Thursday, June 7, 2012

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer

Angels fans, listen up: Be prepared to hear some Angels organizational bashing by the so-called experts over the next two months as every other organizations announce the signing of their latest high-round picks. Don’t believe it. Not a word.

Over the next two months, almost every other organization will get a lot of free press as they announce their latest signing. Meanwhile, the Angels won’t have anywhere near as many “big” draft picks to announce. So, by all accounts, the Angels will be listed as the “losers” of the draft. The Angels will be like the kids whose parents couldn’t afford to spend much on Christmas.

What these so-called experts forget is that Christmas comes in December, not June. As much as these experts love to drool over the off their latest shiny new toys, they will forget that most new toys end up in the landfill, not in the treasure chest. And, just as Pixar’s Toy Story showed, it’s the tried and true toys that last and are worth keeping around, not every shiny gizmo that whirls and beeps.

Angels fans, last year, we got our treasures: Albert Pujols and C. J. Wilson. And, as a fan, I would take both of them over anyone drafted in the past few days. Heck, so would any and every GM in baseball, even the ones on a limited budget.

Most GMs consider a draft a success if it can produce 1 average ML player (with a 5-8 year career) and one or two fringe players. That’s it. Out of the 50 players picked by a team in the draft, the truth sad reality is that most teams will only produce one regular player and one or two fringe players. That includes players taken in the first few rounds. Getting anything more than that is gravy. Unlike other sports, players taken in the MLB draft have a long way to go before becoming Major League Players.

Well, Albert Pujols and C. J. Wilson are more than fringe players—they are difference makers. Players like that are absolute rarities and almost never easily recognized in a draft. Wilson was drafted in the 5th round; Pujols, the 13th. If scouting were an absolute science, there would be no need to draft players for 50 rounds.

If ever there was an offseason in which to go all-in on free agency, it was this past year. Sure, it meant that the Angels would lose their first and second round picks. But, this year’s draft was universally regarded as weak. GMs openly talked about a lack of drop off in talent between the first few picks and the overall talent expected to be taken in the first few rounds which is code for a weak draft.

Furthermore, with all the changes made to the signing bonuses in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams were left in a perilous position of trying to sort talent all while figuring out the impact of the new slot bonus system. For the Angels, sitting on the sideline with their talent already secured in the offseason, the opportunities to learn the intricacies of the new CBA on the draft were immense.

Looking at what the Angels did with the draft, especially with their first few picks, I am pleased with what they accomplished. With the lowest total amount to spend on the draft, the Angels went heavily after college relief arms with big potential. Most of the scouting reports on these pitchers have them throwing in the mid-90s.

In this draft, signability was an important issue. College relief pitchers have less leverage than other players and are likely to sign. They also tend to have less mileage on their arms, which should mean that they are less likely to have latent injuries. However, the Angels can and probably will convert several of these players into starters. The potential for upside on these players is quite high, especially if the Angels can get them to master a 3rd pitch.

So, Angels fans, as we listen to all the headlines touting the latest shiny new toy signed in the draft, remember, we know when Christmas really comes. We got our presents in December, and those presents are far better than what anyone will get this summer.
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