Scouting director: Draft aligns with Dodgers' needs

Scouting director: Draft aligns with Dodgers' needs

LOS ANGELES -- If what happened to Billy Gasparino's top picks last year is haunting him this year, it wasn't apparent on Wednesday, the day before he runs the 2016 Draft for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers and their scouting director have four of the first 65 picks -- their first- and second-rounders (Nos. 20 and 65 overall), a compensation pick for losing free agent Zack Greinke (No. 32) and a supplemental pick (No. 36).

Last year, when they had four of the first 67 picks, Gasparino's top two picks were college pitchers who still haven't thrown a professional pitch.

Walker Buehler, No. 24 overall, needed Tommy John surgery. Kyle Funkhouser, No. 35 overall, didn't sign. But Gasparino said the organization hasn't prepared for his second Draft as scouting director by looking at the rearview mirror, and that there isn't an increased priority on signability because of last year.

"Not really. Our big-picture view is the same," he said. "Take the best talent available. Andrew [Friedman] and Farhan [Zaidi] are really supportive of that. If we don't sign the player, we get the pick back and go find more talent next year."

That's what happened with Funkhouser, who turned down a $1.9 million offer and returned to the University of Louisville for his senior season. Funkhouser, back in this year's Draft, signed a re-consent form that allows the Dodgers to take him again if they choose, and Gasparino said he still likes the right-hander.

That's as close as Gasparino came to tipping his picks. In general, he said the strengths of this year's Draft play into the Dodgers' situation.

"I know everyone judges on the first five picks and they're probably not as strong as people would like," he said. "For us in the middle portion of the first round and on, it's really strong. Player 10 to 50, we feel really good about that group. Better, I think a whole grade higher than last year in depth and talent."

After a "really strong" college catching class, he said the Draft is evenly dispersed between college and high school, pitchers and position players. He said California and the West Coast are "a little down," while the Northeast and Midwest are deeper than usual.

Buehler, Gasparino said, is on schedule to be pitching next Spring Training, so "we feel like he's a pick for this year. His recovery and rehab and where he's at in the process, we expect him to be like an added pick this year."

In the latest mock draft by MLB.com, the Dodgers are projected to take Vanderbilt right-handed pitcher Jordan Sheffield with the 20th pick and Dallas prep left-handed pitcher Kyle Muller with the 32nd pick.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.