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Dodgers make Loney their top pick
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06/04/2002 2:27 pm ET 
Dodgers make Loney their top pick
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com

Tom Lasorda announces James Loney as the Dodgers' first round selection. (Ben Platt/MLB.com)

Dodgers round-by-round picks

LOS ANGELES - In his first draft as Dodger scouting director, Logan White surprised most draftniks by using the 19th overall pick to take James Loney, a Texas high school star who made his name as a left-handed pitcher but was drafted as a left-handed hitting first baseman.

Loney is 18 years old, 6-3, 190, from Elkins High School in Missouri City, Tex., the top-rated high school in the country most of this year. He was rated by Baseball America as the 46th best player in the draft, mainly on the strength of a 9-1 record and 1.80 ERA with 106 strikeouts in 54 innings.

But when vice president Tom Lasorda made the conference-call selection, he requested that Loney be listed as a first baseman. White said going into the draft he hoped to make a slugger his first pick, if one was available. In 34 games, Loney hit .509 with eight home runs and 56 RBIs in 106 at-bats, with a .934 slugging percentage and was 7-for-7 stealing.

Loney has committed to Baylor University, but apparently has no intention of attending or even using it as negotiating leverage.

"I don't think I'll go to Baylor," he said. "I'll probably sign right after the state tournament, go to the minor leagues and work on hitting."

2002 First-Year Player Draft
JUNE 4-5 | NEW YORK CITY
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Loney said there was no pre-arranged contract agreement, but he said he expected a deal done "quickly" and that negotiations would be handled by his parents, not a professional advisor.

White, who will attend the state playoffs, said Loney will not pitch as a professional.

"He's too good a hitter and too good a fielder to go back to the mound," White said. "I've liked him since the first time I saw him. He was (Gatorade) Texas state player of the year and his team goes for the state championship this weekend. He's along the lines of a (Ryan) Klesko or a (John) Olerud. Those players were pitchers at one time."
James Loney was also considered a top pitching prospect. (Ron Beard/Elkins HS )
Loney said he was fine with giving up pitching.

"They drafted me as a hitter, it doesn't matter to me," he said. "I just want to play."

Loney said he was a little surprised to go as high as he did, but White said he believed the hometown Houston Astros would have taken Loney 29th.

"This guy strikes me as a winner, a line-drive hitter whose power will come," said White. "He's a good-looking fielder and he has a chance to be an excellent big-league player. He's a quiet, competitive player who comes up with the big pitch or the big hit. This is the player we really wanted."

The Dodgers have no natural heir apparent to 34-year-old first baseman Eric Karros. During spring training they moved slugging Taiwanese outfielder Chin-Feng Chen to first base and he has been playing the position exclusively at Triple-A Las Vegas this year, but has a long way to go defensively.

"This kid is the best first baseman I've ever laid eyes on," said Rick Carpenter, Loney's high school coach.

The last time the Dodgers used a first-round pick on a first baseman was 1997, when they selected switch-hitting Glenn Davis from Vanderbilt University. Davis, brother of Seattle catcher Ben Davis, topped out at Double-A and was released this spring. The Dodgers are looking to snap a decades-long drought with first-round picks. The last Dodger first-rounder to reach All-Star status was Steve Howe, taken in 1979.

Ken Gurnick covers the Dodgers for MLB.com. This article was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
 





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