The Dodgers selecting Texas high school right-hander Zach Lee with the 28th overall pick last night raised some eyebrows because he was considered one of the draft’s most “unsignable” prospects and they’re rumored to be cutting corners in the wake of owner Frank McCourt’s divorce.
ESPN ranks Lee as the country’s ninth-best prep quarterback and he’s headed for LSU, unless of course the Dodgers can convince him to put football aside. Lee is reportedly asking for as much as $5 million to sign, which is a big part of why he was available with the 28th pick in the first place.
If the Dodgers don’t sign Lee they’ll get a compensation pick in essentially the same spot next year, basically delaying any investment in the pick. Or maybe the Dodgers actually do intend to sign Lee, in which case they’ll have gotten a premium talent in a less-than-premium draft position. Assistant general manager Logan White runs the Dodgers’ draft and said the following about picking Lee:
I’m optimistic we’re going to make our best effort, definitely our best effort, to get out there and get this done. I would say I’m cautiously optimistic. As the summer plays out, you’ll see the effort will be made. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we’re going to get him to sign. It’s really going to be Zach’s decision.
I understand the concern. I can only give you my word. I’ve always been straight up. I’ve always tried to take the best player. If I think the player is the 28th-best player in the country, we certainly pay him like the 28th player. But if I think his ability is a little bit better than that, we certainly recognize that.
Frank [McCourt] has always been very aware of what we’re doing and what’s going on. He’s very much a big supporter and very on board with it. I don’t mean it bragging, but when you look at our major-league team and what we’ve been able to do with the draft and the international signs, you see why he’s a supporter.
White and the Dodgers will (probably) be trying to keep Lee away from LSU, but this afternoon they drafted LSU outfielder Leon Landry with the 109th overall pick.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.