A Tale of Two Lefties
After Hochevar’s disappearing act, it became less and less likely that he would sign with the Dodgers. Negotiations continued, but the 2006 draft was fast-approaching and both the pitcher and club were getting ready to move on.
Hochevar filed to re-enter the draft and, after a year of waiting, his decision not to sign with the Dodgers would seemingly pay off. The Kansas City Royals, who held the first pick, were in negotiations with Boras for a Major League contract for the right-hander.
With just days remaining until the event, it seemed like a deal would get done. And, on draft day, before the festivities began, the deal was completed. Hochevar would be the first overall pick, signing his desired Major League contract, a four-year deal that could be worth up to $7 million.
But where did that leave Miller, the presumptive top talent in the draft class? As Hochevar finally got the contract he desired, Miller was in draft purgatory. Rumors began swirling that, like Hochevar before him, Miller was demanding too much money and would similarly find himself dropping down draft boards.
As the draft began, the first pick was announced: The Kansas City Royals select Luke Hochevar. The long, national nightmare was over. The next three picks had been predetermined as well.
The Colorado Rockies took Stanford right-hander Greg Reynolds, Tampa Bay Devil Rays chose Long Beach State third baseman Evan Longoria, and Pittsburgh Pirates selected University of Houston righty Brad Lincoln.
Suddenly, Miller, the presumptive top pick, was in danger of falling out of the top five. The Mariners were up next and looking at pitchers, but decided Miller was too rich for their blood.
Instead, they drafted Brandon Morrow, a right-hander out of the University of California-Berkeley. Now, it was simply a matter of how far Miller would fall. Would he fall out of the first round completely? Would he even be drafted? Would he have to return to North Carolina or play in Indy ball?
The Tigers were on the clock. The entire spring they had been all-in on Kershaw. And all spring I had been dreading this moment. The moment when Kershaw, the player I wanted the Dodgers to draft, would slip just beyond their fingertips.
It was alright, though. Los Angeles was set to take Bryan Morris, a right-hander who had pitched a season of Junior College ball under the tutelage of his father. He had a good fastball and a hard breaking ball. Morris would be a fine consolation prize.
This was the last year before the draft was televised. The only way to follow it live in previous years was to listen to the conference call over which the draft took place. It was thrilling.
In 2006 they had a radio show, with MLB experts Jonathan Mayo and Allan Simpson breaking down the picks, while Casey Stern hosted. Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB’s Executive vice president of baseball operations, announced the picks live.
The Tigers pick was in. I was melancholy, thinking of how close the Dodgers would come to getting Kershaw only to be one pick too late. And then I heard Solomon’s voice and resigned myself to the inevitable.
“With the sixth pick in the 2006 draft, the Detroit Tigers select…” I began mouthing the name ‘Clayton Kershaw.’ But then, something amazing happened. Something completely unexpected and impossible. I was wrong.
“Andrew Miller, left-handed pitcher, University of North Carolina,” Solomon said. I couldn’t believe my ears. My mouth hung agape. My eyes were as wide as saucers. I was completely speechless. The show cut back to the studio and Mayo and Simpson expressed their surprise at the pick. No one knew the Tigers were going to take Miller until the moment the pick was made.
My mind began racing. “What do the Dodgers do now?” I thought to myself. They had been pretty heavy on Morris, who wasn’t considered a top 10 pick but was thought of as a first rounder. If the Dodgers take Kershaw here, could they still get Morris with their next pick?
The Dodgers had three picks in the top 31, the second of which was at No. 26. “If they take Kershaw here and Morris falls to pick 26, that would be unreal,” I thought.
Just as I was trying to figure out what the Dodgers were trying to do, I heard someone on the radio show say the Dodgers had just used their 30 second extension. The picks were coming in pretty quickly.
No commercial breaks, no in-person interviews. It was basically rapid-fire. And when I heard the Dodgers were using their extension, I thought to myself, “They’re thinking the same thing I’m thinking.”
The pick came in. Jimmie Lee Solomon came back on the radio. I prepared myself for something unbelievable.
“With the seventh pick in the 2006 draft, the Dodgers select Clayton Kershaw.” I screamed. I threw my hands up in the air. I pumped my fists. I laughed. I was overjoyed.
CONTINUE READING: Kershaw’s quick rise through the Minors