Angels' Draft focus on stockpiling high-end arms
Halos hoping to take advantage of first opening-round pick since 2011
The First-Year Player Draft starts Thursday, and the Angels will finally have a first-round pick.
They were without one the last two years, a result of the Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings in back-to-back Decembers. But they made it a point to stay away from signing any free agents tied to compensation this past offseason -- partly because none were all that intriguing, partly because they need high-ceiling prospects -- and they will have the 15th overall selection in the 2014 Draft.
"The top of the Draft is where you find your impact," general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "It's where you find your future All-Stars, it's where you find your top-three starters. I don't want to say that you don't have a chance to find that further down in the Draft, but it becomes much more of a mix-and-match game."
The Angels have been very familiar with that mix-and-match game in Dipoto's previous two Drafts with the Halos, not selecting until the third round in 2012 and having to wait until the 59th overall pick in '13, which saw them take a pitcher with 10 of their first 11 selections.
Their farm system has been ranked last in the Majors by Baseball America each of the last two years, but nonetheless houses a handful of talented bullpen arms and has developed several position players who have impacted the Major League club this season.
What they need is starting pitching, and it looked like this year's Draft pool was relatively deep in top-shelf starters until a couple of key arms -- Jeff Hoffman of East Carolina and Erick Fedde of Nevada-Las Vegas -- were recently subjected to Tommy John surgery.
"Going into it, it was really deep, and I still believe there's depth there," scouting director Ric Wilson said. "There's been some injuries with some of the higher picks, but I still think that's where the depth is to be had -- starting pitching."
The 2014 Draft will take place Thursday to Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker. You can keep up to date by following @MLBDraft, and get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
The Angels have scouted a lot of the amateurs in this Draft pool going back three years ago, and Dipoto himself looked at eight potential first-round picks this spring. The organizational meetings began last Monday, dedicating an entire day -- from breakfast to dinnertime -- to each of the four regions of the country.
They took Friday off, then about a dozen scouts and front-office members gathered in one room to begin the exhaustive five-day process of putting together the Halos' Draft board, which has them rank the top 125 amateur players in the country and then go a little deeper position-by-position.
"Generally speaking, out of the first 125 players you rank, you're probably going to get about 10 of them," Dipoto said. "That's indicative of the fact that every team likes players a little bit differently, and what you would consider the 125, there will be 25 names on your list that aren't on somebody else's. That's what makes the Draft unique."
In about 50 words
The Angels have a first-round pick for the first time in three years and have a desperate need for high-upside starting pitching in their system. That's good timing. Because even despite some recent injuries, this Draft is pretty well stocked in that department. "As deep as I can remember in a while," Wilson said.
The Halos need and want starting pitching, but don't be surprised if they actually take a position player with their first-round pick. Their preference would be to find a talented collegiate starting pitcher who could rise through the system quickly. But everybody wants that.
As Dipoto said, "When you're picking at the top, and you're talking about the 15th pick in the country, you take the best player available. You don't want to try to recreate the wheel. You take the best player and you move on from there, and you don't stray very far from your philosophy. We'll continue to do those things, but we're not going to go in there and try to jam something that doesn't fit."
By the end of the Draft, it's a safe bet the Angels will have drafted a lot of starting pitchers. But that doesn't necessarily mean they have to do so off the bat.
In tune with that, MLB.com's Jim Callis and ESPN's Keith Law both have the Halos selecting Indiana catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber. Law also mentioned high-school infielder Michael Chavis, from Georgia, and Louisville right-hander Nick Burdi on a below-slot deal. Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede and Parkview High (Lilburn, Ga.) left-hander Mac Marshall are also options, according to Callis.
Angels bonus pool
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Angels' Draft allotment is $5,774,000, which is 20th in the Majors but nearly double that of last year. They'll get $2,475,600 for their first-round pick and $1,050,600 for their second-round pick.
The Halos need starting pitching. That's no secret. It's need Nos. 1, 2 and 3. They could also use some more outfield depth, especially since Randal Grichuk went to the Cardinals with Peter Bourjos in the deal that brought back David Freese. And teams are always looking for talented amateur catchers.
The Angels drafted at least 15 players from high school every year from 2006-10, with Eddie Bane as their scouting director. In 2011, the first year Wilson ran the Draft, that number dropped to seven. In '12, with Dipoto in his first year as GM, it was five. In '13, it was four (albeit one was their first selection). When you have a barren farm system, you want collegiate players who are safer bets and can rise quicker. Expect that trend to continue.
* Recent Draft History *
Hard-throwing right-handers Cam Bedrosian (29th overall selection in 2010) and R.J. Alvarez (third round in '12) have been lighting it up in the lower levels, and one of them -- perhaps even both -- could be helping out of the Angels' bullpen before 2014 is over with. Bedrosian got promoted from Class A Advanced Inland Empire to Double-A Arkansas after five appearances and has been dominant all year. Alvarez, ranked seventh, started the Double-A season with 28 strikeouts in 19 scoreless innings before landing on the disabled list with elbow discomfort. The move was precautionary, and the Halos expect him to be pitching again shortly.
There is no better example than Pujols, who watched 401 players get selected ahead of him in 1999 -- including Alfredo Amezaga, the 401st pick by the Angels -- and then carved out what's already a Hall of Fame career. But Efren Navarro wrote his own Cinderella story this year. Navarro was taken in the 50th round in 2007, spent almost all of 2011-13 in Triple-A and seemingly had no route to the Majors as a first baseman with below-average power. But he was called up to help in the outfield on May 9 and batted .310/.375/.483 in an 11-game stint.
In The Show
Thirteen of the Halos' 25 active players are home grown, including standouts like Mike Trout, Jered Weaver, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs (traded to the D-backs in 2010, then reacquired this past December). But most gratifying to the organization this year is that an assortment of their upper-level prospects -- like C.J. Cron, Mike Morin, Matt Shoemaker, Navarro and Grant Green, who was acquired from the A's in July -- kept the Major League club afloat while an array of regulars were injured.
The Angels' recent top picks
2013: Hunter Green, LHP, extended spring
2012: R.J. Alvarez, RHP, Double-A Arkansas
2011: Cron, 1B, Angels
2010: Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Double-A Arkansas
2019: Grichuk, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and ?The Show?, and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.