The Los Angeles Dodgers selected J.T. Ginn with the 30th overall pick of the 2018 MLB Draft but were unable to persuade him away from college baseball.
If there has been one thing that the Los Angeles Dodgers have done well over the past several years, it has been drafting talent. Of the last team’s last 13 draft prospects (since 2012), four have already made the MLB roster and are making significant contributions. Another, Grant Holmes, was flipped in the deal that brought Rich Hill (and an Astros player we will not name here) to Los Angeles.
Notably, there have also been two players selected by the Dodgers in that time that have not signed with the team, Kyle Funkhouser and J.T. Ginn.
Funkhouser was selected by Los Angeles with the 35th overall pick in the 2015 draft when the Dodgers used a compensation pick gained from losing Hanley Ramirez to free agency. However, the two sides were unable to come to an agreement, Funkhouser turning down a $1.75 million bonus to return to the University of Louisville. After taking a step back in 2016, Funkhouser reentered the draft and fell to the fourth round, where he was taken by the Detroit Tigers.
History would seemingly repeat itself in 2018 when the Dodgers selected right-hander J.T. Ginn with the 30th overall pick. Selecting a prep pitcher late in the first round is always a gamble, as the top arms may choose to bet on themselves, go to college, and then opt to give the draft another chance in a few years with the hopes of landing a better bonus slot.
The Dodgers knew they faced such a gamble when they chose Ginn. He was coming off of being named the Mississippi Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year and had an offer to go to Mississippi State. This time, the draft slot was worth an estimated $2,275,800, but the promise of a bigger signing bonus and the opportunity to play college ball proved too great. Ginn decided to forego signing with the Dodgers and went to college instead.
Now we stand here two years later, and Ginn is set to see if that investment paid off. As a draft-eligible sophomore, he will test the waters again in 2020. After entering college as a premier hitter and pitcher, Ginn focused on pitching at Mississippi State. His freshman year showed promise, with the right-hander going 8-4 with a 3.17 ERA and 105 strike-outs in 89.1 innings of work and he was named the SEC Freshman of the Year.
However, as gambles go, sometimes they pay off and sometimes they do not. In Ginn’s case, the freshman year certainly did, but his sophomore campaign did not. After making just one start and three innings of work, Ginn was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and saw his season come to an end. Likewise, he has seen a slide in the prospect rankings as we get closer to the 2020 MLB Draft, with MLB.com recently ranking him 40th in this year’s draft class.
Now, Ginn will be faced with another choice. Depending on where he goes in this year’s draft, Ginn can opt to return to Mississippi State next season, knowing full well that his year will be limited as he recovers from Tommy John. Otherwise, he can sign with the team that picks him this season but may have to take a discounted signing bonus due to his injury and the draft pools being smaller and teams looking to spread their money tightly.
Regardless, Ginn will be an interesting name to watch whenever the 2020 draft is held. The draft as a whole will be a case of mystery depending on which players want to subject themselves to a smaller draft and adjusted draft pools as well.
While things may not have worked out for J.T. Ginn in the short-term, the Dodgers weren’t entirely damaged by the decision either. Los Angeles was compensated with an additional pick in the 2019 draft for their inability to sign Ginn. That pick ended up being the 31st pick last season, with the Dodgers selecting second baseman Michael Busch out of the University of North Carolina. Busch already ranks as the Dodgers 8th best prospect in a deep system.