Written By: Zack Silverman
Follow Him on Twitter: @ZackMatt4
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By picking up the bonus pool’s best friend in the 2020 draft, Landon Knack, the Dodgers were able to spread some money around and pick up a really nice class despite not picking until #29. Headlined by two big college arms in Bobby Miller and Clayton Beeter, they also grabbed an interesting local high school bat out of Huntington Beach in Jake Vogel in addition to the high ceiling Carson Taylor and the high floor Gavin Stone. Interestingly, every single one of their picks took a big step forward in the shortened 2020 season – Miller and Beeter with their command, Knack and Beeter with their velocity, Stone in showing he could start, and Vogel and Taylor with their bats.
1.29: RHP Bobby Miller, Louisville
Born: 4/5/1999. Bat: L. Throw: R. 6’5″ 220 lbs. ETA: 2023.
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Some arms are just easy to fall in love with, and Bobby Miller is certainly one of them. Hailing from the Chicago area, Miller brought his huge fastball to Louisville and has steadily gone from thrower to pitcher. His stuff played down somewhat as a sophomore (3.83 ERA, 86/38 K/BB in 80 IP), putting him in the second round range and causing evaluators to put reliever grades on him, but he looked significantly more refined in 2020 and put up a 2.31 ERA and a 34/9 K/BB in 23.1 innings.
The difference was command, as Miller pitched from behind in the count much less often in 2020, allowing him to to mix his plus fastball/slider combination much more effectively. Coming from a huge 6’5″ frame, Miller reaches way back in his delivery and hurls his fastball consistently in the mid 90’s, showing the plus arm strength to hold that velocity deep into his starts. It’s not just a straight fastball, either, coming in with heavy life, routinely missing barrels, and causing some very painful foul balls off the skinny part of the bat. The slider is also a plus pitch, coming in with upper 80’s velocity that plays really well off his lively fastball – if he can command both pitches enough to effectively tunnel them off each other, hitters might not have a prayer. Right now, the slider stands out a bit more for its velocity than its bite, but it’s still a plus pitch that only figures to get better as he refines his feel for it. As with a lot of young pitchers, Miller needs to improve his changeup, but he’s shown feel for it and it’s coming along.
The strike throwing ability has been the big difference maker here, as Miller was much less erratic in 2020 than he has been in the past. The control still remains ahead of the command, but he was much better about getting ahead in the count in 2020 and dictating at bats, rather than falling behind and trying to pitch his way back into counts with his plus stuff. A pitcher with Miller’s stuff can get away with mistakes here and there, but pro ball can be very unforgiving even for the best, so his ability to control the zone could be the difference in becoming an impact starting pitcher or not. The Dodgers clearly love the premium arm strength and premium fastball/slider combination here and are banking on him continuing to trend in the right direction. If he stalls out, this is the kind of arm that could be an absolute monster in relief, potentially hitting 100 with that fastball and missing tons of bats with the slider. He signed for $2.2 million, which was roughly $220,000 below slot.
2.60: RHP Landon Knack, East Tennessee State
Born: 7/15/1997. Bat: L. Throw: R. 6’2″ 220 lbs. ETA: 2022.
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A Northeast Tennessee lifer, Knack grew up in Johnson City (yes, the one from Wagon Wheel), headed to Walters State CC in Morristown to start his college career, and came back to his hometown to pitch for East Tennessee State after that. Now nearly 23, he gave up hitting as a senior this year and was absolutely dominant, posting a 1.08 ERA, a 0.52 WHIP, and an insane 51/1 strikeout to walk ratio across 25 innings.
He’s done this with pinpoint command of a mid 90’s fastball that can run as high as 98, completely overwhelming weaker competition in 2020. The secondary stuff isn’t quite as robust, but he does have a full set of offspeed pitches and they were looking better this year. Even if none of them are true swing and miss pitches, he uses them very effectively off his fastball and they all play up to average or a tick above because of that. If he continues to sharpen them, that could help him stick in the rotation, but at nearly 23 years old already, he may be better off just jumping in the bullpen and fast tracking to the majors.
A little bit of a stockier guy at 6’2″ with a decent delivery, he might fit better there anyways. That said, with his combination of command and velocity, he’s a high probability major leaguer that could provide value in a setup or long relief role, or as a #4/#5 starter at best. Maybe the biggest thing he provides the Dodgers, at least for right now, is that he’ll likely sign way under the $1.16 million slot value for the 60th pick, and that will save significant money to go after guys like Clayton Beeter and Jake Vogel.
CBB.66: RHP Clayton Beeter, Texas Tech
Born: 10/9/1998. Bat: R. Throw: R. 6’2″ 220 lbs. ETA 2023.
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While Dodgers fans are going to see a lot less of Mookie Betts than they hoped, they can take a little bit of solace in the fact that they also acquired this pick from the Twins in the trade, and Clayton Beeter brings significant value. A product of the Fort Worth area, Beeter wasn’t much of a prospect by the time he went down with Tommy John surgery as a freshman at Texas Tech. He flashed big stuff as a redshirt freshman in 2019, striking out 40 in 20.2 innings of relief, but he also walked 20. However, 2020 was a revelation: 2.14 ERA, 33/4 K/BB in 21 IP.
That alone rocketed him into top two round conversations, and his stock continued to inflate even after the shutdown as teams got a look at his pitch metrics. He’s added fastball velocity and can now sit in the mid 90’s, and the pitch plays up coming from his over the top release point and subsequent downward angle and high spin rates. He has a plus downer curveball that doesn’t pop out of his hand, but bites hard down in the zone nonetheless. He mostly lived off those two pitches this year at Texas Tech, but his slider shows plus potential as well and he has a changeup that could surprise some hitters in pro ball.
Beeter’s command improved from well below average in 2019 to above average in 2020, making him a pretty complete pitcher over the four start sample this year. However, that track record was just four starts against relatively weak competition, and he was knocked around a bit in his only start against a stronger lineup (4 IP, 4 ER, 3 BB, 8 K vs Tennessee). If you buy the current product, that’s four potentially above average to plus pitches with above average demand, but it wasn’t long ago that he was a two pitch guy with well below average command. The short track record scared some teams off initially, but throughout the spring, more and more teams were comfortable with considering his progress the real deal, and he even received some first round rumors. As a redshirt sophomore, he has a little bit of leverage in this spot, and he might need a little bit over the $1 million slot value to sign.
3.100: OF Jake Vogel, Huntington Beach HS, CA
Born: 10/12/2001. Bat: R. Throw: R. 5’11” 165 lbs. ETA: 2024
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After going to Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas for their first three picks, the Dodgers came back home to pluck Jake Vogel out of Huntington Beach High School just thirty miles south of the stadium. The UCLA commit will be an expensive sign, but the Dodgers believe he’ll be worth it. Though he’s smaller at 5’11”, he stands out for his plus-plus speed that even tops Mets second rounder Isaiah Greene (Corona, CA) for the best in the west coast high school class. While he doesn’t have a long history of hitting for impact, he was starting to do just that this spring and that sent him racing up boards.
Vogel makes a lot of line drive contact with a loose swing from the right side, though he’ll need to get a bit more direct with it to continue to hit for impact at the next level. There isn’t much present power and his smaller frame doesn’t project to add a ton, but the aforementioned swing changes could help get him close to average in that regard. Either way, his blazing speed helps him stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples, which will undoubtedly be a boon for his offensive production.
He’ll stick in center field and could be a plus defender there once he learns to refine his reads and routes a bit, taking some pressure off his bat. In all, he projects for average on-base percentages, maybe 10-15 home runs per year at best, and plenty of doubles, triples, and stolen bases, a leadoff projection at his ceiling and possibly more of a #7/#8ish hitter at his median outcome. Committed to UCLA, it will likely take significantly more than the $581,600 slot to sign, money that will come from Knack’s likely under slot signing.
4.130. C Carson Taylor, Virginia Tech
Born: 6/2/1999. Bat: S. Throw: R. 6’2″ 205 lbs. ETA: 2024.
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Had it not been for Ian Seymour going 73 picks earlier to the Rays, Carson Taylor would have been my alma mater’s highest pick since Mark Zagunis went 78th overall to the Cubs in 2014. A draft-eligible sophomore who grew up in the Atlanta area, Taylor hit well as a freshman (.290/.389/.413) before taking it to another level as a sophomore, hitting .431/.541/.690 with a pair of home runs and far more walks (12) than strikeouts (5) over 16 games.
He brings a very advanced approach at the plate that enables him to tap some solid raw power from a 6’2″ frame, though his plate discipline is ahead of his hit tool and he has some holes in his swing. Those came to light in the Cape Cod League over the summer, where he hit just .188/.250/.313 in 15 games, but he did hit two home runs and showed the plate discipline he’s known for. That solid pitch selection has enabled him to keep his strikeouts low, giving the Dodgers hope they can iron out the swing and help him tap his power more consistently. At ceiling, we could be talking about a 15-20 home run bat with solid on-base percentages, though with a lower floor than most college bats.
He’s raw behind the plate and is in no way a lock to stick back there, but he shows impressive tools and is trending in the right direction defensively. Overall, the bat looks a lot more impressive if he can stick, but it might be fringier if he has to move to first base or the outfield. In such a deep system as this one and with guys like Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz ahead of him and even Diego Cartaya alongside him, the Dodgers can afford to be patient with their fourth round pick and let him develop. That depth could back there could be a double-edged sword, though, and make a future behind the plate in LA look murky. He signed for $400,000, which was $34,300 below slot value.
5.159: RHP Gavin Stone, Central Arkansas
Born: 10/15/1998. Bat: R. Throw: R. 6’1″ 175 lbs. ETA: 2023.
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I’ve been to Gavin Stone’s hometown of Lake City, Arkansas – it’s a true map dot of about two thousand people tucked up against a levee holding back the St. Francis River in the Mississippi Delta. After three years at Central Arkansas, it’s time for the bright lights of LA for the righty, who no-hit Southeastern Louisiana in his final college start. It was part of a really nice career in Conway for Stone, who put up a 1.44 ERA and an 89/17 strikeout to walk ratio over 75 innings between the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
A 6’1″ righty, he sits in the low 90’s with his fastball and tosses an average slider and changeup, the former bringing a lot of lateral movement. He’s a skinnier guy who was a reliever up until this season, so he hasn’t proven that he’s durable enough to handle a full season’s workload, but his above average command and clean delivery give him every chance to hold down a rotation spot.
The Dodgers will hope to bulk him up and perhaps sharpen the stuff a little, which could make him a #4 starter, or they could send him to the bullpen if he can’t hold his stuff over a longer season. He’s been up to 96 in shorter stints, so he could thrive in that role. Either way, the command is the selling point here. He signed for $100,000, which was $227,200 below slot value.
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