White had interviewed for a handful of general managerial positions in the last decade, ultimately didn’t get any of them and chose to stay in Los Angeles. But now, he’s southbound to San Diego. White is getting a promotion, as he’ll be a senior advisor to Padre GM A.J. Preller and the director of pro scouting. Good for him, bad for the Dodgers. White spent three years with the Padres in 1993-95 as their West Coast supervisor, so there is some level of comfort with the organization/area.
White spent 13 seasons with the Dodgers and was responsible for every draft since 2002. But, I’m baffled as to why some folks didn’t give him as much credit as they should have. His track record – admittedly lacking a bit in recent years – was pretty good in LA.
White’s first draft as the Dodgers’ head of scouting was in 2002. His first pick was James Loney. Yes, Loney never really panned out as expected, but he has been a quality major leaguer. He served as scouting director for five years before being promoted to assistant general manager. It’s no coincidence in the time he was primarily the AGM, the Dodgers’ drafting suffered. Also, Frank McCourt’s penny-pinching ways hampered the Dodgers’ ability to draft players who had even mild signability concerns. That’s how you end up with a guy like Chris Reed at No. 16 overall when there was plenty of other talent available.
Here’s a look at who White has been responsible for drafting, ranked by Wins Above Replacement (FanGraphs):
|Scott Van Slyke||3.4|
*- Kershaw also has been worth 0.8 WAR with his bat, because of course he has.
And some of the top unsigned draftees
The draft really is a crapshoot, especially when the Dodgers have been consistently picking in the teens and 20s (save 2006, when they popped Kershaw at No. 7). It’s an even bigger crapshoot after the first round, so when White finds gems after Round 1, it just shows that he knows what he’s doing.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on White’s drafts with the Dodgers. There were some great ones, some decent ones and a couple of flops.
White drafted Loney in the first round, Jonathan Broxton in the second round, James McDonald in the 11th round, Russell Martin in the 17th round and Luke Hochevar in the 39th round (he went unsigned). That draft was White’s best, as Martin and Loney have combined for 40 WAR between them, with another 9.8 from Broxton. Even McDonald had a good 18 months and Hochevar found himself as a reliever.
Billingsley was the first high school pitcher drafted in the first round by White, and he paid off handsomely. Billingsley’s 17.2 WAR ranks second to only Kershaw’s ridiculous 35.7 WAR of all pitchers drafted by White. That draft also included Matt Kemp as a sixth-rounder, A.J. Ellis in the 18th round and an unsigned Mark Melancon in the 30th round. As a side note, Andy LaRoche was a 39th-rounder who signed for $1 million and was expected to be the next Ron Cey. Unfortunately for LaRoche and the Dodgers, that didn’t work out. But, he helped the Dodgers land Manny Ramirez in 2008, so he served a purpose.
The Dodgers had three first-round picks – two true first-rounders and one supplemental first-rounder – and came away with, well, not much. Scott Elbert was popped at No. 17, Blake DeWitt at 28 and Justin Orenduff at 33. DeWitt has the highest WAR of the trio (1.8), but he’s currently out of baseball. Elbert was supposed to be a starter, ended up as a reliever and hasn’t been able to stay healthy. When he is healthy, though, he’s not terrible (2014 NLDS notwithstanding). Orenduff never made it to the majors. The best piece White drafted was David Price as a 19th-rounder. Price would turn down the Dodgers’ offer and attended Vanderbilt. Three years later, he was the No. 1 overall pick and became one of the best southpaws in the game.
This ended up going poorly for the Dodgers, as White drafted Hochevar for a second time – this time as the 40th overall pick. The Dodgers thought they had a deal with Hochevar, he backed out and went unsigned. The best player the Dodgers got from this draft was Scott Van Slyke, who took awhile to bloom. They also drafted Jordy Mercer, who is a decent shortstop for the Pirates. He went unsigned. While six of their first seven picks in the draft made it to the majors, none of them outside Hochevar had much of an impact.
Clayton Kershaw fell into the Dodgers’ lap at No. 7, when the Tigers elected to draft Andrew Miller at No. 6 instead of Kershaw. This draft is already a resounding success, but the selection of Bryan Morris at No. 26 looked good at the time. However, he struggled with the Dodgers and was traded in the Ramirez deal in 2008. For good measure, the Dodgers drafted – and obviously didn’t sign – Paul Goldschmidt in the 49th round. In hindsight, it would have been fantastic to get him signed.
This one will go down as one of White’s worst drafts, and it came in his first year as assistant general manager. Chris Withrow (20th overall pick) was a failed starter-turned-reliever and showed some ability. But, he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery this year. He could still be OK, but he’s the headliner in this class. Andrew Lambo was the team’s No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America in 2009, but was traded with McDonald for Octavio Dotel and has yet to make an impact in the majors. Only two other players made the majors from this class – Rob Rasmussen (unsigned, traded for, then traded away for Michael Young) and Matt Szczur (unsigned, redrafted by the Cubs).
Ethan Martin was the Dodgers’ first pick. He was viewed by some as a third baseman, but the Dodgers drafted him as a pitcher. He made his MLB debut last year for the Phillies, but he hasn’t done a whole lot yet. The best pick still with the Dodgers was Dee Gordon, who was a fourth-rounder. He had a breakout 2014 season. Nathan Eovaldi has been the best player from this draft, and he was traded to the Marlins in the Hanley Ramirez deal. Eighteenth-rounder Allen Webster and 25th rounder Jerry Sands were part of the Nick Punto trade, while 31st-rounder Matt Magill had one good start in the majors and is now working as a reliever in the minors.
You can see things are going downhill with White’s new responsibilities as AGM, and this draft was the worst in his tenure. Here’s all you really need to know – the first pick (Aaron Miller) was a pitcher and is now a hitter who hasn’t hit above High-A and the second pick (Blake Smith) was a hitter who is now a pitcher who hasn’t made it beyond Double-A. Steve Ames and Christian Walker (unsigned by the Dodgers) are the only players to play in the majors from this draft class.
This was one of the biggest surprises in White’s tenure, as he popped Zach Lee with the 28th overall pick. Many (myself included) thought this was a “punt” pick, as McCourt’s cheap ways were setting in. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Dodgers inked Lee to the largest draft bonus in club history – even if the $5.25 million was spread out over five years. Lee hasn’t panned out (yet), and isn’t going to be the next Kershaw, but he still has a chance to be a quality MLB starter. The Dodgers actually spent some money in this draft outside of the first round. They signed Joc Pederson to a $600,000 bonus as an 11th-rounder and Scott Schebler to a $300,000 bonus as a 26th-rounder. The Dodgers also drafted Kevin Gausman, but failed to sign him. He would be the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
This draft has – so far – been a dud. Chris Reed was overdrafted at No. 16 and inexplicably tried to be turned into a starter. Alex Santana has since been moved from third base to the corner outfield spots. He doesn’t have the bat to carry at those positions. The players with the best chance of ever playing in the majors are sixth-rounder Scott Barlow (who has already had Tommy John surgery) and Michael Thomas (an oldish lefty who has been to the Arizona Fall League twice). It’s possible no player from this class will ever amount to anything close to a replacement-level player. That hurts.
Ahh, redemption. The Dodgers popped Corey Seager in the first round, and he looks like the real deal. Paco Rodriguez is good, and it’ll be nice if the front office and Don Mattingly recognize it. Ross Stripling was on his way before blowing out his elbow in March. Darnell Sweeney could be a nice get in the 13th round, while Jharel Cotton could be someone worth watching next season. Daniel Coulombe earned a call-up in 2014 and could be a piece of the bullpen going forward. This might be one of White’s best drafts, and definitely the best since 2006.
2013 & 2014
It’s a bit too early to fully judge these draft classes, but there are some potentially good pieces here in the form of Chris Anderson, Jose De Leon, Grant Holmes and Alex Verdugo. It isn’t always about the players in the system, but being able to identify the talent. The Dodgers have drafted some players in White’s tenure that went on to become really, really good MLB players. That definitely counts for something.
Not only has White drafted some really good major league players, but he has been – somewhat – responsible for landing some of the organization’s top international talent. He had a hand in signing Hiroki Kuroda, Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Takashi Saito and Julio Urias. He also helped to bring in Julian Leon, who could be the Dodgers’ catcher of the future. When Shohei Otani was on the verge of bucking the NPB and coming stateside, White was in the middle of that situation. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Otani decided to stay in Japan (and is dominating … sigh).
I understand that since 2008, the Dodgers’ drafts haven’t produced much in the way of even decent players, but with White’s responsibilities as AGM and McCourt’s refusal to put money into player development and scouting, there was only so much he could do. It’s no coincidence that since 2012 (you know, when Guggenheim took over), the Dodgers have been exceedingly active in the international market and have drafted some players with high ceilings — the way it used to be when White first started with the Dodgers.
Now, let’s compare this to what Andrew Friedman and scouting director R.J. Harrison did with Tampa Bay. Most of the damage came when the Rays’ were perpetually in the Top 5 of the draft. In fact, in his first draft, Harrison popped Evan Longoria. That was really a “no shit” selection at No. 3. The next year, with the first overall pick, he drafted Price. He also gets bonus points for getting Matt Moore in the eighth round. It’s easy to play the hindsight game, but when Harrison opted for Tim Beckham instead of Buster Posey with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft, that was an utter failure. But even more damning for Harrison and Co., was the Rays’ 2011 draft. They had 12 of the first 89 picks in the draft. Not one of those 12 have made it to the majors, with the best pick — Taylor Guerrieri — having undergone Tommy John surgery and getting suspended for performance-enhancing drugs.
White, while not without fault, had a much better track record than Harrison did in Tampa Bay, and Friedman would have been wise to retain him. But, we know when a new boss is in town, he tends to want to hire his own people. Friedman now has a bigger task ahead, as he needs to find a general manager, a scouting director and a head of player development. One of those positions will be filled by Josh Byrnes sometime soon. After that, Friedman will need to fill the other two spots with some bright minds and guys who have good eyes for talent. That’s something White has, and he will bring that to San Diego. It’s unknown exactly why White left, but Friedman’s hiring and preference to pick his own people, coupled with the promotion White was offered in San Diego, makes it all but clear.
Unless Friedman brings in someone who thinks similarly to White when it comes to the draft, I’d expect a shift in draft philosophy. The Dodgers have drafted more college players in recent years, so the shift could go either way. It’ll be interesting to see who ends up running the draft. My preference is for someone who focuses on high-ceiling talent, specifically from the prep ranks. We’ll see what happens there.
And, perhaps most importantly, the Dodgers lost a great person in Logan White. He was highly respected and you never heard a bad word about him.
Good luck in San Diego, Logan. We’ll miss you.