After two years of sitting on their hands during the first round of the MLB Draft, the Angels will finally have the opportunity to participate when the drafting begins on Thursday. Not only that, but they also get three selections in the top hundred—15th, 53rd, & 88th—for the first time since 2010. Those points, combined with the woeful state of the club’s farm system and the apparent abundance of pitching in this year’s draft class, have set expectations high for this year’s returns.
Angels scouting director Ric Wilson got a pretty solid return in his only opportunity thus far to select a first-rounder—C.J. Cron, 17th overall in 2011—but now the onus is on him to prove that it wasn’t a case of beginner’s luck. It’s not Wilson’s fault the front office has depleted the farm system so thoroughly, but it is his job to right the ship, and his first and best real opportunity to do so comes this week.
The last time the Halos had a pick in the opening round, they and everyone else had the ability to reach deep into their coffers for the draft. Teams could throw insane amounts of money at any player taken at any point in the process, leading to situations where the No. 27 and No. 30 picks could net almost $1 million more in signing bonuses than a No. 4 selection. In an effort to limit these kinds of scenarios–and to curb overall draft spending, period—MLB capped draft funds in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement by introducing team bonus pools based on fixed slot values. I’ll let Alden Gonzalez explain what this means:
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.
The Angels have an overall bonus pool of $5,774,000 for the first 10 rounds this year. That is the 10th-lowest total in the league, but also nearly double the amount they were allotted to spend last June. Roughly $4 million (~70%) of that total comes from the slot values of the first three picks, but the Halos don’t have to spend the money in proportion. They can distribute their bonus pool amongst the first 10 rounds however they see fit, so long as they don’t go past their overall limit. If they exceed their bonus pool by as little as five percent ($228,700), they’ll be penalized with the loss of a first-round pick in 2015, so they probably won’t be doing that.
Now that we’ve got our general bases covered, let’s take a look at what the Angels might do with their first three picks and what history has to say about guys taken at those specific points in the draft:
Slot Money: $2.4756 MM
MLB%: 46.9 (23 of 49)
College: 18 | High School: 31
WAR Total: 264.7 | WAR Avg: 11.5 | WAR Median: 1.9
Games Total: 12,622 | Games Avg: 549 | Games Median: 239
Bests Ever (WAR Total):
The 15th pick in the June draft has historically had one of the worst returns for a first-round selection. Only 46.9% of the draftees in this slot have made it all the way to the Show, which is the lowest percentage among the top 25 picks. Teams have had much more luck with the pick in recent years, though, which may indicate that clubs are a bit more savvy when it comes to mid-round selections than they used to be. (It could also be random chance, but that’s not as comforting a thought.)
From 1965-1999, just 37.1% of the No. 15 picks made an appearance on the MLB stage; for 2000-2009, that percentage climbed all the way up to 100%. It’s highly unlikely that the 2010 and 2011 selections—Jake Skole and Jed Bradley—will keep the decade-long success streak going, which is a bit of a bummer, but you still have to feel great about the Angels’ chances of getting a Major League contributor with their first selection given the pick’s recent track record.
As noted above, Chase Utley is/was the most valuable player ever taken with the No. 15 pick in the draft (per WAR), but he’s not the only household name of the group. Hall-of-Famer Jim Rice, Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter, human phoenix Scott Kazmir, qualifying offer victim Stephen Drew, and movie star Royce Clayton were also former 15th selections.
Just who or what the Angels are looking for with the pick is the question of the day. The club’s most obvious farm-system need is high-upside pitching, and this draft seemed to contain quite a bit of it until the Angel of UCL Death recently made his presence felt amongst the consensus top picks. Ric Wilson still believes there’s starting pitching depth to be had, but Jerry Dipoto isn’t ruling out going with a position player either:
“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 … we’re not going to go in there and try to jam something that doesn’t fit.”
Dipoto’s philosophy is an entirely reasonable one to hold, but going with the “best player available” is a lot easier said than done, especially in the middle of the first round. There’s always two or three guys who stand out at the top of the heap, but things often get rather nebulous after that. For goodness sake, just five years ago there were 21 teams who believed Mike Trout wasn’t the “best player available” to them when their turn came around. So, then, unless someone falls into their lap that the Angels’ brass simply can’t pass up, the need for organizational pitching depth should probably sway the selection.
Given that the Halos went with a high-risk/high-reward/high-school selection in Hunter Green last season, it makes sense to me that they’d go for a safer bet with their top pick this time around. Pitchers are all essentially high risk to a point, of course, but polished collegiate arms like Aaron Nola (who probably won’t be available), Tyler Beede, and/or Kyle Freeland have fewer hurdles to clear in their path to the bigs.
Prediction: Tyler Beede – RHP (Vanderbilt University)
Slot Money: $1.0506 million
MLB%: 42.8 (21 of 49)
College: 23 | High School: 26
WAR Total: 157.4 | WAR Avg: 7.5 | WAR Median: 0.0
Games Total: 6,701 | Games Avg: 319 | Games Median: 58
This year marks the third time in franchise history the Halos have had the 53rd pick. Their first was spent on Sam Ashford (1969), who never made past Triple-A; the second on Kevin Jepsen (2002), who’s being paid $1.46 million this year to give fans ulcers. Perhaps this time will be the charm, as they say.
As you’ll notice from the WAR median of zilch listed above, very few guys who have made it to the pros from the 53rd spot have been valuable at all. Like most mid-level picks, the WAR total and average are skewed by the contributions of one or two great players–in this case, it’s Gary Carter and Andy Messersmith, who account for 70% of the overall value. Those two aren’t the only No. 53 picks to cobble together productive careers, though. Phil Bradley and Sean Casey were both All-Star sluggers at one point in time, and Steve Bedrosian–father of Cam–took home the NL Cy Young award in 1987.
It’s important to remember that there’s no really predictive power when looking at draft histories–how could there be, really?–but they do give an indication that a positive outcome is, if not probable, at least possible. And sometimes that’s good enough to dream on.
There’s no telling who’s going to be left beyond the first 15 picks or so, which makes predicting who the club might take after the first round a complete shot in the dark. However, I’m of the belief the Halos will continue with last year’s approach and take pitchers with each of their first three picks–they selected pitchers with 10 of their first 11 selections in 2013. Just which pitcher it’ll be is anyone’s guess, so I may as well bet on the high schooler trapped in a man’s body (6′ 5″, 230 lbs) for the second selection.
Prediction: Keaton McKinney – RHP (Ankey HS, Iowa)
Slot Money: $612,800
MLB%: 24.5 (12 of 49)
College: 18 | High School: 31
WAR Total: 23.7 | WAR Avg: 2.0 | WAR Median: 0.3
Games Total: 3,109 | Games Avg: 349 | Games Median: 60
You probably already surmised this from the Kirk McCaskill namedrop, but the No. 88 pick has, historically, been something of a black hole so far as impact talent is concerned. Of the dozen guys to makes it to the pros from the 88th spot, only McCaskill, Alex Cora (7.0), and Eli Marrero (4.9) have been worth more than one win in their careers, and a third of the group has been below replacement. At the moment, Bucs righty Bryan Morris and Royals lefty Donnie Joseph have the best opportunity to reverse the fortunes of the 88th pick, but they’re both relievers so their overall impact will likely be minimal over the long haul.
With all the doom and gloom surrounding the No. 88 spot, it’s hard not to gander over at Randy Johnson and Justin Morneau in that 89th position and fantasize of catching lightning in a bottle. It could happen!
Part of me wonders if the Angels will use this pick to grab a pitcher who was viewed as a top 100 guy at one point, but is now on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery. I’m not sure who that player would be–I don’t think Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde will last past the first round–but it wouldn’t be totally out of line with the Halos’ recent thinking. The club used it’s fourth-round pick last year to sign Elliot Morris, who had his UCL replaced in 2010, then signed three more TJ survivors–Trevor Foss, Michael Smith, and Alan Busenitz–in the later rounds. They’re all now pitching for the organization’s Single-A affiliate in Burlington under a pitching coach, Ethan Katz, who’s also had TJ. Someone should write an article about that.
All that being said, there’s really no reason for the Angels to select a pitcher with a checkered injury history early on, especially when there are a bunch of perfectly healthy arms out and about. Seeing as my first two predictions were right-handers, I’m going to predict the club goes with a crafty southpaw from the college ranks with their third selection.
Prediction: Jace Fry – LHP (Oregon State)
When the third round ends, there aren’t any supplemental or competitive-balance picks left to dole out, so every team will draft in the same position from Rounds 4-40. The Angels will have the 14th selection in each of the later rounds, meaning they’ll pick 119th, 149th, 179th, 209th, etc., until they decide to bow out. Teams are allowed to stop selecting players at any point they see fit.
Once the draft is concluded, teams and players have until August 15 to come to terms on a professional contract. If the Halos are unable to sign their first- and/or second-round picks, they’ll receive compensatory picks (at 16th and/or 54th) in 2015.