The Dodgers completed their first two rounds of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft on Monday and came away with two college players. Jeren Kendall and Morgan Cooper were the Dodgers day one selection for their first two picks of this year’s draft.
First Round Pick (no. 23) – Jeren Kendall, OF, Vanderbilt University
The Dodgers continued their trend of selecting a player from Vanderbilt as they took Jeren Kendall in the first round of the 2017 draft after selecting Jordan Sheffield in 2016 and Walker Buehler in 2015. Jeren Kendall is not going to tip the scales as he is a 5’10 180 pound outfielder who was mocked going as high as 11th overall in a mock by Sports Illustrated. Kendall can play all three outfield positions but is better suited at a corner spot in the outfield. He does have the speed to play center field if he refines his routes on fly balls. He bats left-handed but throws right-handed, so he is yet another left-handed power bat for the Dodgers.
Offensively he has plus speed as he stole 67 bases in his three seasons at Vanderbilt and stole as many as 28 bases in one season. Kendall also can hit for power as he hit 15 home runs this year in just 62 games. The knock on Jeren Kendall is that he tends to strike out a lot and fail to make contact in the same mold as Joc Pederson. He averaged one strikeout per game his first two college seasons and this season averaged over a strikeout per game. His swing will likely need some refining in order to cut down on the strikeouts, but he definitely has the power to hit 15-20 home runs a season. So the upside of a possible 20-20 player is there.
Why was he drafted?
Given the Dodgers strong farm system, they found themselves in a position where they could draft the best player available. Despite his strikeout concerns he was the 11th best player in this year’s draft so to be able to get a talent like Kendall late in the first round, it was an easy pick for the Dodgers to select him. After Alex Verdugo there is a big step down to the next outfield prospects the Dodgers currently have so adding a talent of Kendall’s caliber will help solidify the Dodgers farm system.
With current concerns over the future of Joc Pederson, the Dodgers were wise to add another potential outfield top prospect. The Dodgers outfield has lost several high price players over the years and will likely lose Andre Ethier after this season, so Kendall will be part of the next wave of top Dodger outfield prospects.
Second Round Pick (no. 62)- Morgan Cooper, Starting Pitcher, University of Texas
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In the second round of this year’s draft, the Dodgers selected Morgan Cooper, who was the ace of the Texas Longhorns pitching rotation. Cooper is 6’5 210 pounds and throws over the top, so he has a similar build and pitching style to another former draftee out of the lone star state, Ross Stripling. The right-handed Cooper usually throws around 92-94 miles per hour but can occasionally get his fastball up to 96 mph. He also has a changeup, cutter, and curveball with the changeup being his best secondary pitch.
Just as they selected Walker Buehler knowing he would likely need Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers showed they are unafraid to take pitchers who have been involved with Tommy John surgery since Morgan Cooper had Tommy John surgery in 2014. This season Cooper put together his strongest season boasting a 2.32 ERA with an impressive 110 strikeouts in only 89 plus innings. He only gave up two home runs in those 89 innings but needs to cut down on walks as he averaged three walks per nine innings this season.
Cooper was ranked as the 119th best prospect in this year’s draft so the Dodgers must see potential in him to have selected him so soon. He is known to lose velocity towards the end of the season, so the Dodgers will likely pair him up with Gabe Kapler to work on improving his endurance over the course of the season. If he fails as a starter, he has the potential to fill the Ross Stripling role out of the bullpen.
Why was he drafted?
The Dodgers currently are loaded with pitching prospects even after parting with Jose De Leon last season. Cooper will likely start in low A this season, but could advance to Single A after starting pitchers like Mitchell White and Yadier Alvarez graduate to Double A. Cooper gives the Dodgers yet another arm in the minors and could join the current group of rising prospects like White, Buehler, and Alvarez if he has a strong showing. If there is one thing the Dodgers have shown, its that you can never truly have enough pitching.
This seems to have been a safe pick for the Dodgers after taking a risk on the raw skills of Kendall in the first round. Cooper should be a low-cost signing since he came out of college and was not projected to go high in the draft. While he is not going to blow people away with his stuff he could develop into a back-end of the rotation arm or a solid reliever if he doesn’t pan out as a starter. The Dodgers drafted a pitcher that will be solid in whatever role he is thrown into, which is a far cry from Jeren Kendall who will likely be a boom or bust type player.