Dodgers stick with pitching philosophy
Club takes hurler Martin with 15th pick; selects two other righties
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers stuck to a Draft philosophy that has worked, taking right-handed high school pitcher Ethan Martin with the 15th overall pick in the first round of Thursday's 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
Martin turns 19 on Friday. He is a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder out of Stephens County High School in Georgia. He was also a power-hitting third baseman and quarterback in high school and has a scholarship to Clemson, but is committed to play baseball only. Some scouts were split on whether his greatest potential was as a hitter or pitcher, but the Dodgers drafted him as a pitcher.
"We did a reverse Loney," said assistant general manager Logan White, referring to drafting James Loney as a first baseman, even though he also pitched in high school. "Martin is too good an athlete, has too good a delivery and is a great makeup guy not to take him.
"He was a position player until two years ago, so he's got a fresh arm. He's already got a plus-curveball and he throws 90-95 mph every time out. He's still filling out, so he projects to get better. We did a lot of research on him and he's healthy."
White said Martin is "no slouch at third, but we feel he's special on the mound and that's where we'd like him to go."
Dodgers selections in the next five rounds:
Round 2: Joshua Lindblom, RHP, Purdue University
He's picked up velocity since moving from the rotation to the bullpen. He pitched his freshman season at Tennessee. He turned down $300,000 as the Astros' third-round pick three years ago. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, he looks like a Jonathan Broxton wannabe. White said a move to starter is not out of the question.
Dodgers' top five selections
|15.||RHP||Ethan Martin||Stephens Co. School (Ga.)|
|61.||RHP||Joshua Lindblom||Purdue U|
|93.||RF||Kyle Russell||U of Texas Austin|
|127.||SS||Devaris Strange-Gordon||Seminole CC|
|157.||RHP||JonMichael Redding||Florida CC|
|Complete Dodgers Draft results >|
Round 3: Kyle Russell, OF, University of Texas
He's left-handed with a Shawn Green swing who turned down $800,000 as the Cardinals' fourth-round pick last year. His 27 homers led the nation in 2007, but according to Baseball America there are concerns about his ability to hit with wood. White said Russell strikes out a lot, but was worth rolling the dice for the power.
Round 4: Devaris Strange-Gordon, SS, Seminole CC
He's 5-foot-11 and only 160 pounds, but White said he might have been the fastest player in the Draft, along the lines of Juan Pierre. The son of Phillies reliever Tom Gordon did not play this year after losing his eligibility because he transfered. He bats left-handed with no power.
Round 5: JonMichael Redding, RHP, Florida CC
He was 8-5 with 2.02 ERA and five complete games in 17 starts. He is a strike thrower with three legitimate pitches and has signed to play at LSU.
Round 6: Anthony Delmonico, SS, Florida State University
He hit .378 after transferring from Tennessee. White calls him a "gamer guy" who will start out at second base but could be moved behind the plate.
Martin last week was named the 2008 Georgia State High School Player of the Year by Gatorade after going 11-1 with a 0.99 ERA as a senior at Stephens County High School prior to the Class AAA Georgia State Championship Series last Friday. He also had 141 strikeouts in 79 innings of work entering the AAA final series.
He was named a 2007 AFLAC All-American after his junior season, during which he went 6-1 with 81 strikeouts and a 1.41 ERA.
"Ethan has a good angle on his fastball with late sinking action anywhere from 90-96 mph," said scouting director Tim Hallgren. "He also has a plus-curveball that has late three-quarter downward action at the plate."
Martin is rated by Baseball America as having the second-best fastball among Draft-eligible high school pitchers. He is also rated by the publication as having the third-best secondary pitch.
White said Martin, as his body fills out, could be compared to Arizona pitcher Dan Haren.
"His arm action, his breaking ball, his athleticism -- in some ways he reminds me of Haren," said White.
Martin said his greatest influence is his father, Terry, the softball coach at Piedmont College, and his favorite player is Atlanta's John Smoltz.
Under the direction of White and Hallgren, the Dodgers generally have selected pitchers with the first choice, usually out of high school. The only position player exception was Loney in 2002. In 2003 it was Chad Billingsley, in 2004 Scott Elbert, in 2006 Clayton Kershaw and last year Chris Withrow.
The only year since White's arrival that the Dodgers selected a college player first turned into the Luke Hochevar debacle. The pitcher was taken with a sandwich pick in 2005 at the urging of then-general manager Paul DePodesta and did not sign, eventually re-entering the Draft in 2006 and going to Kansas City, where he now plays.
The Dodgers also were interested in Long Beach Wilson High School two-way player Aaron Hicks, who was selected one spot earlier by the Minnesota Twins.
Last year's No. 15 selection was Devin Mesoraco, a high school catcher signed by Cincinnati for $1.4 million. Martin is expected to sign relatively quick.
"There's nothing official yet, but I really do think we can get something worked out with the Dodgers," said Martin.
Martin's high school was fined $1,000 this week by the Georgia High School Association for an incident in last weekend's state finals. In that game, Martin was the ninth consecutive batter for his team to strike out and when his team took the field, a pitch from his younger brother, Cody, sailed past the catcher and hit the umpire, who was not injured. The players involved claimed the passed ball was unintentional.
As part of MLB's 2008 First-Year Player Draft, 30 players whose baseball careers encompassed the Negro Leagues and a few lesser leagues are being selected to link the past with the present. The Dodgers selected pitcher Andrew Porter.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.