Monday, July 13, 2009

By David Saltzer - Columnist

During our online chat with Eddie Bane, the Director of Scouting for the Angels, we posed the following question to the fans: How would you rate the Angels draft on a 1-5 basis, 5 being excellent. The results during the chat were: 5 (15%); 4 (31%); 3 (38%); 2 (15%); 1 (0%).

Now that we’ve had a few weeks to digest the players taken in the draft, and, we’ve seen many of them signed, it’s time to revisit the draft to see how well we did. Before we do, though, it’s important to review what the Angels were trying to accomplish in this year’s draft.

With 5 of the first 48 picks, the Angels knew that they had an opportunity to setup the organization for the next 5 years or more. While their highest pick was 24th, they knew that they had several needs to address. And, with their first pick being the 24th overall, the odds of them catching a no-brainer type player such as Strasburg were almost non-existent. While the Angels are known for taking high-risk/high-reward type players, this year they knew they needed to focus on their core needs and strengths.

Given the choice, Eddie Bane and the Angels would prefer to draft a high school player over an equally rated college player. There are many reasons for this, including the belief that a similarly ranked high school player has more upside than the college player since he’s still maturing compared to the college player. Additionally, there is the notion that getting a player out of high school allows the Angels to develop in the Angels mold for a longer period of time.

Finally, the Angels believe that it is cheaper and easier to develop a quality pitcher than it is to sign one. The combination of the cost of signing a front-line pitcher and the risk of injury to that pitcher over a multi-year contract is much greater than trying to develop the talent within the organization. While the Angels have plenty of pitching in the minors (as the weekly Hot Prospect Lists can attest), as this season shows, you can never have too much pitching.

So, with their first two picks, the Angels went right after their needs. They drafted two premium high-school hitters with power: Randal Grichuk and Mike Trout. Both play the OF, and both have great track records for hitting with power. Both were ranked in the Top-10 for HS prospects and were considered rising stars. Both have been signed and are off to good starts as they make the transition to professional baseball.

After addressing their most pressing needs, the Angels went right back to their core strength: pitching. With their next 5 picks they took only pitchers. They went heavily after left-handers, with 4 of those picks being left-handed. They mostly went after college pitchers here, but did choose another high school prospect, Tyler Skaggs, with their 3rd pick in the 1st round. He’s got a plus curve and 92-93 mph fastball who reminds scouts of a young Barry Zito. He has yet to sign, but we’re hopeful that he does.

Things were moving along very smoothly when the Angels made a surprising pick befitting of their high-risk/high-reward philosophy. They drafted Jake Locker in the 10th round. He’s the starting QB for the Huskies. Although he sees himself primarily as a football player the Angels are willing to take a chance that baseball becomes a fallback career option. Scouts for many teams rave about his baseball skills. Hopefully the Angels can ink a deal with Locker that preserves everyone’s interests.

After the 10th round, things settled into a routine as the Angels drafted a variety of players and positions with no discernable pattern. Two notable later round picks include James Mallard (18th round) and Alibay Barkley (50th round). Both are big guys who play 1B and can mash the ball. Both draw comparisons to players like Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard.

In the amateur draft, every major league team is hoping to get at least 1 player who has at least a 5 year career in the majors. For most teams, that’s a solid draft. Let’s establish that as a rating of a “4” since that is still the hope of every club. Teams that let other factors such as signability affect their draft or failed to address their organization as a whole should earn lower ratings while those that appear to exceed that standard deserve higher.

In evaluating this draft, I’d give it a solid “5” so far. We targeted our needs (sluggers) and went after them. We knew our strengths (pitching) and drafted for it. With the way that Grichuk, Trout, Alibay and Barkley have started, it appears that they will be good players for a long time.

At the same time, we did not let money issues affect who we drafted or how we drafted. We took a shot at a very high-risk/high reward type. While no one unexpected slipped to us like Weaver did in 2005 (which might have given this a 5+ rating) my initial reaction to this draft is very positive. I believe that one or more of the hitters will make it in the majors as impact players and one or more of the pitchers will too, especially if the Angels are able to land pitchers like Skaggs.

Over the next few years, it will be fun to watch how these guys pan out to see if this draft deserves an even higher rating. It will be fun trying to work these players into our Top-50 Prospect list next year. For now, kudos should go to Eddie Bane and to all of his staff that made it happen. Good draft.
Love to hear what you think!


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