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Dodgers load up on college pitchers in draft

Of their 42 picks in the draft, Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers took 20 college pitchers. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' mission in the 2015 draft was fairly obvious: add enough starting pitching so that they're not dependent on an increasingly weak and increasingly expensive free-agent market.

Under new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and new amateur scouting director Billy Gasparino, the Dodgers made it pretty clear the kind of young player they like: arms that can help them sooner rather than later. Of their 42 picks in the draft, which concluded on Wednesday, the Dodgers took 20 college pitchers.

"Not to get in a huge debate about philosophy, but the timeline of these guys is very quick in our opinion," Gasparino said. "They're advanced, they're ready. We would expect these guys to be fast-tracked going forward and provide starting pitching depth as soon as next year."

The Dodgers certainly feel that their top two picks, Vanderbilt right-hander Walker Buehler and Louisville right-hander Kyle Funkhouser, could be rotation options for them as soon as 2016. If things go as planned, they would give them a good group of young pitchers pushing for major-league time. They already have Julio Urias, the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game, and hard-throwing right-hander Grant Holmes.

"We want a surplus," Gasparino said. "Starting pitching is hard to find. We use the draft to add the toughest thing to find and it was there for us."

The Dodgers' rotation could be filled with vacancies by next November. In fact, Clayton Kershaw might be the only sure thing. Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu will still be recovering from surgery, Brett Anderson will be a free agent and Zack Greinke can opt out of his contract to hit the open market. They've already begun the process of scouting starting pitchers going into the July 31 trade deadline, but the most readily-available pitchers will be those who are soon to be free agents.

So, they would like to develop from within as quickly as possible. Dodgers president Stan Kasten helped develop one of the game's better pitching pipelines when he was with the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s.

Gasparino insists the Dodgers didn't go into the draft intent on stocking up on arms, but some of the hitters they had most heavily scouted went ahead of where they projected them, shuffling their priorities. They also selected five high-school pitchers, including Imani Abdullah out of San Diego with their No. 342 overall pick. Gasparino called Abdullah a "priority signing." He said the Dodgers are hoping to sign at least 30 of the 42 picks.

With their second-to-last pick Wednesday, the Dodgers took Cal Poly Pomona pitcher Chris Powell, the son of former Dodgers pitcher Dennis Powell.