LOS ANGELES -- Unable to sign talented right-handed pitcher Luke Hochevar out of high school three years ago, the Dodgers will try again. Scouting director Logan White selected Hochevar with his top pick Tuesday in the supplemental round of the First-Year Player Draft, the 40th overall pick. Hochevar, represented by Scott Boras, was ranked as the sixth best prospect in the draft by Baseball America, but fell out of the first round because of signability concerns. Although the Dodgers did not have a first-round pick this year, they believe they drafted a first-round talent.
"It's like stock-market theory," said White. "You maximize your choices, whether that means taking an Andy LaRoche in the 39th round or a Hochevar with the 40th pick. This wasn't expected, but we were prepared for it and I'm ecstatic." The 40th overall pick in last year's draft was University of Texas right-handed pitcher Huston Street, taken by the Oakland A's, signed to an $800,000 bonus and already making an impact in Oakland's bullpen. Hochevar is far from the prototype "Moneyball" bargain selection from general manager Paul DePodesta's days with the A's. He figures to cost significantly more than Street, and the Dodgers apparently are prepared to pay him like the first-round pick they really didn't have. "The McCourts [Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt] have been great with that," said White. "We took him with the intention of signing him. I talked to Scott a couple days ago. I feel he's signable. He wants to play. As long as the family thinks we're fair, I think the kid will sign." The winter signings of Boras clients J.D. Drew and Derek Lowe indicate the club is not reluctant to negotiate with the agent, although he also represented Adrian Beltre, whose departure as a free agent actually led to this selection.
The Dodgers' first-round pick (No. 26 overall) went to the Boston Red Sox as compensation for signing Lowe. But for losing Beltre to Seattle, the Dodgers received the 40th overall pick in the supplemental round and the Mariners' second-round pick (No. 53), because a team drafting in the top half of the draft cannot lose its first-round pick. And the Dodgers retained their second-round pick (No. 76).
Hochevar is 6-foot-4, 198 pounds, and was 12-2 with a 1.81 ERA at the University of Tennessee. White selected him in the 39th round in 2002 out of Fowler (Colo.) High School, was unable to sign him and predicted at the time Hochevar would be a first-round pick three years later. He had a college scholarship as leverage the first time, but now has only one year of college eligibility remaining.
"He's improved a lot since high school," said White. "I won't put a label on when he'll arrive. We have a lot of pitchers in our system and it's not our plan to rush him. He has a power arm, a sinker and slider and big-time makeup."
Hochevar finished last year as the top starter for Team USA and had an eight-game win streak this year for Tennessee but tailed off late. He has a plus fastball and slider and also throws a changeup and curveball. He has a smooth delivery and a classic pitching frame.
With Seattle's second-round pick, the Dodgers drafted infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr., the son of the former Dodgers infielder. DeJesus was taken out of Puerto Rico Military Academy, where he hit .365. He is 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds.
Position: RHP B/T: R/R
H: 6'5" W: 205
Born: 1983-09-15 Class: 4YR
Body similar to Kevin Brown. Heavy sinking FB w/ arm side run, disappears from strike zone. Hard 11-5 CB. Tight, sharp, late-breaking slider w/ some downward tilt. Good arm speed on sinking changeup. Smart, wants the ball, goes after hitters.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.