06/04/2002 2:27 pm ET
Dodgers make Loney their top pick
By Ken Gurnick / 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 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.
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."
White, who will attend the state playoffs, said Loney will not pitch as a
"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."
Loney said he was fine with giving up pitching.
James Loney was also considered a top pitching prospect. (Ron Beard/Elkins
"They drafted me as a hitter, it doesn't matter to me," he said. "I just want to
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.