Dodgers select Vandy OF with No. 23 pick

Dodgers select Vandy OF with No. 23 pick

LOS ANGELES -- Vanderbilt center fielder Jeren Kendall compares his game to that of Yankees All-Star Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dodgers scouting director Billy Gasparino saw some of the same traits before taking him with the 23rd overall pick in Monday's first round of the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft.

"Ellsbury didn't have his present power, I could see how he would make that comparison," said Gasparino. "We would love it if that's the end result."

The Draft continues Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 9:30 a.m. PT, with exclusive coverage beginning at 10 a.m. PT.

Kendall, 21, bats left-handed and throws right-handed. He is 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds with elite speed, but a high strikeout rate. He hit .307 (80-for-261) with 10 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs, 53 RBI and stole 20 bases in 2017 as a junior. He led the team in runs scored (59), hits and home runs, while posting a .372 on-base percentage and a .556 slugging percentage. In 2014, he was drafted in the 30th round by Boston, but went to college.

MLBPipeline.com ranked Kendall the No. 6 prospect in this Draft.

"He's a pretty explosive player, some people use the five-tool word -- speed, power, defense for center field," said Gasparino. "He has a pretty accomplished track record, played on Team USA, a Vanderbilt program that we know well. It added up to a lot of positives."

The Dodgers have taken a player from Vanderbilt in the first round in each of the last three Drafts, selecting right-handed pitcher Walker Buehler first in 2015 and right-handed pitcher Jordan Sheffield as a supplemental pick last year. Sheffield and Kendall were roommates at Vanderbilt.

"Obviously, we have a lot of respect for their program, we think they do things very well," Gasparino said. "In this case, it was kind of coincidental. I know it seems otherwise, but it just kind of happened this way."

Floyd on Kendall

Gasparino said Kendall made an impression on club officials playing for Team USA at Dodger Stadium last year. He acknowledged that Kendall swings through a lot of pitches, but considers that fixable.

"Every player has a development piece, sometimes more than one," he said. "It's definitely an area of improvement. When he puts the ball in play, there's a premium of speed and power. If we can raise the contact rate up, he can be a very productive Major Leaguer."

"I just love him," Vandy coach Tim Corbin told Michael Lananna of Baseball America. "I think he's a wonderful kid. Personality is plus. He's good looking. He's very easy to be with. Low, low maintenance. He's comfortable with people. He's comfortable with himself ... I just wish he was here longer."

A two-time Wisconsin high school state Player of the Year, as a Vanderbilt freshman he hit a walk-off home run against Cal State Fullerton in the College World Series.

Kendall is the first outfielder the Dodgers have taken in the first round since Bubba Crosby in 1988. The Dodgers have $5,794,200 to spend on their first 10 picks with $2,702,700 designated for the first-round pick used on Kendall.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.