The new front office regime, spearheaded by GM Billy Eppler, has had many well-documented issues to deal with, including payroll flexibility and a flailing farm system. But things are moving in the right direction. I discussed a few of the differences between Eppler and Dipoto a few months ago, and all of that is still very much relevant today.
I’m writing this piece to remind you that things are going to continue to improve on all fronts and that the Angels will win in the near future — whether that is next year or 2018 all depends on this offseason — but it’s only a matter of time before the Angels are perennially in the playoff conversation again.
The farm system and player development is improving!
Major league baseball’s drafts are like no other. In the NBA or NFL, draft picks go straight to the big league team, even though they have no experience playing professionally. Baseball, on the other hand, is different. All prospects go through the minor leagues, and most take anywhere between 2-5 years from the time they were drafted before they start contributing at the major league level. As a result, there is a time delay and it can take multiple years before those drafts negatively impact the big league club through the lack of affordable talent in their system.
Some don’t understand this, however, and instead choose to scapegoat on the new front office regime for the past one’s mistakes. Former GM Jerry Dipoto and former Scouting Director Ric Wilson are both equally culpable for the poor drafts from 2011-2015, which have only yielded one major league starter in C.J. Cron thus far. This speaks to the combination of poor draft decisions and player development over the past five years.
Since Eppler has come aboard, he has been improving how the Angels do things. This includes hiring a new scouting director Matt Swanson, who is responsible for scouting and signing players such as Stephen Piscotty, Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia, and Kyle Barraclough. He has also formed a new analytics department, reformed the player development system, and begun to draft more high upside players. He has also signed the maximum amount of players drafted without a penalty this past draft, intends to sign international talent when the Angels’ penalty is lifted in July 2017, and implemented Trackman (similar to Statcast) in all of their ballparks.
The three major moves they made have been huge successes.
I won’t go into too much detail here, but Andrelton Simmons, Yunel Escobar, and Ricky Nolasco have all been tremendous successful trades. Alex Meyer has also been exactly who we expected him to be and his development will be fascinating with Charles Nagy as the pitching coach (Oh yeah, Nagy was hired by Eppler as well and is doing an incredible job this season despite having fringe major leaguers on the roster).
With the exception of Sean Newcomb, the players we have given up in these deals have flamed out spectacularly. These include our beloved Erick Aybar, Chris Ellis, Trevor Gott, and Hector Santiago. Newcomb was the prize of our farm system before he was shipped off for Simmons; he struggled for much of the season before he “figured it out” in AA Missouri, finishing with a 3.86 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 140 innings of work. Regardless, it was well worth it to land Andrelton Simmons, a generationally gifted shortstop who will play a major role in the next Angels playoff run in the very near future.
Be patient, Angels fans. Building a farm system from the ground up takes time. With legitimate money to spend for the first time in years, the Angels will add a few quality players this offseason. And it’s only a matter of time before they are back to their winning ways.