively be the limit.
2nd Round (#60 Overall)- Dax Fulton (LHP) Mustang (OK)
Fulton is the prototypical, high-end lefty draft prospect. He’s big and tall (6’6″, 225 lbs), has a huge curveball (60 grade-per mlb.com on the 80-20 scouting scale), and owns lefties thanks to his high three-quarter arm slot and ability to throw that dirty breaker at any point in the at bat.
Polished and very athletic, especially for his size, Fulton adds a level of ease seldom seen in super-tall HS lefty arms. Though his delivery has a lot of moving parts, they work.
Look Familiar Dodger Fans?
Besides, there was another lefty prospect drafted by the Dodgers who also had a litany of moving parts throughout his windup and a nasty breaker as well. Put this kid in a Dodgers’ jersey and the comparisons should scream Clayton Kershaw.
Fulton had plans to attend Vanderbilt (cough, Andrew Friedman) but instead decided to go with Oklahoma. It’ll be the Dodgers’ responsibility to ensure Fulton’s place in the pro ranks, not with the Sooners.
How does a prospect of Dax’s prowess fall all the way down to #60 overall?
Fulton underwent Tommy John surgery last September and scouts haven’t seen him pitch since.
However, given how advanced his resume without playing in 2020, a team with multiple early-round picks (like the Dodgers) could very easily take a chance on arguably the best lefty prep prospect in 2020.
Comp. Balance Round B (#66 Overall)- Jared Jones (RHP) La Mirada (CA)
So-Cal kid, Jared Jones has moxie. Watching him throw is like watching a fireworks show. Huge stuff, great arm-side tail on his monster FB, huge break (high spin rates) from an above-average slider that bites like a croc. If Jones can eventually fine-tune his changeup as his third real pitch, look out world.
Dodgers’ fans will naturally comp Jones with Walker Buehler. He’s a bit undersized (6-1, 180) but he’s a vicious competitor. His delivery is ultra powerful, he’s an explosive athlete, and he plays with a giant chip on his shoulder.
Committed to Texas, I’m hoping the allure of Los Angeles and playing for his hometown Dodgers will be enough to sway him away from Austin. Touted as a first-round talent since he was a sophomore, if the right team knocks he’ll answer.
3rd Round (#100 Overall)- Petey Halpin (OF) St. Francis (CA)
Halpin is a “bargain” Pete Crow Armstrong. I hate that phrase because it immediately belittles Halpin’s actual talent but given Crow Armstrong’s stock in this draft, it’s the best way for me to describe Petey Halpin.
I’m not entirely sure (other than speed, though Halpin is a plus-runner) why Halpin’s ranked on most boards some 80 spots lower than the crosstown rival? Hailing from St. Francis HS in the Greater Los Angeles area, Halpin is a lefty corner outfielder with one of the sweetest swings I’ve seen from any prospect in a long time.
That LA Bred Swing
His hand-eye coordination is top-notch. The followthrough after contact is beautiful. He’s the prototypical size for any MLB outfielder. Solid with the glove, his above average speed allows him to cover a lot of ground.
As a former pitcher, Halpin’s arm projects as plus, perhaps plus-plus. And although his power hasn’t shown through in games just yet, watch the tape of him in batting practice and you’ll see the enticing blank canvas any hitting coach would dream about.
Plus, he’ll put on another 20-25 lbs by Triple-A, add some loft to that picture perfect swing, and before we know it we’ll be looking at (here it comes everybody) perhaps: Cody Bellinger 2.0??? Yes, I said it! Only time will tell it.
4th Round (#130) Trei Cruz (SS) Rice
As a kid who grew up in Seattle during the Mariners heyday, I knew all about the Cruz Family’s affiliation with Major League Baseball.
Trei’s dad, Jose Jr., came to the Mariners as a prospect with a grandiose reputation. Half of that rep came because of his family (the Cruz’s presence in MLB is legendary) and the other half was because of his skills (highly touted as a 5-tool stud, Cruz Jr.’s hype coming to Seattle was on par with A-Rod and Ken Griffey Jr.’s).
MLB Draft Bloodlines
In my opinion, the sons and daughters of former pro-athletes and, in this particular case, the sons of former MLB ballplayers, all have a set intangibles that non-former MLB ballplayers’ sons simply do not. That was a mouthful.
It’s an evident level of confidence, an effortlessness that is only apparent amongst those whose fathers used to play in Major League Baseball. As if they’ve been there before. Well, that’s because they have.
Imagine those days growing up in the outfield shagging balls for the Angels or the Yankees. Running in and out of clubhouses, dugouts, and Major League stadiums in the same manner that I used to run through my own ranch-style home growing up in Western Washington.
Their upbringings are not our upbringings. And because of that, they have an advantage that is simply not shared with those who are not amongst their exclusive club.
Perfect Fit for Los Angeles’ Draft
Plus, Trei Cruz is a baller. He’s big with soft hands, looks natural on the field, and switch-hits with some decent pop. Switch-hitting shortstops who played three years at Rice aren’t so easy to come by. Additionally neither are those who belong to the Cruz family.
According to Baseball America, “Some evaluators see his lack of foot speed as limiting him to second or third base as a pro, but a team confident in its player development department may believe it can improve Cruz’s poor footwork…He just struggles to consistently make the routine play and sometimes gets caught in between hops.”
Again, the Dodgers believe in their system because it’s proven to be one of the best. This is a perfect fit for a player like Cruz and Cruz is a perfect fit for an organization like the Dodgers.
5th Round (#159) Slade Wilks (OF) Columbia Academy (MS)
First I was going to take Hugh Fisher, big armed lefty out of Vanderbilt, seeing as how Friedman seemingly can’t go 5 rounds without a Vandy-kid. However, Fisher is in the same boat as Dax Fulton (Tommy John recovery) and I cannot imagine a scenario where the Dodgers feel comfortable spending 2 of their 6 picks on projects.
Therefore I’m taking the kid I liked better to begin with, Slade Wilks. A lefty beast who’s calling card is his plus-power, at 6’2″, 215 lbs, Wilks gets his money’s worth (and then some) at the dish.
Farm Strength in the 2020 Draft
Though his approach boasts some massive cuts, he’s managed to consistently make contact throughout his young career.
A Mississippi native who signed with Southern Miss, I’d love to be a fly on the wall if and when the time comes for the Dodgers to pitch Wilks on signing with the club and not going to college.
For Dodgers’ fans, Wilks is a pretty easy comp to Joc Pederson. Joc was also a big HS kid who never got (gets) cheated at the dish but has consistently managed to make a fairly decent amount of contact (given his approach) throughout his career.
Dodgers Draft: Closing Words
This should prove itself to be yet another stellar haul for Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers. Home-town heroes, MLB babies, and a 1st round gem, are amongst the hopefuls who’ll fit the best within the Pennant-winning factory that is the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A Unique Draft Indeed-
Had it not been for the Coronavirus pandemic and the commissioner’s decision to deny the remaining 35 rounds of the MLB Draft this year, we could’ve been privy to one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. Instead, it’s been slashed by 87%. This drastic change has made the 2020 Draft one for the ages.
With viewership likely to reach atmospheric levels (due to our current lockdown status and the lack of any or all sports), I hope that I’ve shed just a bit of light onto what we can expect to see during this year’s MLB Draft. At least from the Dodgers’ perspective.
All that’s left for us to do now is sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride… GO BLUE. (btw, my honorable mentions are below with video attached for all players)
-Honorable Draft Mentions-
*Two Mentions for each Round (Underline=Favorite)
Competitive Balance Round B:
I'm Nate Eckert, born and raised in Seattle, WA. However, I've been an LA import for the past 12+ years. I love the Mariners and I love the Dodgers equally, like a father's love for his children. My ultimate baseball dream is to watch my kids square-off against one another, in what would only be celebrated as the Mariners' very first World Series appearance. And then BOOM!! Ken Griffey Jr. is 19 again!! Let's PLAY BALL!!