I was thinking about the Angels previous drafts the last couple days, mostly because of Trout and Trumbo and the amazing success they both are having this season. Trumbo is the one that really interests me. Mike Trout clearly had not only the skills but the approach to make him successful when he was drafted, pretty amazing for a 17 year old, but that's just the kind of kid he is.
But Trumbo, on the other hand, was never seen as much of anything. He had a strong arm and hit the ball hard but didn't walk, had no defensive position and didn't look to have the skills to qualify him as much of anything besides a bat off the bench. You can read Rghan's winter 2009 writeup of him HERE.
The interesting thing to me is that the angels have had a number of prospects and players with Trumbo's problem- skills but no refinement. Brandon Wood could hit the ball hard, Randall Grichuk hit the ball far, Howie Kendrick could make solid contact, Peter Bourjos was fast, etc... and I think this goes back to a disconnect between the angels previous draft strategy and their minor league coaching approach.
Under Tony Reagins and Eddie Bane, the Angels had a draft strategy of taking "toolsy" players. It is pretty well known that they liked to draft high schoolers based on their tools with the assumption that they would develop those skills and turn into successful players over time. They wanted guys who could do the big things- run fast, hit hard, make contact. They assumed that these skills would continue to develop and rather than allowing the players to go to college for refinement, where they would be taken much higher in the draft because they had already shown a higher potential for success, they drafted them young and got them into the minor leagues to learn Angels baseball.
Clearly this kind of strategy results in hits like Mike Trout and misses like Terry Evans. But, I kept thinking about the case of Mark Trumbo. He had very little progress through the minors. He was always a big power guy with a bad average, lots of strikeouts and very few walks. So when he made his Major League debut because of Morales' injury, his performance was more of a pleasant surprise than a given.
You can read his major league similarity report done this last offseason by mattwelch HERE. If you missed reading it before, the summary was basically that we can expect him to be out of the majors within a few years because guys without plate discipline don't last long against major league pitching.
But then something happened this offseason. Trumbo, bothered by people's critiques of his approach, decided he needed to change and focus on hitting better pitches and taking pitches that were outside of the zone. As we have all celebrated his success, I've been bothered by the thought, Why didn't he change his approach back in A ball, or AA, or AAA? Was Trumbo unwilling to change before or did the Angels have an organizational approach to coaching that didn't emphasize these skills?
As I considered the other prospects the angels have had that fit this same mold and I cant help but believe it is a problem with the Angels minor league coaching staff. From Napoli to Wood to Trumbo, the Angels have had a problem teaching young power hitters to be selective (and have had a problem teaching contact hitters to be patient also) The approach seems to be to let hitters just play their way through the system.
So while the draft strategy has changed and Dipoto slowly changes over the minor league staff to reflect his style and approach, looking back we can better understand the problem with the angels minor league system over the last few years and yet another way DelTony caused problems for the franchise. We can also likely expect an improvement in the development of players we draft going forward.