LOS ANGELES -- If anybody thinks they know what the Dodgers will do with their first-round pick this year, they must have known Los Angeles would take Zach Lee last year ... and pay him $5.25 million to sign.
In other words, only assistant general manager Logan White really knows, and as usual, he's not saying.
The Dodgers draft 16th overall in Monday's First-Year Player Draft, and considering the franchise's well-publicized financial situation, it's easy to assume White will be looking for someone very signable, no doubt a high school pitcher, which he has taken first six times in his nine Drafts.
Of course, that's what everybody thought last year. And while Lee was a high school pitching star in Texas, he also was a high school quarterback star and he sure wasn't considered signable. That's why he dropped to the Dodgers as the 28th pick overall. He was headed to LSU for football practice, and the only thing more shocking than his selection was his signing moments before the deadline.
Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 3 p.m. PT on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following@MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
"This year's Draft is deep in arms with velocity, but the overall talent of position players, I don't agree with the industry that it's deep," said White. "I think it's like any year. There are some big leaguers, some pretenders."
White just completed a circuit of three pre-Draft workouts Dodgers scouts hold in Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles. The club invites about 40 prospective draftees to work out.
"The most difficult thing this year is in terms of separating the pitchers," he said. "There are lots of guys that can throw 94, 95 mph in high school and college. Whoever does the best job separating them wins."
White said he doesn't expect a hitter to be available with the Dodgers' 16th overall pick "that we can insert into left field or the lineup," so the abundance of power pitchers plays into his wheelhouse.
Here's a glance at what the Dodgers have in store as the Draft approaches:
Dodgers' Last Five No. 1 Picks
Great Lakes (A, Dodgers)
Rancho Cucamonga (A, Dodgers)
Rancho Cucamonga (A, Dodgers)
Chattanooga (AA, Dodgers)
In about 50 words
The Dodgers see this Draft as deep in power pitchers, an area they focus on, and average in position players, an area they need to improve. Signability is likely to be a high priority for the Dodgers, although that's what everybody thought last year.
"For us, there isn't a hitter at 16 that we can insert into left field or the lineup. This Draft is thin at catcher and thin up the middle infield, two areas I'd like to put in the organization." -- White
Look for the Dodgers to land a high school pitcher in the first round, because that's what they usually do. They have no extra picks after not offering salary arbitration to any free agents.
It rarely matters what the system needs are, White drafts pitching on top. That said, the Dodgers are looking better equipped in the outfield than they have in recent years, but need catching and middle infielders.
Since taking over the Draft in 2002, White's first pick has been a pitcher eight of nine times, and a high school pitcher six times. Two of those top high school picks -- Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw -- are currently in the Dodgers' rotation, so it's hard to argue with White's strategy that he can never draft enough pitching.
Recent Draft History Rising fast
Shawn Tolleson, 30th round, 2010: When they were both Texas high school seniors, Tolleson was more touted than Kershaw. But he blew out his elbow that year, needing Tommy John surgery and went to Baylor, where he started for three seasons. The Dodgers took a flyer on him, and he's become a lights-out reliever. He opened this season at Class A Great Lakes with 10 saves in 14 games and no earned runs, was 2-0 with an 0.93 ERA at Class A Rancho Cucamonga and was just promoted to Double-A Chattanooga. Combined, he has 52 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings this year.
Allen Webster, 18th round, 2008: He's only 21 and he's just been promoted to Chattanooga after dominating at Rancho Cucamonga. He was a high school shortstop, who was uncovered by scouts at a pre-Draft workout. The right-handed starter is equally effective against right-handed and left-handed hitters. He has allowed only two home runs in his first 59 innings pitched this year.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.