It's an axiom in professional scouting that an organization should not draft from need, and that's a principle that proves sound in the great majority of cases. But when the need is great, and the resources few, there are years that are exceptions.
Last year's draft was exceptional in this sense; the team saw Jerry Dipoto and Ric Wilson commit 10 of their first 11 picks to pitchers, transparently seeking to redress the prospect brownfields left by successive free agent acquisitions and win-now trades. Expect to see some more of the same this year, as the front office has already telegraphed its intent to continue to stockpile arms, with an emphasis on those from college programs. But this year, there are other holes to address as well.
LA Kaleb Cowart is slumping badly, and options at lower levels look like complementary pieces more than regulars. While pitching is likely to be the emphasis, we could see two or three of the top eight picks going to college position players., Primary Needs: With a notoriously barren farm system, some might say Angels have needs at every position, but some are more acute than others. Starting pitching is a well-known and critical deficit. It's clear that collegiate pitchers will be an obvious target, and particularly starters who might contribute at some point in the next two or three seasons. Additionally, the Angels do not have a single catching prospect who profiles as a potential regular. Don't be surprised to see four or five catching prospects added, with a couple early round draftees among them. Finally, after several graduations to the MLB, the Angels are largely absent any impact bat in the outfield or on the left side of the diamond. Their #1 prospect (per MLB)
LA Angels, Relative Strengths: Though the young Taylor Lindsey is struggling a bit at AAA this season, the Angels have plausible second-base candidates at several levels of the organization (Green, Lindsey, Yarbrough, Johnson, Eaves), and also a number of promising relief arms that are likely to fill out the 'pen in the coming year or two. Also, given the presence of Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron at 1B and DH for the next many years, it could be argued that defensive-challenged sluggers with no positional flexibility could be among the lesser needs of the team for the near to mid-term future.
Ok, so who are we expected to go after with pick #15?
There have been many mock drafts (and numerable versions thereof) in the past several weeks speculating where the chips may fall. The Angels have been rumored to be chasing several names, with a number of collegiate bats among them. But there have also been a few starting pitchers mentioned, and even one very singular reliever. Here are the nine names mentioned most frequently this May:
|Nick Burdi||RHP (RP)||College||34|
Of the names above, Schwarber, Pentecost and Beede seem to be the most regularly referenced.
Tyler Beede is ESPN's most-floated name, via both Keith Law and Jim Callis. He has remarkable stuff, with three potentially above average pitches, but he's also terribly inconsistent and can lose control from start to start.
Meanwhile Schwarber and Pentecost can't help but bring to mind the grievous Napoli-and-Mathis dyad from years past – the former a big bodied catcher with decent plate discipline and considerable power who is unlikely to stick at the position, and Pentecost the "true catcher" with a decent hit tool and moderate power who is likely to make it in the MLB as a regular, while possessing no above-average tool at present.
Kyle Freeland is probably the best pitcher of the bunch, but he's likely to get snapped up before the 15th pick. We'd be lucky to nab him.
Nick Burdi is the dark horse – a power reliever whose fastball has been clocked as high as 103, and has been surprisingly mentioned by several scouts and analysts across the map, despite the Angels having 3-4 relievers (and multiple closer candidates) in the queue already. This would likely be a below-slot deal if the Angels fail to secure one of their top two or three names on the board, and seek to spend more on later picks among the top 200.
Of all the above, Bradley Zimmer is the one that personally appeals to me the most (though I'd be fine with Schwarber, or taking a chance on a rehabbing Jeff Hoffman). Zimmer has above-average tools across the board, with a sweet left-handed swing, good plate discipline, and solid speed across the board. He doesn't have the power of Schwarber, but is likely to deliver value on both the offensive and defensive sides of the equation, and on the basepaths as well. He too may go before the 15th pick arrives.
Predicting the second round (Angels pick #53) is more of a crapshoot, and there are fewer analysts attempting to project that far into the draft, but I can throw out a few names just for kicks:
Jack Flaherty is another two-way prep player from Harvard-Westlake (local) that could make it into the first round, so he may be off the board before we get to the Angels' second pick. But Lingren and Marshall are two lefties that the Angels have been linked to that could be solid, reliable picks.
Lingren is a LHRP that could make it to the MLB club as early as next year, and Marshall is a guy with three decent offerings, a repeatable delivery, and is about as safe a prep pick as you might find.
If the Angels don't pick one of the catchers in the first round, we could see them take a chance on a guy like Garcia, who is a smart receiver and solid defender who is likely to hit for average in the Majors.
What say you? Who are the Angels likely to select this evening, and who would you like them to select?