The Dodgers drafted three quality players in Rounds 3-5 of the 2017 MLB Draft on Tuesday, headed by University of Houston catcher Connor Wong. They also popped Park Vista Community HS (Fla.) right-handed pitcher James Marinan in the fourth round and University of Utah right-handed pitcher Riley Ottesen in the fifth round.
Let’s take a quick look at each of them.
Round 3, Pick 100 (overall): C Connor Wong, University of Houston
He has been comped to current Dodger Austin Barnes and Dodger farmhand (and last year’s 32nd overall selection) Will Smith. Wong is an athletic hitter who some believe is just scratching the surface of his overall potential.
He ranked No. 77 by Baseball America, No. 85 by FanGraphs, No. 109 by Perfect Game and No. 112 by MLB.com. Based on the rankings and where the Dodgers selected, this was a nice value pick.
Here’s his write-up from Perfect Game:
“Houston’s Connor Wong’s stat line immediately jumps out to casual observer for one reason in particular–the Houston catcher has 25 stolen bases this season. He’s obviously more athletic than the traditional backstop prospect, this is because Wong retains some of the more impressive positional versatility of anyone in the class. He came to Houston as a shortstop before being moved behind the plate, as has since played all over the diamond in game action for the Cougars. While Wong has done a good job developing his defensive skills behind the plate; at least a few scouts are more drawn to his potential versatility at the next level as opposed to strictly his ability as a catcher; and as such, Wong may be drafted more as a super utility type–though an untraditional one, to be fair. He’s got a legitimate power/speed combo in his toolset, capable of driving the ball up gaps and out of the ballpark; though there are some swing-and-miss concerns. He’ll be one of the more intriguing storylines during the draft and more especially afterwards, when we see just how his drafting team chooses to develop him.”
And part of MLB.com’s write-up:
“Wong has a simple swing and he recognizes pitches and controls the strike zone well, so he should hit for a decent average. Though he’s not very physical, he provides some sneaky power from the right side of the plate. His above-average speed may be his best pure tool, which is rare for a catcher, and he has the instincts to steal some bases as well. Quick and athletic behind the plate, Wong still needs to polish his throwing and receiving but has the tools to be at least average in both regards. While he’s strong for his size — charitably listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds — he’s small for a catcher and there’s some concern about whether he’ll be able to handle the workload of a long pro season. If not, he fits the utility profile because he’s capable of playing almost anywhere on the diamond.”
And finally, FanGraphs’ blurb:
“An interesting potential swiss-army knife utility man who can also catch, Wong has quality bat-to-ball skills and has a chance to make more of an impact than the typical bench player because of his multi-positional versatility.”
5’11, 180 pounds
DOB: May 19, 1996
Slot recommended bonus: $537,100
And here’s what others are saying about the pick.
#Dodgers take athletic catcher Connor Wong. Quick actions and some surprising power from the right side
— Frankie Piliere (@FPiliereD1) June 13, 2017
Could end up being the best college catcher of the group. Good athlete — just touching the surface of his potential. https://t.co/9cIyza5gay
— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogersD1) June 13, 2017
I'm a big Connor Wong fan. Super athletic. Played SS for Houston before transitioning to catcher.
— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) June 13, 2017
If you’re concerned about him hitting with a wood bat…
Dodgers select Houston catcher Connor Wong in the third round. Tied for third-most hits at the Cape in 2016 (hit .313 w/ 10 2B, 3 HR)
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) June 13, 2017
The Dodgers certainly have a type of player they look for behind the plate, and it carries over a bit from the Logan White era (Russell Martin, Kyle Farmer, Lucas May). Wong should be signable as a junior. Don’t expect him to get the $1 million Dustin May got last year, but it shouldn’t take much more than slot to ink him.
Round 4, Pick 130 (overall): RHP James Marinan, Park Vista Community HS (Fla.)
Yay, a prep arm! The Dodgers ended their “streak” of college draftees by grabbing one of the higher-upside high school arms.
Marinan looks like an even better value than Wong was, as he ranked No. 48 by Perfect Game, No. 52 by FanGraphs, No. 58 by Baseball America and No. 65 by MLB. That should be a big indicator that it’s going to take more than the $401,000 slot recommended bonus to get him out of his commitment to “The U.”
He falls into the “pop-up” prospect category, meaning he had such a strong spring that he vaulted up draft boards. That’s because he added 3-5 ticks to his fastball. Instead of sitting in the 87-90 MPH range, he’s now in the 92-94 MPH range and is topping out at 96. He’s able to get plenty of run on the pitch to generate ground balls. He backs it up with a curveball that has flashed above-average. It’s always nice to take a high schooler who has a good fastball-breaking ball combination because a changeup (or cutter) can be taught at the next level. Having said that, his change is fringy at best right now, but expect that it to improve as he turns pro. His frame is conducive to a heavy workload as a starter, so the projection is there.
“Early on, the big right-hander had been throwing in the 87-91 mph range. He first jumped on the radar when he lit up the radar to 92-96 mph, and sat mostly 94-96 in a two-inning relief stint against powerhouse American Heritage. That put him on a must-see list and when more than 50 scouts arrived to see him throw against lefty standout Jake Eder, his stuff was just as good. He currently throws a hybrid breaking ball that gets stuck in between a slider and curveball, but looks more like the latter with some bite when it’s on. Marinan will mix in an occasional changeup, but it’s far behind the other two pitches. He stays around the strike zone and should have average control and command in the future. Marinan’s size and arm strength — he’ll show a 70-grade fastball at times — kept scouts pouring in as the Draft approached. His ability to put together multiple strong outings has moved him into top-three-round consideration.”
“Evidently, lots of work was done during the off-season because Marinan has definitely become a primary pitcher this spring. He’s been getting over his front side consistently and taking a better line to the plate, resulting in more extension and a cleaner release. He’s been topping out at 94-95 mph with big downhill angle and lots of heaviness at the plate to go along with much improved command. Marinan has also tightened up his power curveball with better direction to the plate through release. It works in the 74-78 mph range, with the best offerings being in the upper velocity range with big 12/6 bite when he gets over them out front. Marinan also throws a mid-70’s changeup that is still a work in progress.”
And from FanGraphs:
“The strong-bodied Marinan has experienced an uptick in velocity over the last six months and gone from sitting in the upper-80s to sitting 91-94 and touching 96. While his amorphous breaking ball lacks definition, there’s some feel for spin there and most scouts think at maturity it will be an average or better slider. Marinan generates good extension and has a great arm action that might portend more velocity and a better changeup.”
6’5, 210 pounds
Position: Right-handed pitcher
DOB: Oct. 10, 1998
Commitment: University of Miami
Slot recommended bonus: $401,000
And what others think of the selection.
Dodgers get one of the best players left on my board. Marinan has a plus fastball, shows an above-average curve. Change is coming. Good pick
— Christopher Crawford (@Crawford_MILB) June 13, 2017
James Marinan was 63 on my board, excellent frame and plus sinker, but needs work on his secondaries. Not as polished but physical tools.
— David Hood (@davidchood) June 13, 2017
— Nathan Rode (@NathanRode) June 13, 2017
Sounds like a mid-rotation upside with a low-end No. 2 ceiling if everything breaks right. But we’re a long way from that. This might be your million dollar prep player, which means the next six picks will need to have some savings because Jeren Kendall (first-rounder) and Marinan are above-slot selections.
Round 5, Pick 160 (overall): RHP Riley Ottesen, University of Utah
And that savings might not start here with Ottesen. He has a reliever profile, which usually screams “money-saving” pick, but he’s a draft-eligible sophomore who could easily go back to school if he doesn’t get the bonus he wants.
— WTF @Cardinals (@UofUUtes) June 13, 2017
Or maybe not. Who knows.
He was ranked No. 81 by Perfect Game, No. 107 by MLB, No. 204 by Baseball America and unranked in FanGraphs’ Top 100.
Ottesen has some velocity — sits in the low-90s and gets up to the mid-90s — but he has trouble maintaining his velo consistently and doesn’t get a lot of whiffs on the pitch. He has a solid slider/cutter to go along with the fastball. He has a changeup in the way I have a firm grasp of the English language, so don’t expect him to be a starter long-term.
“Ottesen is an older sophomore by age standards (he’ll be 22.6 at the draft) because he spent time after high school doing the traditional Mormon mission for a few years before enrolling at Utah. He pitched mostly out of the bullpen as a freshman in 2016, compiling 47 strikeouts 42.1 innings. A starter in 2017; Ottesen is still a pretty raw prospect on the mound considering this is only his second season of competitive baseball after missing a few years of potential development during his mission trip. Ottesen has touched up to 98 mph on his fastball this spring, working consistently in the mid-90’s in his starts. He’s still developing true fastball command, but his control isn’t bad, and he’s usually within the strike zone. He needs to continue developing feel for pitching, as he too often just tries to blow straight heat past hitters–but that’s to be expected given his relative rawness in relation to his age. His changeup is his best offspeed pitch, flashing plus at times and earning consistent above-average grades from scouts. He also throws a hard slider/cutter hybrid, clocked up to 90 mph this spring, and while the pitch lacks the two-plane snap necessary to really miss bats consistently, it does serve well to miss barrels. He has some components to start long-term as well, though he may fit more likely as a power-armed reliever at the next level.”
“The undersized right-hander was up to 96-98 mph early in the spring, and will touch that early in starts on occasion. But more often than not, he’s operated in the 90-95 mph range. Ottesen uses a weighted ball as part of his workout regimen and that often can translate to high velocities early, but not necessarily deep into starts or throughout an entire season. There isn’t a ton of deception and his fastball can be straight, so if he doesn’t command it down in the zone, it gets hit, and he doesn’t miss as many bats as you’d expect from someone throwing that hard. Ottesen will flash an above-average slider and a solid changeup as well, with different scouts seeing each as the better secondary offering in different outings. Because of his size, his inability to maintain velocity and his fringy command, most see the 22-year-old as a future reliever. The lack of life to his fastball might keep him from closing, but he could develop into a solid setup man in time.”
6’0, 185 pounds
Position: Right-handed pitcher
DOB: Oct. 30, 1994
Slot recommended bonus: $299,300
At nearly $300,000 for slot, the Dodgers should be able to snag him for around that, but they’re going to have to save a bit in Rounds 6-10 to avoid any severe penalties. And they will.
My favorite pick of the three is Marinan. I’m usually going to opt for a prep player over a college player, and the two college guys seems to have limited ceilings (but also higher floors) than Marinan. But Wong and Ottesen are solid draftees. Onto rounds 6-10.