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05/30/06 8:00 AM ET

Dodgers hopeful, heavy with high picks

Despite Hochevar disappointment, reason for optimism

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers had no first-round pick last year and the first player they were able to take, Tennessee pitcher Luke Hochevar, they weren't able to sign.

Things should improve dramatically for the organization in this year's draft, as scouting director Logan White has three of the first 31 picks overall -- the club's regular slot at No. 7, plus picks 26 and 31 as compensation for the loss of free agent Jeff Weaver.

White, about to oversee his fifth draft as Dodger scouting director, will be working for his third general manager, Ned Colletti, who has taken an active interest in the draft, as he did with the San Francisco Giants.

"Ned and I get along great," said White. "He's a baseball guy, but he lets me do my job. I keep him informed, but there's been no difference in how I operate. I think he respects the fact that we've drafted good players the last few years. I don't foresee any issues."

While this year's draft has been described by most analysts as lackluster, it seems strongest in pitchers. White, who has shown a clear preference for taking high school players with his top picks, said that could change.

"If I take college players with the first three picks, everybody will say Ned told me to," said White. "It's moreso that if in any year I ended up with college players, it's this year. That's just the way it's shaping up. I still believe you take the best available player.

"But this is as tough a year to read as any since I've been doing this, because of the overall talent level. I don't want to denigrate this draft, but there aren't as many consensus guys up front."

Except for last year's Hochevar experiment (done at the direction of former GM Paul DePodesta), White has taken a high school player first in each of his other three drafts.

Luke Hochevar, RHP, 2005, Pick No. 40: You can't win 'em all. It was a longshot pick from the start and the only reason he was still there for the Dodgers to take is that other clubs were scared away by signability questions that proved to be accurate. Still, they briefly thought they had him signed, but the relationship turned sour.

Scott Elbert, LHP, 2004, Pick No. 17: His improvement in a second professional season was so dramatic the club felt he sailed right by Chuck Tiffany as the top left-handed starting prospect in the organization. He has a 2.44 ERA at Class A Vero Beach this season.

Chad Billingsley, RHP, 2003, Pick No. 24: He was the organization's pitcher of the year in 2004 and 2005, he opened eyes in his first Major League spring camp and he hasn't done anything to tarnish his reputation in his first season at Triple-A. Arrival in Los Angeles will be sooner than later.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.