LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers, who have made Draft-pick signability a key prerequisite in recent years, made a surprising pick Monday in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft, selecting two-sport star Zachary Lee from McKinney (Texas) High School with the No. 28 pick overall.
Lee is a right-handed starting pitcher, but he is better known as one of the best high school quarterbacks in the nation (31 touchdown passes last year) who has the leverage of a commitment to attend and play both sports at Louisiana State.
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Lee was considered to be a difficult sign going into the Draft and hardly a perfect fit for a franchise that supposedly has its eye on finances. He reportedly is seeking a bonus in excess of $3 million range, and if he doesn't sign, the Dodgers will be under fire for wasting a top pick.
"People can think what they want, he was the best talent available and I want to sign him, absolutely," said Logan White, assistant general manager of scouting. "I didn't take Zach to not sign him. You'll see as the summer goes along we'll make every effort to sign him, and I want to sign him. I know it won't be easy, but hopefully we'll get it done."
The Dodgers were unable to provide media access to Lee, which is very unusual for the club. But here is what Lee told his local McKinneyNews.net when he committed to LSU in February:
""I've always wanted to go to college," he said. "I think getting a degree is very vital to being successful in life and any time you can get a degree and play a sport at the same time, it's always going to be a benefit, especially if you love sports like me. To have it paid for is a huge accomplishment and I'm proud of myself."
The deadline for picks to sign is Monday, Aug. 16. The last time the Dodgers failed to sign their top pick was 2005, when they drafted but did not sign supplemental pick Luke Hochevar, who became the first overall pick by Kansas City the following year and is in the Royals' starting rotation.
The largest bonus the Dodgers have given a Draft pick is $2.3 million for Clayton Kershaw in 2006. Lee and Kershaw have the same advisers, Alan and Randy Hendricks from Houston. White said he had a preliminary conversation with Lee's representatives after making the selection.
Since taking over the Draft in 2002, White's first pick has been a pitcher eight of nine times, and a high school pitcher now six times. Two of those top high school picks -- Chad Billingsley and Kershaw -- are in the Dodgers' rotation.
"If he focuses on baseball, I think he can move quickly, like Kershaw and Billingsley," said White. "A lot will be made of the two sports, but as a pitcher, he has a real good arm and delivery, a plus breaking ball, he has a feel for a changeup, and when I saw him he was 90-92 [mph] with the fastball and up to 95. The ball comes out of his hand easily.
"The guy's a competitor, he's smart. Put it all together and we really couldn't pass him up. He's worth the risk of not signing. I like him that much."
Unlike many recent Dodgers top picks, the club did not hold a special workout for Lee. According to White, Lee was surprised to get the call.
"He certainly was surprised," White said. "They didn't have a feel for what we were going to do. It's part of the gamesmanship of the Draft."
Five of White's nine top picks have come from Texas. He said Lee's competitive nature reminds him of Nolan Ryan, while Lee's athleticism and feel for pitching reminds him of a young Roy Halladay.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.