Two Dodgers Draft picks face off in CWS
Delmonico, Yount have tools to switch to catcher after college
OMAHA -- Logan White doesn't want to make everyone a catcher. But it would seem the thought does cross his mind quite a bit.
So it wasn't much of a surprise when the Dodgers' assistant general manager in charge of amateur scouting suggested that two of the players he selected in last week's First-Year Player Draft might, at some point, trade in their infielder's gloves for some catching gear. Florida State's Tony Delmonico, whom Los Angeles grabbed in the sixth round, and Stanford's Austin Yount, who was tabbed in the 12th round, will square off in the opening game of the College World Series Saturday afternoon at Rosenblatt Stadium.
While the pair will be teammates before long, both are currently focused on helping keep their respective teams in Omaha as long as possible. Still, they both took time to look down the road for a moment Friday morning during team practice sessions at Rosenblatt.
"I think it's [catching] neat," Delmonico said. "I'm sure I'll start playing middle infield when I sign and then if I convert to catcher, it would be in the fall. It doesn't surprise me at all. Middle infielders have good arms and catching is scarce. A lot of Major League teams are doing it."
Delmonico, who played two seasons at the University of Tennessee before transferring to FSU, caught until he was 15 years old and has played shortstop and occasionally pitched in summer ball since. He started at shortstop in all 64 games in which he appeared this season, committing 27 errors while posting a .906 fielding percentage.
White expressed some concern about Delmonico's range at shortstop and the youngster himself even joked about his range at the position. While White also said he could see Delmonico as a good "blue collar type" at second base, the youngster's father, Rod, an assistant coach with the Seminoles, thinks a move to catcher would be a good one should it eventually happen.
"I think it's his best position," said the elder Delmonico, who also coached his son at Tennessee. "He has a very good arm, he's a very good athlete and he can catch and throw. I think it's his best chance to move up the ladder. He can be really good behind the plate.
"He caught a little last summer during the Team USA trials and he also caught a little during his sophomore and junior years in high school. And he's caught a little bit in summer ball. He's been doing it all his life so it would be an easy transition."
Tony Delmonico will be playing Saturday's game with eight stitches in his left shin and a mildly sprained ankle after getting taken out of a play at second base on Friday during the Super Regionals against Wichita State. He had four stitches put in when he came off the field after the first-inning collision and had another four put in after the game. He isn't expected to have them taken out until Sunday.
"I'm not 100 percent," said Delmonico, who took infield and batting practice with a protective guard on his shin. "It's still affecting me a little."
Yount, the nephew of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, has no such malady. But, like Delmonico, he also offers an intriguing possibility behind the plate. Yount started Stanford's first two games this season at third base but has not started in the field since, spending the remainder of the season on the mound. He went 6-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 15 games (eight starts).
He hit .338 with 15 RBIs in 68 at-bats heading into Saturday's match-up against Florida State. Stanford head coach Mark Marquess has been more than satisfied with Yount's effort on the mound this year, but has said publicly that if Yount were limited to one position, he'd probably be better off on the field. The Dodgers seem to agree, listing him as a third baseman when he was selected.
"What intrigues us is that we think he can play second or third and that he has a chance to hit," White said. "With his arm strength, though, it's always in the back of your mind that he can go behind the plate. I'm always big on converting guys like him and Delmonico. We could leave them as position players but he's a candidate for conversion like [current Dodgers catcher] Russell Martin was.
"Russell Martin was quick and a very good third baseman in the Gulf Coast League. But we knew right away that we needed to make that move with him. So, I think we can make that move fairly early but at the same time, we have to weight how well they are playing their current position. If they are offensive enough to stay in the middle of the diamond, you may want to leave him there."
Yount says he used to catch a bit when he was younger, but hasn't gone behind the plate in several years. But he's open to trying whatever the Dodgers have in mind for him, whether it's second, third, pitching or catching.
"I've played pretty much every position," Yount said. "So whether you're in the infield or catching, I think anything would be an exciting venture for me."
That's just the kind of talk White and the Dodgers like to hear.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.